General Hunting Regulations
Regulations in red are new this year.
This is not the full law. The information in this Digest is based on N.J.S.A. Title 23, Title 13:1B-34 and N.J.A.C. 7:25-5. The amended regulations are known as the Game Code and implement the statute laws. Consult the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Law Enforcement for further details. See Law Enforcement Conservation Police Contacts, Law Enforcement Regional Offices, for regional Law Enforcement offices. All persons are reminded that the statutes, code and regulations are the legal documents.
No person shall hunt except as prescribed by law. See section Permits for Hunters with Disabling Conditions, Licenses, Permits, & Stamps, for special rules.
Persons required by law to wear corrective lenses to operate a motor vehicle (as noted on a valid driver’s license) must wear corrective lenses when hunting with any kind of bow or firearm.
Pursuant to NJSA 23:4-24.2, no person shall kill, destroy, injure, shoot, shoot at, take, wound, or attempt to take, kill or wound a game bird or game animal, or have in possession or control any firearm or other weapon of any kind, while elevated in a standing tree, or in a structure of any kind within 300 feet of a baited area.
Pursuant to NJSA 23:4-24.3, a "baited area" shall mean the presence of placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered agricultural products, salt, or other edible lure whatsoever capable of attracting or enticing such birds or animals.
Growing and unharvested crops shall not be considered baiting or feeding game birds or game animals.
Pursuant to NJSA 23:4-24.4, the above restriction does NOT apply to deer hunting. Hunters targeting deer while elevated in a standing tree or in a structure of any kind may be within any distance of a baited area.
Bow and Arrow
“Bow” means any long bow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow. Hand held release devices are permitted. Air bows are not legal for hunting.
See additional regulations under Specifically Prohibited, below and Firearms, Bows, & Ammunition Legal for Deer Hunting for a table on sporting arms legal for deer hunting.
All bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds at the archer’s draw length, except compounds, which must have a minimum peak draw weight of 35 pounds and crossbows which must have a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds. Crossbows must have a minimum stock length of 25 inches.
See crossbow safety tips, below. Crossbows are now legal for bowfishing except for Greenwood Lake. Crossbows are permitted for hunting migratory birds. See below for restrictions when taking game birds in flight.
All arrows used for hunting deer, bear, turkey, coyote, fox or woodchuck must be fitted with an edged head of well-sharpened metal and a minimum width of ¾ inches.
It is illegal to cast a visible beam or spot onto a game animal.
New Jersey does not regulate arrow/bolt length or weight, broadhead cutting edge length or bow sight magnification.
Arrows fitted with heads other than specified for deer, bear, turkey, coyote, fox or woodchuck may be carried in the woods and fields during the small game season or other seasons which overlap with the bow and arrow deer season except that for taking game birds in flight, arrows equipped with an edged head are prohibited. Also, flu flu arrows are required for taking game birds in flight because the arrow is designed to fly only a short distance. For the purpose of discharging a crossbow, hunters may carry judo points, target points or blunts. Canada geese and turkeys which are not in flight may be taken with standard fletched arrows and an edged head as described above.
Sunday bowhunting for deer is legal only on private land and state wildlife management areas.
See Safety Zones, below and Safety Zone Awareness, Safety & Hunting Opportunities.
It is unlawful to:
- use or possess a poison arrow or one with an explosive tip
- use an edged head for taking game birds in flight
- use a bow one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise during any hunting season
- use a bow and arrow from any vehicle, moving or stationary
- have both a firearm and bow in possession or under control while hunting
- transport in a vehicle a crossbow in the cocked position
There is no hunting or trapping season for bobcat, fisher, mourning dove, ruffed grouse, sandhill crane and king rail in New Jersey. See Protected Wildlife, below.
Dogs, Hunting and Training
Allowing dogs to run at large is prohibited.
Persons may train dogs without firearms in daylight at any time except during any open firearm deer season.
No person shall train a raccoon or opossum hunting dog on WMAs other than during the periods of Sept. 1 to Oct. 1 and from Mar. 1 to May 1. Training hours shall be one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.
