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New Jersey Deer

 Most recent update, 11 August 2017

New Jersey: The “Deer-Huntingest” State in the USA???

OK, I know how silly that question must seem to a lot of people. Jersey is a tiny state, with the most dense human population of all 50 states. We have only 10% the hunter numbers of states like Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. We don't have big deer. Maybe one New Jersey buck per year will qualify for Boone and Crockett. And mostly, we don't have a hunting culture here. (Although there are still towns in Jersey where schools close for opening day of buck season.)

BUT ... we do have the whitetails. AND ... we have one of the most forward-thinking Fish and Game Departments. Our little state is divided into about 70 Deer Management Zones. And in a bunch of those Zones, one of which includes The Swamp, my family's little swamp spot, the deer seasons and bag limits are among the most liberal in the USA.

The Swamp is about 9 miles from our home in South Orange, which is about 10 miles from Times Square in New York City. Here is a picture from 2012, when there were 5 bucks on my front lawn ... three of them appear in the picture below:

These pics taken 10 miles from Times Square.
These are all nice bucks, but the one on the left ...

At The Swamp, if you hunt with bow, shotgun and muzzleloader, you have well over 5 months to hunt deer ... from about September 10th to about February 20th, and there is no limit on antlerless deer. The statewide antlered buck limit is six ... three with bow, two with shotgun and one with muzzleloader. 

The regulations get a little complicated, but that's the story everywhere these days. In Jersey's most liberal zones, the three bow seasons (Fall Bow, Permit Bow and Winter Bow) run pretty much the whole five months of deer season. Most of the Jersey deer take is by bowhunters, including crossbow. Shotgun Season runs about 10 weeks covering most of December and January and half of February. Muzzleloader is open a couple of weeks longer than Shotgun. And there are some additional Special Regulations Areas. For example, one of my favorite hunts is an Early Muzzleloader Season, which runs 8 days in the first half of November.

And while Jersey is the 4th smallest state, it offers over 750,000 acres of public land open to deer hunting, not all that much less than Texas, but with only 10% as many hunters. It’s a strange situation. In 2016, Jersey sold under 80,000 hunting licenses, less than half of what is was 50 years ago. But the amount of public hunting land is constantly growing, and deer numbers are way up. So are turkey, squirrel and predator numbers. Women are taking up hunting in greater numbers than ever, but still represent only about 2.4% of the total. Funny thing about Jersey ... there are lots of anti-hunters, but there are also huge numbers of Nature-lovers. Every time there is a vote on whether to buy and preserve more land, it gets approved. So Jersey spends about $100,000,000 per year buying private lands, protecting them, and making them available for public use. And most of these lands are open to hunting. Who'd expect it to work out that way??!!

An important point for such an urbanized state, but applicable in all our heavily populated areas: there is a real hunger for and love of Nature that lives inside so many people who spend their lives in cities and fully developed suburbia. Although my town of South Orange is about as politically left as any, this does not equate to anti-hunting, particularly meat-hunting. Local people are almost always interested in talking about venison and the hunt, and quite often express a desire to give it a go. In 2011, I did help a couple of local guys get out for their first hunts, and they had success too, both on deer and turkey. It was really great! Some of their story is on the page about The Swamp.

We actually have several thousand people coming from Pennsylvania and other neighboring states to hunt deer here. Some years back I ran into a guy who said he guides for whitetail in Maine, but he comes to Jersey for early bow to load up on venison.

If you like deer hunting, check out Jersey.

Here's a buck I took with my muzzleloader in High Point State Park in 2010. I really like the brown “flat top” hair cut on this 9-point. High Point is a better place for bear than deer, really, BUT ... the Appalachian Trail runs thru High Point and I love knowing public land stretches North to Mount Katahdin in Maine and South to Springer Mountain, Georgia. All you have to do is start walking!


 Also ... New Jersey is, I think, the only State East of the Mississippi where a hunter can take two black bears per season.

All this may change with the governor, tho. The governor can veto any part of the game code, it seems, and who knows what we might get after Christie.