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Director’s Message

Hunting Regulations Icon New Jersey Hunting

Hunting season, my favorite time of year, is fast upon us. I have been bowhunting since I was 14. The year was 1966. My hunting buddy and I had practiced all summer in anticipation of the season. On opening day his father took us to Stokes State Forest where we had built tree stands a few weeks before. The prospect of hunting deer—and especially bear hunting, both legal quarry during the fall bow season—was exciting and I was eager.

It was mid-afternoon on our first day hunting. I was dozing off when a bear growled in the swamp behind me. Truth be told, startled, I almost fell out of the tree! That year my lack of success was not isolated, as the harvest total was only three bears statewide, two by bow and arrow.

Not so last year as hunters took part in the historic re-opening of New Jersey’s archery black bear season that had been closed since 1971. Although I did not bear hunt this past year, I participated in the excitement of the many successful bowhunters who brought their bear to the Whittingham WMA check station. Bowhunters harvested 85 percent of the bears taken in October including six bears harvested with traditional archery equipment.

Many hunters continued to hunt with bows when the muzzleloader segment kicked in for the last three days of the hunt. Most important, as our biologists predicted, hunters harvested many bears that would not have been available during the December season segment. The result: 636 bears, the highest harvest in New Jersey history. The success of this management tool is demonstrated in a 46 percent decrease in bear complaints this year. It’s a perfect example of hunter-conservationists enjoying their sport while managing wildlife for the benefit of all New Jersey citizens. Check out the black bear season information.

As we continue to celebrate our agency’s 125 anniversary, I’m reminded that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” The 2015 deer harvest was low throughout the northeast region, not just in the Garden State. Requests ensued by New Jersey hunters to make the deer regulations more conservative. Despite a rebound in the 2016 harvest, we worked with the State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the Fish and Game Council to cut back the season or bag limit in select deer management zones.

Conservation has a long history in New Jersey and reacting to lack of game is not a new idea! The first restrictions placed on deer harvests date back to 1722; the first season was instituted in 1771. Prior to that, deer were hunted all year. For more interesting facts about our wildlife agency’s history, visit our 125th anniversary webpage at:

Also, be sure to check out the 2017 Highlights of Regulation Changes.

Finally, enjoy your time afield, whether you’re observing the world awakening from your tree stand or duck blind, taking pride in your dog’s work while hunting upland game or mentoring your son, daughter or apprentice hunting partner so that they, too, can enjoy the tradition of hunting.

Always remember that we are blessed with bountiful natural resources and be proud that your efforts have made this possible. Your contributions are many and include your support for wildlife conservation through your license dollars along with the federal excise taxes you pay on sporting equipment Equally important are your observations and ideas expressed through letters, emails or conversations with our staff and with your Fish and Game Council representatives. All your efforts help us to improve the sport of hunting and trapping and ensure wildlife will be here in New Jersey for generations to come.