It is illegal to use dogs to pursue or run deer or black bear or to track wounded deer or bear. However, a hunter may use the services of a dog handler in possession of a valid, Fish and Wildlife-issued Tracking Dog Permit with a certified tracking dog for the search and recovery of deer lost during any deer hunting season prescribed by the Game Code. See Licenses, Permits, & Stamps for certification requirements.
Note: Regulations for dog training on wildlife management areas are on Wildlife Management Area Regulations.
Delaware River, Hunting
Hunting on the Delaware River is restricted by state boundaries. A valid hunting license and any appropriate permit/stamp is required for your location.
Drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Drones or unmanned aircraft are prohibited for the purposes of hunting or trapping and cannot be used to harass, scout, drive, track, retrieve or rally wildlife.
No person shall use a raptor for hunting without a falconry permit and a valid hunting license. No person under 14 years of age may hunt by means of a raptor. Hunting migratory birds with raptors on Sunday is prohibited.
Falconry permits will be issued only to persons who pass a comprehensive examination and who can provide proper facilities for housing a raptor.
Beginning falconers must be sponsored by an experienced falconer.
No person shall possess a firearm while hunting with raptors.
For additional information, write to New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, MC 501-03, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420 or call (908) 735-6938.
See farmer hunting and permit information, above.
Firearms and Missiles
For the purpose of hunting in New Jersey, firearms refer to a shotgun, muzzleloader (rifled or smoothbore), air gun and modern rifle.
- Possession and use of silencers are illegal on any firearm. Title 2C:39-1 g. classifies a firearm silencer as “any instrument, attachment, weapon or appliance for causing the firing of any gun, revolver, pistol, or other firearm to be silent, or intended to lessen or muffle the noise of the firing of any gun, revolver, pistol or other firearm.” Pursuant to Title 2C:39-3 c. “Any person who knowingly has in his possession any firearm silencer is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree."
- The use of “smart" rifles or guns for hunting is prohibited. Computer-aided hunting devices would negate the tenet of fair chase, giving hunters an unfair advantage by allowing a computer to target the prey.
- A person may not go into the woods or fields with a firearm except during prescribed seasons.
- It is unlawful to possess in the woods and fields shot larger than #4 fine shot except for hunting deer, bear, waterfowl, woodchuck (farmers only) and coyote/fox during the Special Permit Coyote and Fox Season. This shall not apply to the lawful use of ammunition for air guns; see Air Guns, this page.
- Rimfire and centerfire rifles are not legal to hunt deer.
- See sections on specific game animals for permitted firearms and ammunition. See table on Firearms, Bows, & Ammunition Legal for Deer Hunting for sporting arms legal for deer hunting.
- No person shall use a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells at one time or that may be fired more than three times without reloading except for the September Canada goose season (see Migratory Bird Regulations) and during a light goose conservation order season, if any.
- See also Specifically Prohibited and Safety Zones, below.
“Air gun” means any shoulder-mounted firearm which by the force of a spring, air or other non-ignited compressed gas expels a missile or projectile and has a rifled or smooth barrel, using ammunition no smaller than .177 caliber and no larger than .22 caliber producing projectile velocities of not less than 600 feet per second measured at the muzzle. Pursuant to Title 2C:39-1 f., air guns are classified as a firearm. Air gun BBs are not legal for hunting. Air guns are now legal for taking cottontail rabbit, hare and gray squirrel. A Rifle Permit is not required. Modern air guns have sufficient power to take small game plus are quieter and lighter than some shotguns, making them an ideal tool for smaller-framed hunters. Air guns hunting information is now part of the basic shotgun hunter education course.
Important: See Firearms and Missiles, above, for the law regarding silencing mechanisms that also apply to air guns.
It is unlawful to use smokeless powder in a muzzleloader while hunting in New Jersey. Only black powder or black powder equivalents, such as Pyrodex and Triple Se7en, may be used with a muzzleloading firearm when engaged in hunting.
