Deer Season off to Excellent Start

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The first harvest estimates for the early fall bow deer season (September 6 - 26) and statewide bow season opener (September 27) are in, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife (Division) reports the season is off to an excellent start. Although numbers for the traditional statewide fall bow opener are down some from last year (745 compared to 983), overall tallies are up as 6,235 deer have been taken by archers through September 27 compared with 4,685 deer taken by bow hunters during the equivalent period in 2002.

Fall is an excellent time of year for deer hunting in New Jersey. The fall bow season provides quality recreation for more than 37,000 hunters, and liberal season lengths and bag limits allow sportsmen and women to enjoy countless hours of hunting opportunity. Hunters in return provide an invaluable service to the people of New Jersey by helping control deer populations. The fall bow season contributes significantly to the Division of Fish and Wildlife's deer management goals by ensuring the harvest of antlerless deer (adult females and fawns). This helps keep deer populations in balance with available habitat and also helps reduce agricultural damage and deer - vehicle collisions. This year, the Division's overall goal is to reduce the whitetail population on 68% of deer range and stabilize the herd on the remaining 32%.

The increase in this year's overall Fall Bow harvest is due to the addition of 17 deer management zones into the Early Fall Bow Season structure, bringing the total number of zones open early to 32 agricultural and suburban zones. The participating zones were 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 35, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51 and 63. During this season, hunters were required to harvest an antlerless deer before taking an antlered buck. Hunters harvested 5,490 deer, compared with 3,702 deer taken during the early bow season last year.

New Jersey is recognized nationally for its deer management program, and the 2003 estimated fall bow harvest is consistent with recent data that show hunting opportunities have increased as a result of the New Jersey Fish and Game Council's authorization to reduce deer populations where needed. Hunters should take pride in the fact that they are one of the main reasons for the success of New Jersey's deer management program. It should be noted however, that continued progress toward controlling deer numbers will rely on hunters gaining and maintaining access to lands where deer can be hunted safely and responsibly.