Many bow hunters in the central Maryland area find themselves taking to the woods in one of the three watersheds. The three reservoirs are Loch Raven, Liberty, and Pretty Boy. All three are open to bow hunting during the entire hunting season. The two main rules that you must follow while hunting there are that you cannot use firearms and only use climbing treestands or removable ground blinds are permitted. They want to make sure that whatever you bring into the woods, you take with you after the hunt, and that you are not harming the trees. There are of course more rules to follow, the full lists of rules for each reservoir is available through the Maryland DNR and you will find links below for each reservoir. I hunt Loch Raven reservoir frequently, in fact, normally once a week or more. I have had decent success in the past, good days and the bad days that you just want to forget. Before they opened Loch Raven to bow hunting, I tagged along on a hunt in Liberty Reservoir with a friend of mine. I had an interesting evening hunt at Liberty and saw a few deer at a distance, but did not go back because they opened Loch Raven the next hunting season. That being said, I hear very good things about Liberty and plan to branch out and hunt Liberty as well.
So, as I sit here planning my hunting adventures for this coming fall, I thought I would share a little more information about each of the 3 reservoirs located in central Maryland.
I want to start by providing you with the links to each reservoir’s rules, information, as well as the links to the required free permit that you must obtain to hunt on any of these 3 locations.
Pretty Boy Reservoir
Loch Raven Reservoir
*** NOTE: The permit for Pretty Boy, Liberty Reservoir and Loch Raven is the same; you must carry this permit with you at all times when hunting any of the 3 reservoirs.
The links above should give you all the information as far as rules, maps, and the free permit that is required to hunt all three of those locations. The three reservoirs are owned by the City of Baltimore and they are the main water source for central Maryland. So, a lot of the rules that are maintained within the watershed/reservoirs are because they want to protect the water, the habitat, and the fact that these watersheds are used for a variety of other activities other than hunting. So, remember be mindful of the fact that there are most likely hikers, bikers, walkers, joggers, dog walkers, fishermen, etc. out there with you, and hopefully they will be mindful that you are out in the woods as well. You also have to follow all of the normal hunting regulations that anyone else would have to follow whether on public or private land, so make sure you check out the Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping for all the rules and regulations for where you plan to hunt and for what.
I have given you all the basics on the 3 locations, but I wanted to dive a little deeper to give you some statistics from the 2015-2016 hunting season. I came across an annual report that the Maryland DNR releases each year, it is called the Maryland Annual Deer Report. It is released each year, normally in July. The report details current information about whitetail and sika deer from the past hunting season including: the amount of deer shot by each county, the entire state of Maryland, each public hunting area within Maryland, current trophy records, deer harvests by each season, vehicular deer crashes by county, and a lot of other useful information if you are interested in these statistics like me.
The interesting part of this report is the fact that it tells you the reported amount of deer taken in each of the 3 reservoirs that we are talking about. This chart is going to help me decide where (other than Loch Raven) I want to hunt this fall, and tells me what my odds are at each location.
To give you an idea, I will break down a few numbers for you for each reservoir, maybe you knew these statistics, maybe you did not, but they are helpful to all hunters.
We will start will Liberty Reservoir because it is slightly hard because it spans over two counties.
Doe Harvests in the Baltimore County section of Liberty: 54
Buck Harvests in the Baltimore County section of Liberty: 28
Doe Harvests in the Carroll County section of Liberty: 108
Buck Harvests in the Carroll County section of Liberty: 51
Looking at this, it tells me that there were just less than double the number of bucks killed in the Carroll County sections of Liberty last year than Baltimore County section. The doe harvests were double that of the Baltimore County section, if you take into consideration that more of the land is in Carroll County rather than in Baltimore County I guess this makes sense. It’s good to see the buck to doe ratio pretty even as it should be at least 2 does to 1 buck. Liberty is also the largest of the 3 reservoirs with around 9,200 acres. This should be taken into consideration as well as we look at the numbers and the numbers of the other reservoirs.
Next, we will look at Pretty Boy Reservoir which is located solely in Baltimore County Maryland
Doe Harvest: 187
Buck Harvest: 75
After looking at Liberty’s numbers, Pretty Boy numbers are actually have a higher number of deer killed. However, the harvest numbers have slightly declined over the past 5 years. This means you have better odds of taking a deer at Pretty Boy since it is almost 2000 acres smaller at 7,380 acres that Liberty based on the numbers. I am not saying you have better chance at taking a deer, but by looking at the numbers, it would seem that more opportunities exists at Pretty Boy in a smaller area since more deer are harvested each season.
Finally, we have Loch Raven Reservoir, also solely located in Baltimore County Maryland
Doe Harvest: 163
Buck Harvest: 69
These numbers are very interesting since Loch Raven Reservoir is grossly smaller than the other two at only 1,600 acres. This means that more deer were taken per acre in Loch Raven than either of the other two reservoirs. The concerning part of the numbers is that the number of does taken are slightly lower over the past couple season yet the number of bucks is up. Now, we will get into my personal opinions about Loch Raven hunting and those numbers.
I can tell you that a big part of that is the fact that a large number of people (me included) hunt Loch Raven on a regular basis. I will also tell you that deer numbers are down in Loch Raven since they opened it up to hunting. However, I would like to give you my real observations on Loch Raven hunting, which is that yes, deer numbers are down in Loch Raven, but because of the large amount of people that use it for not only for hunting, but all those other activities that I mentioned the deer are getting smarter. I have hunted areas of Loch Raven day after day and not seen a single deer during daylight hours, yet walking out of the woods right after dark or right before sunrise, you spook large numbers out of those very same areas. This tells me that the deer are becoming more nocturnal because of all the activity in the woods during daylight hours. So, when choosing your hunting area in Loch Raven, think of either a place that gets less foot traffic, or a location that deer might get pushed by those not even aware that they are there. Loch Raven’s buck to doe ratio is fairly similar to the other reservoirs, so this means you have an equal opportunity to take a buck as you do a doe, again as long as you are in the right place at the right time. However, there is a little bit of concerning fact that buck numbers are slightly up over past seasons, yet the quality of deer taken in Loch Raven and seen in Loch Raven is down. Everyone I talk to agrees, the number of mature bucks is down and yes there are a lot of little bucks, but they are not living to a mature age. Between hunting, car accidents, and other causes they aren’t reaching a mature age, and that for many hunters should be a little frustrating.
You can also read my article on Bow Hunting Loch Raven Reservoir for more details.
Again, all the deer harvest numbers above came from the Maryland Annual Deer Report which you can check out for more details on other locations and statistics.
The rest is my opinions and observations. I have decided to try some of the other locations around Maryland, including the other Reservoirs. My goal is to report to our readers what my experiences are each time I go out hunting in different locations, hopefully to provide some pictures, and with any luck some pictures of the deer I harvest
Have you hunted any of the 3 Maryland Reservoirs I discussed? We would love to hear about your experiences and/or what your opinion is of each location. You can also feel free to ask questions about any of the locations and we will answer them to the best of our knowledge. Just leave a comment below with your experiences, opinions, or questions or drop us an email.
Good luck this season!