Properly licensed and permitted hunters 10 years and older may hunt with a muzzleloading rifle. A valid Rifle Permit must be possessed while hunting with a muzzleloading rifle. Permitted action types include percussion, flintlock and inline. Electronic ignitions are not legal. For muzzleloader barrel types and legal hunting ammunition, see regulations for each game species.
It is unlawful to hunt with a muzzleloading rifle on WMAs, except for deer, bear and during the special seasons for coyote/fox and squirrel hunting. For muzzleloader rifle squirrel hunting, see Small Game Hunting Regulations. For muzzleloader deer hunting, see Firearms, Bows, & Ammunition Legal for Deer Hunting. For Rifle Permit information, see Licenses, Permits, & Stamps. For muzzleloader coyote/fox hunting, see Small Game Hunting Regulations.
A valid Rifle Permit must be in possession while hunting with a modern rifle.
Rifles for small game hunting are allowed using limited types of .22 caliber rimfire ammo and are legal only for taking woodchuck (ammo restrictions, Trapping Regulations), raccoon and opossum with hounds (.22 shorts only) plus coyote and fox during the Special Permit Season (ammo restrictions, Fall & Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Regulations). NO rifle woodchuck hunting on wildlife management areas or state parks, forests and recreation areas. Small game hunting with centerfire rifles is limited to not larger than .25 caliber for coyote and fox (see Small Game Hunting Regulations) and .25 caliber or larger for woodchuck (see Small Game Hunting Regulations). See also Firearms and Missiles, this page.
A modern rifle magazine need not be pinned (plugged), but may be loaded with no more than three cartridges. Rife permit holders of all ages may hunt with all rifle types as allowed by New Jersey laws.
Shotguns larger than 10-gauge are prohibited for hunting. Shotguns may not be capable of holding more than three shells except for September Canada goose hunting and during the Spring Light Goose Conservation Order; see Migratory Bird Regulations. For information on legal shot sizes, see regulations for each game species to be hunted.
It is illegal to obstruct or attempt to obstruct or annoy a person lawfully taking wildlife as per N.J.S.A. 23:7A-1 through N.J.S.A. 23:7A-3. This includes making loud noises or gestures designed to disturb, alarm, drive, attract or affect the behavior of wildlife.
Firearm hunters must wear a cap made of solid daylight fluorescent orange or an outer garment containing at least 200 square inches of fluorescent orange material visible from all sides at all times while engaged in hunting. A camo-orange hat alone is not adequate. This applies to all persons while hunting with a firearm for deer, bear, rabbit, hare, squirrel, coyote, fox, railbirds, and game birds including while in a tree stand. See exceptions below along with ground blind hunting fluorescent orange requirements.
Wearing a hunter orange hat is mandatory when firearm hunting for small game on wildlife management areas stocked with pheasant or quail. See list of WMAs at Pheasant and Quail Stamp Areas, Licenses, Permits, & Stamps.
All firearm and bow and arrow deer and black bear hunters utilizing a ground blind when a firearm deer season is open concurrently must display 200 square inches of hunter orange atop the blind and visible from all sides or within five feet outside the blind and higher than the blind or at least three feet off the ground, whichever is higher. During these concurrent seasons, bowhunters in tree stands also should consider wearing hunter orange.
Exceptions: the hunter orange law does not apply to waterfowl, crow, wild turkey, coyote/fox (during the special permit season, Small Game Hunting Regulations), woodchuck nor bowhunters except a bowhunter using a deer decoy must wear hunter orange, as above, while transporting a decoy into or out of the woods. During the Six-day Firearm Season, it is recommended that bowhunters wear hunter orange.
Injured or Orphaned Wildlife
If you encounter injured or orphaned wildlife, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. For more information visit our website at NJFishandWildlife.com/bornwild.htm.
Landowner Liability Act
For sport or recreational activities, whether property is posted or not, and whether the land is maintained or left natural, the property owner is not required by law to keep the property safe for use by hunters or anglers. Property owners are not required to warn others of hazards on the land or any structures. A property owner who gives permission to hunt or fish on their land does not incur liability for any injury to that sportsman to whom permission was granted. Reference: N.J.S.A. 2A:42A-2 et seq. Note: A landowner’s liability changes if a fee is charged (or other consideration) or if there is a “willful or malicious failure” to warn of a dangerous condition on the property.
