Article on New Federal Gun Law and RWMA Hunting

February 21st, 2010

Here is an article from the Charlottesville Daily Progress that Ted Strong wrote on the new Federal gun law and how it will impact hunting access to parts of the Rapidan WMA.

The article discusses the improved access hunters will have to the Big Tom Tract, and the inability to transport harvested game off of the tract.

Big Tom Mountain is state-owned hunting land. This season, it will be legal to walk across other public land with a gun to get to the mountain. And on the mountain, it will be legal to kill a deer. But it will be against the rules to walk back out with the deer. It’s the result of a new federal law that allows guns into national parks and wildlife refuges, set to take effect Monday.

The article also mentions some of the access issues associated with the Rapidan WMA and Jerry Sims mentions the potential for improved access in the future.

Some of the tracts are very hard to access in a passenger car or are surrounded by private land. Sims said he dreams of doing some horse-trading with the park one day, allowing each agency to manage more contiguous lands. “Hopefully, the department will be able to work with the park service to develop additional access situations such as we currently have in the Devil’s Ditch [area],” he said.

2009-11 RWMA Hunting Seasons

November 4th, 2009

Virginia DGIF put a handy document that shows the 2009-10 hunting seasons for the Rapidan WMA up on the state’s official website.

Change is Coming to RWMA SNP

November 3rd, 2009
SNP Signage

SNP Signage

Beginning in February there will be a world of change coming to Shen- andoah National Park (SNP) and the Rapidan Wildlife Mana- gement Area. Federal legislation passed earlier this year will signif- icantly change firearm regulations in Shenandoah National Park. While the regulations are not available yet, I believe it is likely people will be able to legally carry a firearm across Shenandoah National Park to access the RWMA anywhere someone wishes to do so during hunting season. Here is a link to an article explaining the new federal law that recently appeared in the Jackson Hole News & Guide: The article says “while federal officials are trying to figure out the nuances of the law to develop guidance for park rangers, one said there appears to be little question that toting firearms openly will be allowed, depending on the law of the state in which the park is located.”

I believe these changes are really going to shake some things up if they are implemented in a way many people beleive is required. For the first time, someone will be able to carry a gun and have access to parts of the Rapidan that have been inaccessible in the past (Big Tom Mountain) and much easier access to parts that have been very difficult to access (much of South River Tract).

Unfortunately, I see potential for considerable friction between NPS authorities and hunters seeking better access to the Rapidan. While I think it is likely a hunter will be able to park on Skyline drive and conveniently transport a hunting rifle to the South River Tract, my understanding of Park Service regulations is it would be illegal to posses any animal that has been harvested on state-owned land while crossing Shenandoah National Park. This means that for part of the RWMA hunters will have legal access to the RWMA only by carrying a gun across SNP, but there will be no legal way to transport game out. For other parts of the RWMA you will have hunters who have access through SNP, but to get big game out you would have to have a four wheel drive vehicle and it would probably take two men more than a full day to legally transport harvested game out of the RWMA. Look at a topographic map and see how easy it would be to access the Southern part of the South River Tract from SNP, but how hard it would be to transport big Game harvested there by having to only transverse RWMA land.

In the past the Park Service has created a permit process that allows access to the Devil’s Ditch portion of the RWMA to hunters using a specific trail, with significant restrictions. The permit also allows hunters to transport harvested game along the trail to get it back across the park to a vehicle. That is the only place in SNP that hunters are currently provided such access. It will be interesting how the permit process for Devil’s Ditch will work in the future if you don’t need the permit to get your gun across the park to the RWMA, but you would have to get the permit before you transported any game that was harvested back to your vehicle!

My hope is that once we get a good feel for what gun regulations will be effective next February that the state could try to work out an agreement with the Park Service on how all this will work. Unless it is coordinated well, I think there will be some very confused hunters and an enforcement nightmare for the Park Service. In a way, I look forward to the federal and state government having to sort this out — I think it is a real shame the access issues that have been ignored to let the problem be as significant as it now is now. My hope is that when this gets sorted out that the Park Service will designate trails in SNP that can be legally used to transport harvested game off of the RWMA, but I can’t say I have a lot of confidence this will happen immediately.

Anyone have a guess for how all this is likely to work out?

Updated: 05/03/09 Trail Work Trip on Rapidan Tract

May 3rd, 2009
Previous Trail Work Trip
Previous Trail Work Trip

Due to weather, we only did trail exploration, and will try to redo this trip sometime in the future.

Trail Work Trip
9:30 AM
Doubletop Mountain Trail
Rapidan Tract of RWMA
Meet at North Trail Head (Off SR 648)
Click Here to get Google Maps Directions

Back in the winter significant trail work was done on the Wilhite Wagon Trail and the portion of Doubletop Mountain Trail that goes from the top of the Wilhite Mountain trail to SR 648. The purpose of this trip is to reblaze the trail and get blowdowns off Doubletop Mountain Trail from SR 648 to the top of Doubletop Mountain. The effort to improve this trail has been coordinated with VA DGIF. No trail experience needed to participate. Just bring gloves, long pants, lunch, and plenty of water.

If you plan on participating, please send me an emal at We may also be able to make carpool arrangements from near the DC metro area.


Update:  Joseph Ferdinandsen who manages the Rapidan WMA for DGIF will be joining us for this outing!

Rapidan River in the Spring

April 30th, 2009
Rapidan River

Rapidan River

My automated Rapidan WMA Google search popped up this photo someone recently took of the Rapidan River.  I thought it as a nice shot.   The next photo in the series shows a nearby campsite.  I think this is a beautiful time of year to visit the Rapidan, not that there’s ever a bad time.

Spring Gobbler Season Opening Day on Rapidan from Huntinglife Blog

April 20th, 2009
Photo from

Photo from

There is a blogpost from on the opening day of turkey season in the Rapidan WMA.  While not Turkeys were taken, it sounds like they had a good time.


Saturday was a beautiful day in the Virginia Countryside as hunters all over the state headed to the woods to chase the spring gobblers.  My usual haunts for spring gobblers were all filled up and one is being developed with new homes so we headed to the Rapidan WMA above Madison, Virginia.  Up in the hills attached to the National Park we headed in search of a really dumb gobbler.  What we found instead was a good bonding session between Tristan and I and a ton of deer.

Tristan and I were up at 4:30am and on the road in about 10 minutes.  We made it down to Madison in about an hour and got the truck fueled up and Tristan fueled up with some chocolate milk and a couple of breakfast bars and off we went.  Arriving early we jumped out of the truck to see a pretty nice herd of 10 to 12 deer boogie up over the mountain in front of us and deer on all sides of our location.

New RWMA Map, Rules Now on User Site

April 14th, 2009

The map and rules I had on the Rapidan WMA Users Website were outdated.  They have been updated with new ones.  The new map has been updated to have more recent information and show the new Fray land that was recently added to the Middle (Conway) River Tract.  I couldn’t tell that the rules had changed that much.

New Blog, 2006 Logging on Middle River Tract

April 14th, 2009

Middle River Tract Logging

Middle River Tract Logging

It has been a while since I put much time into the Rapidan WMA website.  However, I have recently started to try to make some gradual improvements.   I am working to update content on the site.  This is a new blog that the website is hosting.

Here is a link to some photos I took back in 2006 of the logging on the Middle River Tract.