Wachusett Reservoir Watershed Deer Hunt

Learn more about hunting deer on DCR's Wachusett Reservoir Watershed lands

The Wachusett Controlled Deer hunt in the designated  "Reservoir Zone" hunting area (the 2,800 acres around the Wachusett Reservoir within the boundary set by Routes 110, 12, 140, and 70) will take place during the archery, shotgun and primitive firearm seasons. If the number of applicants exceed the limit to conduct a safe hunt, then permits for this hunt will be selected by lottery.  Applications will be available on this page from July 1 to August 31.  The lottery, if needed, will be selected in early September. 

Hunting on all other areas of DCR Watershed lands in the Wachusett Reservoir Watershed require a 5-year access permit from DCR that can be requested at any time.

Winter Does

Table of Contents

Hunting Wachusett Reservoir Watershed Lands

There are two types of DCR Watershed permits based on the location of the property:

  1. A five-year Watershed Lands Access Permit for hunting/trapping on DCR watershed properties both west and east of Interstate 190 - excluding the "Reservoir Zone." These properties are open for all hunting/trapping seasons and for all legal game. Click here for the five-year DCR hunting access permit application on Wachusett Reservoir watershed management lands.

    Notes:
    ♦  
    DCR is no longer accepting paper copies of the application.  You must apply online using the link above. 

    ♦  To renew your permit or replace a lost permit, please fill out the application provided in the link above. If you have any questions, please send an email to ken.mackenzie@mass.gov.

    ♦  No person under the age of 12 may hunt.  By law, all minors ages 12-14 are not required to have a MA hunting license but must be accompanied by a properly licensed adult while hunting.  During the Commonwealth’s special Youth Deer Hunt Day, minors ages 12-14 do not need a Wachusett Watershed 5-year permit to be able to participate in this hunt of DCR-DWSP lands.  However, the accompanying adult must possess the 5-year permit to legally hunt the Wachusett Watershed properties.  Minor hunters ages 15-17 years old are required to have an active hunting license and the accompanying Wachusett Watershed 5-year permit.

    ♦  
    While dogs and boats are not allowed on DWSP property throughout the year, there is an exception for hunters during the hunting season that have a DWSP hunting access permit.  Dogs are allowed for hunting only on DWSP property west of Rt 190. Car-top boats are permitted for hunting only at both West Waushacum Pond and Muddy Pond; canoes and kayaks are also allowed on portions of both the Quinapoxet and Stillwater Rivers. Please refer to the Wachusett Public Access Plan for the current policy regarding dogs, boats, and contact with the water on DCR Division of Water Supply Protection property. 

    ♦ Turkey Hunting on Wachusett Watershed Lands outside of the Reservoir Zone. The Wachusett Watershed lands are open for turkey hunting with a 5-years Watershed Hunting Permit during the Spring and Fall seasons.
     

    ♦ During certain periods of the fall season, only archery equipment is permitted; click here for details

    ♦  If you have an existing permit for hunting west of I-190 it is still valid until its expiration date and is valid for use in the expanded hunting zone east of I-190.

  2. Reservoir Zone. An annual permit for hunting on property immediately adjacent to Wachusett Reservoir, designated by DCR as the "Reservoir Zone", which encompasses lands within Routes 110, 12, 40, and 70.  Hunting in this area is only for white tailed deer.  In 2022, the area will be open for archery season from October 17 - November 26, shotgun season from November 28 - December 10, and primitive firearms season from December 12 - December 31. This permit is selected by lottery.

All DCR Wachusett Reservoir watershed hunting permits are free.

The DCR Permit is in addition to a valid Massachusetts Hunting License and a Hunter Safety Certificate, if required, by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Interactive Maps

The Division of Water Supply Protection (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 links 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 Wachusett 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.  

Additional Resources

Wachusett "Reservoir Zone" Controlled Deer Hunt

DWSP has designated a "Reservoir Zone" hunting area as the 2,800 acres around the Wachusett Reservoir within the boundary set by Routes 110, 12, 140, and 70. 

The Wachusett Controlled Deer hunt will take place in 2022 from October 17 to December 31 for the following types of hunting:

  • Archery Season (Zone 9): Oct. 17 - Nov. 26            
  • Shotgun Season: Nov. 28 - Dec. 10
  • Primitive Firearms Season: Dec. 12 - Dec. 31

The Reservoir Zone is open for white-tailed deer hunting ONLY.

