Sudbury Reservoir Watershed Deer Hunt

Learn more about hunting on DCR's Sudbury Reservoir Watershed.

There are over 3,000 acres of undeveloped land controlled by DCR's Division of Water Supply Protection surrounding the Sudbury and Foss Reservoirs, which are the emergency water supplies for the DCR/Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) drinking water system.

DCR's watershed management goals include having an actively growing, diverse, multi-age forest for regulating stream flow, maintaining water quality, and preventing erosion. Due to the impacts on the forest surrounding the reservoir from deer, DCR is opening 2,000 acres of land around the Sudbury Reservoir and Crane Swamp to hunting starting in 2019 .  Hunting on this property requires a free five-year permit from the Division of Water Supply Protection.

Table of Contents

Big buck

Photo courtesy of Ken MacKenzie

Permits: Hunting Sudbury Reservoir Watershed Lands

  • A free, one year, 2021 permit from DCR's Division of Water Supply Protection is REQUIRED to hunt on the designated property in the Sudbury Reservoir watershed.
  • Your permit will be emailed to the address provided on the application.  DCR has been notified that the return message with the permit is sometimes flagged as spam by email providers (hotmail, gmail, yahoo, outlook, etc.) and is sent to a junk/spam folder. To prevent this, please add to your “Safe Sender” list to ensure you receive your permit.  Please also check your junk/spam folder. If you have still not received your permit a week before the hunting season begins, please email  
  • These areas are open during the Massachusetts hunting season for white-tailed deer hunting only.  Hunting will begin on Monday, October 4, 2021 and be open until Friday, Dec 31, 2021.  All Massachusetts Deer Hunting Laws and Regulations apply. 
  • Archery (Zone 10): Oct. 4 - Nov. 27 (open DWSP lands around Sudbury Reservoir)
    Archery Season (Zone 9): Oct. 18 - Nov. 27 (DWSP lands at Crane Swamp in Northborough)

    Shotgun: Nov. 29 - Dec. 11 (Zones 9 and 10)
    Primitive Firearms: Dec. 13 - Dec 31 (Zones 9 and 10)
  • There are no “bonus” antlerless tags for this hunt.  You must use your Zone 9 and 10 antlerless tags during this hunt
    The Sudbury Reservoir Zone in Southborough and Marlborough is in Wildlife Management Zone 10
    The Crane Swamp Zone in Southborough and Northborough is in Wildlife Management Zone 


Interactive Maps

The Division of Water Supply’s (DWSP) has developed several interactive maps with detailed information about hunting areas on DWSP property.  There are two ways to access these maps: one is an online program that is accessible from your desktop computer or mobile device’s web browser; the other is through an App you can download directly to your mobile device and use in the field.  The mobile device App is recommended for use in the field.

Click on the link below to directly access the on-line program.  Please see the Instructions for Using DCR Division of Water Supply Protection's Deer Hunt Interactive Maps for information about the mobile app.

  • DCR DWSP Deer Hunter Field Map Watershed Lands Open to Hunting 
    View huntable areas across the DCR Watershed System that are not part of a Controlled Hunt, including areas in the Sudbury Reservoir watershed.  Click on any location to find additional information about rules, regulations, and contact information.

Note: Location information on these maps is for reference purposes only.  The maps are not meant to be used to determine accurate location with regards to boundaries or other features.  Please obey signage and respect our neighbors.  Hunters should be aware that these maps are updated as needed and setbacks, boundaries and available features may change.  

Special Rules and Requirements for Hunting Deer on Sudbury Reservoir Watershed Lands

  • Any violation of 313 CMR 11.09 will be deemed sufficient cause for revocation of hunting permit for a period of time not less than one year from the time of violation.
  • All permittees MUST have a copy of their permit on them at all times.
  • Access on DWSP property is one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. This will be strictly enforced.
  • If you shoot a deer and it enters a restricted area or the reservoir itself call a Wachusett/Sudbury Watershed Ranger at 978-365-3800 or 508-792-7806 (M-F business hours) or MEMA State Control (24hr dispatch) 508-820-2000.
  • Parking is allowed in designated areas only. Do not block gates. Subject to fine or tow.
  • No scouting will be permitted in the No Trespassing Area until you receive your permit.
  • Access in the No Trespassing Area is for Deer Hunting purposes only.
  • Use of tree stands is permitted. Allowed 14 days prior to the Deer Hunting season and must be removed 30 days after the hunting season. All tree stands must be visibly labeled with Permit Number.

Deer Harvest Reporting

Harvest data is important to understand the deer populations on DCR Division of Water Supply Protection lands.  Information collected about the deer harvest helps DCR with the management and logistics of the hunts held on the Quabbin Reservoir, Wachusett Reservoir, and Sudbury Reservoir watersheds, which provide drinking water to 3 million people. 

In addition to checking your deer with MassWildlife, anyone who harvests a deer on DCR Water Supply Protection property is required to submit that harvest information to DCR.

Online Deer Harvest Reporting Instructions: 

Deer Management Issues in the Sudbury Reservoir Watershed

Doe reflection
Photo courtesy of Dale Monette, North Quabbin Photography


  • The forest provides an important filter to the water at the Sudbury Reservoir; without that forest filter there can be a degradation of water quality.
  • The current Sudbury Reservoir watershed forest originates primarily from plantations established between 1907 to 1947.  Approximately 1.75 million seedlings were planted during this period, the majority from 1913 to 1921. That means that most of DCR's Sudbury Reservoir watershed forest is over 75 years old.
  • Due to deer browse and the persistence of invasive species, the Sudbury Forest is significantly lacking the regeneration needed to provide the future forest needed to replace the current overstory.
  • Prior to 2019, there was no deer management in the Sudbury Reservoir watershed by the Division of Water Supply Protection.

Deer and Tree Surveys

  • In 2017 and 2018, the Sudbury Reservoir was surveyed using pellet group counts to estimate deer density. 
    In both years the deer density was well above a level that allows for forest health.  Scientific literature states that deer densities above a certain threshold (20 deer/mi2) have an impact on tree regeneration and growth
  • In 2018, Foresters surveyed tree regeneration to document and evaluate the levels of invasive species, native interfering species and the level of deer related damage (browse) in the Sudbury Forest. 
    Transects were laid out and 136 plots were surveyed.  Of those plots, 70% had no regeneration above 4.5 ft tall.  This height is generally the height of a tree that can escape the effects of deer eating them.  In fact, 63% of the plots had no tree regeneration present at all.
  • The Division uses a benchmark of 2,000 stems/acre at or above 4.5 ft to ensure adequate regeneration. 
    The 2018 tree survey found that only a quarter of that goal was being met (448 stems/acre). 
  • The level of deer browse was also measured at each plot.  
    Ninety-four percent (94%) of the plots found over half of the stems browsed and 56% of the plots suffered from severe damage of repeated browsing over the years resulting in the trees having a stunted appearance.
  • Due to the lack of tree regeneration and the high deer density, invasive plant species have gained a significant foothold- occupying the space where trees have been previously harvested.

Deer Management

  • Due to the high densities of deer and lack of tree regeneration, future forestry would be limited to salvage operations and dangerous tree removal.  This deviates from the active forest management done at our other water supply reservoirs as described in the DCR Division of Water Supply Protection 2017 Land Management Plan
  • A decision was made to open 2,000 acres of Sudbury Reservoir watershed lands in 2019 for deer hunting only.

Additional Resources

Deer Hunt Reports and Surveys



Field Headquarters (508) 792-7806
Watershed Rangers (978) 365-3800


Field Headquarters
180 Beaman St.
West Boylston, MA 01505