Possession of Certain Wildlife by Persons, Taxidermists & Butchers
No person shall have in possession a deer, bear, migratory game birds or turkey that they did not kill unless it has a label bearing the name, address, phone number, license and permit numbers of the person who killed the deer, bear, migratory game bird or turkey. Game processors of deer, bear or turkey (butchers, taxidermists, etc.) shall keep a ledger of all customers. Each customer’s name, address, day and evening phone numbers, Conservation ID Number and possession seal number of any black bear or turkey or Confirmation Number, gender and age (fawn or adult) for deer or turkey being processed shall be recorded. The ledger must be available for inspection upon request during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by any law enforcement officer or employee of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Possession of naturally shed deer antlers is legal. Parts of deer possessed, other than shed antlers, must be from lawfully harvested deer. Proof of lawful harvest (Confirmation Number or seal) should be retained for verification. Road killed deer with a permit are intended only for consumption; antler possession from these deer is not legal.
It is illegal to capture, kill, injure or have in possession any wild bird other than a game bird. The sale of wild birds or game animals or parts thereof is prohibited except as described in N.J.S.A. 23:4-27. For more specific information, refer to our website, NJFishandWildlife.com. See also Sale of Wildlife, this page.
No one may rob a bird’s nest.
All nongame mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians are protected. Penalties for taking these species range from $250–$5,000.
There is no open season on ruffed grouse, bobcat or fisher. It is illegal to intentionally kill or attempt to kill a grouse, bobcat or fisher in New Jersey. For more information about bobcat (including incidentally trapped) and fisher, see Trapping Regulations. Bobcat pelts from animals legally harvested in other states may be possessed or sold provided a CITES tag from the state of harvest is attached. Fishers legally harvested in other states may be possessed or sold.
See also Possession of Certain Wildlife, above.
Do not hunt in unharvested crops unless first obtaining permission from the owner. Anyone causing damage to cultivated crops, orchards, fences, buildings or livestock may be arrested without warrant by the owner, occupant, lessee or any officer of the law. Violators are liable for a fine up to $2,000 and restitution to the property owner in addition to the loss of hunting privileges for five years.
Public Land Hunting
Sale of Wildlife
The sale of wild birds and game animals, or parts thereof, is prohibited in New Jersey with the following exceptions: legally trapped furbearers may be sold plus the sale of white-tailed deer hides, tails and the lower portion of the legs is legal. See Closed Seasons, above. For questions, contact a regional Fish and Wildlife law enforcement office.
No firearm hunter or trapper may carry a loaded firearm or hunt within 450 feet of a building or any school playground, even if unoccupied, except the owner or lessee of a building, and persons specifically authorized by him in writing. No bowhunter may carry a nocked arrow or hunt within 150 feet of a building or within 450 feet of any school playground, even if unoccupied, except the owner or lessee of a building, and persons specifically authorized by him in writing. Persons authorized to bowhunt within 150 feet of a building must hunt from an elevated position to shoot down toward the ground. Note: persons authorized to hunt or trap with a firearm within 450 feet, or with bow and arrow within 150 feet of a building must be in possession of that written permission while hunting or trapping. Shooting into a safety zone is prohibited. (See Safety Zone Awareness, Safety & Hunting Opportunities, for diagram and safety zone explanation.)
Stealing Traps or Trapped Animals
(Excerpted from N.J.S.A. 23:4-40) No person shall take or unlawfully appropriate, with intent to steal, a trap or the property of another, set along, by or in any of the public or private ditches, streams, ponds or waters in this state for the purpose of catching furbearing animals, or remove an animal from the trap of another person.
No person may hunt with firearms or any weapon or carry a gun in the woods or fields or on the waters on Sunday except on semi-wild and commercial shooting preserve lands for the purpose of shooting stocked game; and when using a .22 rifle for dispatching trapped animals.