Hunters must apply for a permit.  If a hunter threshold is reached, permits will be a randomly selected by lottery based on a specific hunter density. Selected hunters will be given a special access permit to hunt within the Reservoir Zone. 

Hunters will be required to walk into this zone from one of the existing gate locations.
 

Permit application instructions:

  1. The application for the 2022 Reservoir Zone Wachusett Controlled Deer Hunt is closed.
    Application available from July 1 until August 31. 
     
  2. Fill out all the required information for each hunter. If you do not include all the information DCR needs, you may be disqualified. Include Area Code with phone number.
     
  3. You must possess a valid 2022 Massachusetts Hunting or Sporting License BEFORE you apply. Use your MassFishHunt Customer ID Number on the application. This number will be used in the lottery selection process to draw permits. ALL Customer ID numbers are eligible for the drawing.
     
  4. 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 dcrnaturalresources@gmail.com 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 ken.mackenzie@mass.gov.  

Maps, Instructions, and Regulations:

  • Click here to view an interactive map of the Reservoir Zone Hunting Area.
    This map is for the hunters that won the Reservoir Zone deer hunt lottery (if a lottery was drawn). 
    Note: 
    Location information on this map is for reference purposes only.  This map is 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.  
  • Instructions for Purchasing Wachusett Reservoir "Reservoir Zone" Controlled Deer Hunt Antlerless Permits (Revised instructions will be posted when new system for purchasing permits is complete)
Summer Buck

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 3.1 million people. 

Harvest data must be submitted to two agencies: Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) and DCR Division of Water Supply Protection (DWSP). It is a LEGAL REQUIREMENT to submit your harvest information to MassWildlife through the MassFishHunt system. It is also required that you submit your harvest information to DWSP’s database. 

Online Deer Harvest Reporting Instructions

  • Each deer harvested is legally required to be reported to MassWildlife.
    • Submit data by clicking here (MassFishHunt).
    • When asked about antlered and antlerless deer in the MassFishHunt system, please select the following for all harvests on DWSP lands regardless of whether you harvested in a controlled hunt or under a 5-year permit:
      • “Was this deer harvested during a permitted or special controlled hunt”: Select “YES”
      • “Select the controlled hunt this deer was harvested during”: select “DCR Water Supply Property”
  • Once you have your MassFishHunt Confirmation Number for your harvest, you must then submit your data to DWSP.  
  • Each deer harvested must be reported separately.  If you have two harvests, then two separate reports are required.
  • Please answer all of the questions. You will need to examine your deer to answer some of these questions.

Background

The forests in the Wachusett Reservoir watershed ensure the reliable protection of the drinking water supply for over 3 million people. DCR's Division of Water Supply Protection (DWSP) strives to maintain an actively growing, diverse, multi-age forest in order to regulate stream flow, maintain water quality, and prevent erosion. 

Deer hunting was prohibited on Wachusett Reservoir watershed lands since its construction at the beginning of the 20th century. DCR's land ownership at Wachusett Reservoir for most of the 1900s was just the property around the reservoir itself.  Significant acreage, often collections of small parcels scattered around the watershed, have been acquired since 1985 to the preserved the source drinking water for 3 million people.  A successful pilot hunting program began in 1996 on DWSP lands west of Interstate 190, although nearly 7,000 acres east of the highway remained closed to hunting. 

DCR Foresters have identified significant impacts on forest regeneration in the un-hunted lands closer to reservoir itself.  Deer densities above a certain threshold have an impact on tree regeneration and growth.  DWSP staff estimated deer populations, documented forest regeneration impacts, and concluded that additional deer hunting is necessary to maintain the Wachusett Reservoir watershed forest. 

The management of deer in the Wachusett Reservoir watershed is outlined in DWSP's 2017 Land Management Plan. The plan discusses the issue of utilizing hunting as a means to reduce the deer density to acceptable levels to minimize impacts to the water supply protection.  Following a public meeting and comment period in June 2018, DCR established a hunting program for its Wachusett Reservoir watershed properties.

Reports

Contact

Address

180 Beaman Street
West Boylston, MA 01583

Phone

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

Address

Field Headquarters
180 Beaman St.
West Boylston, MA 01505
Image credits:  Photos courtesy of Dale Monette, North Quabbin Photography

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