The six-day firearm deer season commences half-hour before sunrise Monday and concludes half-hour after sunset Saturday, December 11.

Despite being the fifth smallest state, New Jersey boasts approximately 750,000 acres of public state land open to deer hunting, and this mass is bolstered by opportunities available in several national wildlife refuges as well as swaths of county parklands. These can be found on pages 42-45 in the Hunting & Trapping Digest. South Jersey is particularly blessed with huge amounts of open land.

Even though nearly three times the deer are tagged during the month-long autumn bow season (19,018 vs. 6,127 in 2020), what was formerly known as “Shotgun Week” or “Buck Week” is remains extremely popular, particularly in the southern tier counties.

TSM, Tom P.
TSM, Tom P.

Deer hunting clubs abound and the tradition is woven deeply into the outdoors fabric. These clubs range from a few to dozens of members, and tactics range from stand (pot) hunting to deer drives, the latter coordinated movements between divers and standers that can resemble military maneuvers. In much of South Jersey, the woods and swamps are so thick that driving is the only practical, and effective, way to get a legal buck within shotgun range.

No matter the modus operandi, this week will prove interesting as to date, the deer harvest figures from the autumn bow, permit bow and two-day permit muzzleloader seasons are lagging 30-something percent behind last year for a number of reasons.

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One is that last year saw a significant amount of increased hunting pressure that was “COVID driven” as more people, off from work, took advantage of the generous deer hunting seasons. More hunters, more deer tagged. Secondly, a near statewide (17 out of 21 counties) outbreak of the fatal midge-driven EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) put substantial (read: big) dents in some area deer herds. Less deer, less deer tagged.

TSM, Tom P.
TSM, Tom P.

Other ancillary factors (coyote and bear predation on fawns, and road kills) also prune whitetail numbers, but in reality, the Garden State hosts a robust deer herd that provides outstanding deer hunting on state, private, federal, and county parklands.

Carole Stanko, Chief of the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s bureau of wildlife management and former statewide deer project leader, gives her prospectus for the upcoming firearm deer hunting week during tomorrow morning’s Rack & Fin Radio

Show between 7-8 on 97.3 ESPN FM. She’ll also discuss the EHD impact and what the DF&W is doing to prevent the deer-killing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from entering New Jersey.

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