NOTE: Sunday bowhunting for deer is legal only on state wildlife management areas and private property.
Persons are allowed to hunt raccoon or opossum on Sunday mornings only between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and one hour before sunrise during the prescribed season.
Stands and Blinds on State Parks, Forests
The State Park Service has modified its policy on the use of hunting tree stands and ground blinds on state parks, forests and recreation areas where hunting is allowed. To view the updated policy, visit the State Park Service website at NJParksandForests
Hunters and trappers must have permission (oral or written) from the landowner or lessee prior to entering either posted lands or agricultural lands—which are not required to be posted. Hunters must obtain permission to enter posted land and agricultural land to recover deer. Hunters and trappers may not enter unposted land after having been forbidden to trespass by the owner, lessee or occupant either by verbal notice or when the land has been conspicuously posted with intervisible signs displayed not fewer than ten to a mile along the exterior boundaries and at all roads, trails and rights-of-way entering such land.
If a hunter or trapper is charged with trespass, they must provide documentation of written permission in court for their defense. See Landowner-Hunter Trapper Agreement Card (PDF) for the Hunt SMART Courtesy Card.
Wanton Waste of Game
It is unlawful for any person who kills or wounds any white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkey, rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, quail, partridge, or waterfowl while engaged in any hunting to refuse or neglect to make a reasonable effort to retrieve, retain or lawfully take into possession such game animal or bird.
It is unlawful for any person to take, kill, or capture any game mammal or game bird and remove from the carcass the head, hide or antlers and leave the edible portions of the carcass and meat to waste except for a furbearer, crow or woodchuck. See Edible Portions Guide.
It is unlawful for any person to place, leave, dump or abandon a game mammal, game bird or wildlife carcass or parts of it along or upon a public right-of-way or highway, or on public or private property, including a waterway or stream, without the permission of the owner or tenant, or on any wildlife management area or state park. Make every effort to retrieve your game, remove the animal from the field—except entrails may be left discretely in the field—consume the edible portions and properly dispose of the remains such as bagged in your household trash.
Wildlife Damage Control
Property owners and occupants of dwellings, or their agents designated in writing, suffering damage from squirrel, raccoon, opossum, skunk, weasel, woodchuck, gray fox, red fox and coyote may control these animals by lawful procedures at any time subject to state law and local ordinances. Farmers or their agents may also control the above species by lawful procedures when found destroying livestock, crops or poultry at any time subject to state and local ordinances.
Note: Persons who kill a coyote must notify a Fish and Wildlife Regional Law Enforcement Office within 24 hours.
A youth hunter is the possessor of a youth hunting license—or the immediate family member of a qualified occupant farmer—who is at least age 10. Youth hunter status continues until Dec. 31 of the year in which the youth turns 16. For youth hunters from age 10 through 13, they MUST hunt under the direct supervision of a person who is at least 21 years old and who has a valid firearm or bow and arrow license corresponding to the season hunted. Direct supervision is defined as both the youth hunter and parent/guardian set up together at the same location, hunting as a unit, not hunting independently. See also Youth Licenses, Licenses, Permits, & Stamps. Youth licenses are free to youths ages 10–15 upon completion of a hunter or trapper education course. Youth hunters no longer receive their license at the course. See Hunter and Trapper Education Requirements, Licenses, Permits, & Stamps; Youth Licenses, Licenses, Permits, & Stamps. Visit the Take a Kid Hunting section and special youth hunt days.
Safety Tips for Crossbow Shooting Success
- Keep fingers and thumb low on the crossbow forearm, below the rail; the flight path of string and cable can cause serious injury.
- Never cock a crossbow while in a tree stand, except for crank-type models.
- Before shooting, check that bow limbs will hit nothing when they flex forward during the release. Crossbow limbs store enough energy to knock a hunter to the ground should the bow contact the tree or your stand.
To see all 10 Safety Tips for Crossbow Shooting Success, go to NJFishandWildlife.com/crossbow_safety_tips.htm.