Public Land Hunting Opportunities for Bear Hunters
Bear activity is increasing throughout western Maryland as the black bear population continues to expand eastward filling suitable habitat. Western Maryland, with its rural landscape and vast amounts of forest land, holds some prime bear habitat, much of which may be found on public lands open for hunting.
Billmeyer-Belle Grove Wildlife Management Area is over 1,100 acres in size and situated within the Ridge and Valley physiographic province near the Pennsylvania state border. Characterized by steep slopes and deep hollows, elevations range from 800 feet in the hollow along Terrapin Run to a high of 1,200 feet along the ridge tops. The property is dominated by mixed oak forest with a few patches of conifers and about 25 acres in fields and small wildlife openings. The Belle Grove tract offers a disabled hunter access road.
Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area boasts over 9,500 acres of public hunting opportunities located within prime bear habitat. Heavily forested with oak trees as the dominant species, Dan’s Mountain is flanked on its west side by small communities along the George’s Creek watershed and on its east side by communities of the Potomac Valley. Bear sightings and complaints are common in these areas. Though rugged in places, Dan’s Mountain is quite accessible with over five miles of public access roads. A primitive camping area is located on the eastern side of the wildlife management area.
Green Ridge is the second largest of Maryland's State Forests, consisting of a 46,500-acre oak-hickory forest. It is located in eastern Allegany County, approximately eight miles east of Flintstone off I-68 at Exit 64. Town Hill, Green Ridge, and Polish Mountains vary in elevation from 475 feet at the Potomac River to 2,039 feet on Town Hill. The habitats range from riverine to mountainous and camping opportunities are many throughout Green Ridge State Forest. For more information call the Green Ridge State Forest Headquarters at 301-478-3124.
Rocky Gap State Park has approximately 1,450 acres open to bear hunting. The mountainous terrain can be rugged and includes a mile-long gorge, the drainage corridor of Lake Habeeb. Rocky Gap State Park contains excellent bear habitat including a hemlock forest dense with rhododendron and mountain laurel. For more information call 301-722-1480.
At over 4,800 acres, Warrior Mountain Wildlife Management Area offers the ridge and stream valley topography typical of western Maryland. At the top of Warrior Mountain, a power line clearing overlooks a fabulous view of the surrounding terrain. Oak-hickory forests, over-grown apple orchards, and a primitive camping area are features of Warrior Mountain.
For more information about any of the Wildlife Management Areas in Allegany County, call 301-478-2525.
Cunningham Falls State Park
Cunningham Falls State Park contains 4,400 acres located in the Catoctin Mountains in northern Frederick County. The excellent wildlife habitat there is used by black bears all year long. Campsites and camper cabins are available for rent through October. For more information call 301-271-7574.
Frederick City Cooperative Wildlife Management Area contains over 7,000 acres of forest land in western Frederick County. This mountainous section of Frederick County provides some of the best bear habitat in the area and is popular with grouse and deer hunters as well. Numerous spring fed ponds on the area provide water for all manner of wildlife, large and small. For more information, contact 301-842-2702.
Deep Creek Lake State Park has a 1,200 acre hunting area. The rugged terrain, mature forests, upland bogs, and dense cover offer excellent bear hunting opportunities. Hunting is permitted in the park's backcountry areas. The managed hunting areas are posted. For more information call 301-387-5563.
Dominated by mixed hardwood forest in various age classes, this 1,863-acre tract is located in southwestern Garrett County. Mount Nebo Wildlife Management Area protects two red spruce bogs, a unique type of wetland habitat. More than 18,000 years old, these are among the oldest peat bogs in eastern North America, complete with wild cranberries and a host of rare and endangered plants. Many trails and old roads provide user access to the area.
Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area is located in central Garrett County. This 258 acre tract encompasses the majority of the Cunningham Swamp, a rich wetland with exceptional habitat for wetland and bog related species. There are open fields and upland forest habitats within the boundaries of the management area as well. There is exceptional cover here for everything from ruffed grouse and American woodcock to black bears and white-tailed deer.
For more information about Garrett County Wildlife Management Areas, please call 301-334-4255.
Boasting the headwaters of the Potomac River, this 9,915-acre forest tract, found in southeastern Garrett County off Maryland State Route 135, is characterized by rugged mountain terrain and mixed oak and hemlock forests. This forest features the highest point in any Maryland State Forest – Backbone Mountain, elevation 3,200 feet. Information about this area may be found by calling 301-334-2038.
Savage River State Forest, at over 54,000 acres, is the largest property in the state forest system and preserves a strategic watershed in Garrett County. Many roads are open to vehicles and several hiking trails offer access to this giant tract of property. The forest is classified as a mixed hardwood forest and more than 11,000 acres of it has been designated as wildland. For information about Savage River State Forest contact the forest office at 301-895-5759.
The Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River corridor, also known as the Youghiogheny Natural Environmental Area (NEA), is located in western Garrett County and contains 1,200 acres of property that may be hunted. The terrain can be rugged and access points are limited, but there is excellent bear habitat along this river corridor. For more information about accessing this area, please call Deep Creek Lake State Park at 301-387-5563.
Greenbrier State Park is located in eastern Washington County and has a 500-acre designated hunting area. There is a variety of wildlife habitats available for bears to use and an abundance of mature trees that may produce the natural foods bears are seeking in October. For more information call 301-791-4767.
Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area is a 6,400-acre tract in Washington County near the town of Clear Spring. Approximately 90% of the site is dominated by forest consisting of oaks and other hardwoods, with some steep and rugged terrain. The forest sections of this management area are surrounded by large tracts of agricultural land.
Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area is a 3,100-acre tract of mixed oak forest with scattered stands of Virginia pines is rich with mountain scenery and wildlife. The property has rolling to steep topography with elevations ranging from 500 to 1,500 feet and is bisected by Sideling Hill Creek, which serves as the border dividing Washington and Allegany counties. Several parking areas scattered throughout Sideling Hill and many old logging roads, open to foot traffic, allow for abundant access to this large tract of property.
South Mountain State Park has two forested tracts of ideal bear habitat open for hunting. The Black Rock Hunting Lands are located east of Smithsburg, while the Lamb’s Knoll Hunting Lands are located southeast of Boonsboro along the Frederick County border. Both properties may be accessed on foot via the Appalachian Trail. However the trail corridor is a non-hunting area as is adjacent National Park Service property. For information regarding the specifics of these hunting areas contact the park at 301-791-4767.
Woodmont Natural Resource Management Area, located in western Washington County, offers 2,000 acres of hunting land open to the public. This popular hunting destination is comprised of open meadows, thick successional areas, and old growth timber providing habitat for numerous game species including black bear, white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, gray squirrel, eastern fox squirrel and ruffed grouse. For more information call 301-842-2155.
For more information about Washington County Wildlife Management Areas, call 301-842-2702.