A Message from the Director

Hunting Regulations Icon New Jersey Hunting

There are a few changes on the horizon—all of them good!

First, take a look at the positive results from our introductory year of the apprentice hunting license program featured on Welcome Apprentice Hunters!. This program offers a terrific opportunity to introduce someone to hunting—if you are willing to mentor them—without first requiring a Hunter Education course. Studies show that a principle factor in keeping a new hunter active (even those who did complete Hunter Ed) is having someone to show them where, and how, to hunt. (For excellent tips to engage new hunters, Recruiting the Next Generation). Gaining field knowledge and confidence allows novice hunters to venture on their own in the future.

New hunters might be enticed to learn they will become part of the growing trend to eat local. As a hunter, find out if you are already a locavore on Are You A Locavore?.

This year’s pheasant stocking schedule is found on Small Game Hunting Regulations. Fish and Wildlife is phasing out pheasant production at the Rockport Game Farm due to rising production costs and new, mandatory federal bio-security standards that would require prohibitively expensive alterations to the facility.

Last year, birds stocked in the southern region were purchased as adults from a contract vendor. Reports from the field were positive, and analysis by staff showed the birds weighed the same as our own Rockport pheasants. This year we will purchase a combination of 6-week-old birds to be raised at the farm plus adult birds for direct stocking. In the fall of 2019, all birds stocked will come directly from contract breeders. This approach will save a quarter million dollars annually. The following year, the pheasant farm will be decommissioned with buildings converted to other uses.

As you hunt and trap this fall, you may encounter our law enforcement officers. Those with a keen eye may notice the addition of “police” to the officers’ uniform shoulder patch and patrol vehicles. A bill has been introduced to officially change their title from conservation officer to conservation police officer. Although their responsibilities remain the same, the authority associated with the term police is instantly recognizable, enhancing both compliance and officer safety. Additionally, this official title update allows Fish and Wildlife to apply for financial grants typically restricted to police agencies.

In many regards, these officers are the face of our agency, making over 36,000 field contacts with New Jersey’s resource users each year. And they do an excellent job. Years ago, when I served as a deputy conservation office patrolling with full-time COs, I was impressed with their professionalism and respectful interaction with sportsmen and sportswomen. When an officer is thanked after issuing a summons (ticket) to a hunter or angler, it’s clear that the officer has handled the interaction with skill.

Most people try to obey the law. Some, purposely, do not. A now-retired DFW law enforcement chief once characterized hunting, trapping and fishing violators as two types. The first type knows the law and violates it anyway, out of greed or lack of true sportsmanship. These folks are a small minority that must be dealt with effectively. The second, and more common violator inadvertently makes a mistake because they don’t understand, or forget, regulations involving season dates, zone boundaries or bag limits—or they made an unwise decision that day. These folks deserve some degree of understanding and, as I have observed, are treated fairly.

Turning to the regulatory information contained in this Digest, I’ve been told many times that our regulations are complicated and confusing. While that may seem true, the regulations are designed to keep our sport safe, ethical and to maximize your recreational opportunity where game populations can support them.

The rules vary depending on the season, the type of sporting arm used and the hunting or trapping location. I encourage you to read this Digest carefully. If you have questions, call a DFW law enforcement office for clarification. Or ask for an explanation from one of our conservation police officers that you meet in the field. Thank them for a job well done. And tell them you are as proud of them as I am.
Now—let’s go hunting!

Larry Herrighty is the Director ­­of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.