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New Jersey Upland Bird, Small Game Seasons Open

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds hunters that the 2017-18 small game seasons for pheasant, chukar and Hungarian partridge, bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse (south of Route 70) and woodcock (south of Route 70) will open at 8:00 AM on Saturday, November 11. Small game seasons for several other species have already opened. Hunters are reminded that quail hunting is limited to commercial and semi-wild shooting preserves and the Peaslee and Greenwood Forest WMAs, as the wild quail hunting season remains closed.

Hunters should review current regulations, season dates and bag limits in the 2017-18 Hunting and Trapping Digest (specifically page 57) for information regarding the specific season(s) they wish to hunt. A summary of small game hunting season information can also be accessed at www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2017/smgame_summary17-18.pdf.

A current and valid hunting license (Bow and Arrow, Firearm or All-around Sportsman) is required to pursue any small game species. Properly licensed hunters may hunt small game with shotgun, muzzleloader or bow and arrow (including crossbow). Archers must use flu-flu type arrows or bolts when attempting to take birds in flight. Hunters pursuing pheasants on state Wildlife Management Areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp Areas and/or bobwhite quail on the Peaslee and Greenwood Wildlife Management Areas must also possess a Pheasant and Quail Stamp while hunting.

SMALL GAME SEASON INFORMATION AND UPDATES

Hunters are reminded that a hunter orange hat is required for all firearm small game hunters on Wildlife Management Areas stocked with pheasants or quail.

Small game species such as coyote, eastern gray squirrel, red and gray fox, rabbit, opossum, raccoon, and woodchuck remain at healthy population levels throughout New Jersey, and should provide excellent hunting opportunities for Garden State sportsmen and sportswomen. The gray squirrel season has been extended to February 24.

Skunk has been added to the list of game animals and may be pursued concurrent with the opossum and raccoon hunting season. A rifle permit is required when using a .22 caliber rifle. Special Coyote and Fox Permit holders may harvest opossum, raccoon and skunk while hunting canines. Apprentice License holders may not hunt at night for coyote, fox, opossum, raccoon or skunk.

Successful coyote hunters should continue to report their coyote harvests to the nearest Division of Fish and Wildlife regional Law Enforcement Office within 24 hours and leave their name, CID number and a daytime phone number.

Air guns may be used for taking cottontail rabbit, hare and gray squirrel using ammunition not smaller than .177 caliber or larger than .22 caliber producing projectile velocities of not less than 600 feet per second measured at the muzzle. Air gun BBs are not legal for hunting. A rifle permit is not required to hunt with an air gun. See Air Gun Hunting in NJ for more information.

In 2016, the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Land Management began stocking pheasants on state Wildlife Management Areas according to the new Pheasant Allocation Formula (PAF), developed by staff with input from constituent stakeholders. The development of the PAF began in early 2015 when the Division conducted a survey of Pheasant & Quail Stamp buyers to gauge participant satisfaction with the stocking program.

The results of the survey moved the Division to update the pheasant allocation formula in an effort to attain the goal of maximizing hunter safety and hunter satisfaction. The formula uses two primary parameters (stocked acreage & proximity to stamp buyers) for each stocked area to calculate the percentage of pheasants (from the total available for that year) that will be allocated to each Wildlife Management Area and the Delaware Water Gap NRA. Because “stocked area” and “proximity to stamp buyers” are measurable parameters, the PAF is an objective approach to allocating birds.

In 2016, half of the overall change from the Pheasant Allocation Formula was incorporated into the pheasant allocation. The other half of the change will occur for the 2017 stocking season. Extensive information about the new pheasant allocation formula can be found at www.njfishandwildlife.com/artpheasallocation16.htm.

Each year, the Division of Fish & Wildlife releases a goal number of pheasants to stock on WMAs and Federal properties. For the past three years, the Division’s goal number of pheasants to stock was 50,000. For the past two years, that goal was significantly exceeded and many additional birds were stocked, to the benefit of our sportsmen and women. In 2015, the Division stocked an additional 8,000 pheasants, and in 2016 it stocked an additional 8,300 birds at no extra charge to pheasant hunters.

This year, the Rockport Pheasant Farm had several challenges which resulted in a lower number of birds produced, despite the best efforts of staff. For the 2017 upland bird season 45,000 pheasants birds will be stocked on 23 Wildlife Management Areas throughout New Jersey, as well as Fort Dix (limited) and the Delaware class=”listgreenul”>www.njfishandwildlife.com/dighnt17.htm.

Pheasant stocking maps are available on the Fish and Wildlife website at www.njfishandwildlife.com/pheasmaps.htm. The maps depict the pheasant stocked areas within the WMAs and DWGRNA. Pheasant hunters can improve their chances for a more successful hunting season by utilizing these maps.

Northern bobwhite quail are native to the southern half of New Jersey. In recent years, quail populations have declined throughout their range including New Jersey. As part of a comprehensive effort to reverse this decline, the bobwhite quail season was closed statewide in 2011 except for the Peaslee and Greenwood Wildlife Management Areas where the Division of Fish and Wildlife releases 11,000 purchased birds in total. Quail may also be pursued at properly licensed semi-wild and commercial shooting preserves.

No person may release quail for dog training purposes on Buckshutem, Dix, Egg Island, Fortescue, Millville (Bevans), Nantuxent, New Sweden or Stafford Forge WMA. Hunters are reminded that the quail season remains closed except as noted above.

Quail are an integral part of New Jersey’s natural landscape and their decline should be of concern to everyone. Information on quail is available at www.njfishandwildlife.com/smgame_info.htm#quail, including the updated Bobwhite Basics brochure at www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/bobwhitebasics.pdf. The brochure is a handy reference tool with sections on Habitat Basics, Nesting, Brood Habitat, Fall/Winter Activities, Foods, Management and Bobwhite Facts.

A hard copy of the brochure can be obtained by sending a self-addressed, stamped ($0.49) #10 envelope to NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bobwhite Basics Brochure, PO Box 418, Port Republic, NJ 08241-0418.

Ruffed grouse populations face similar problems to those of bobwhite (i.e. lack of suitable habitat) and may be challenging to find, particularly in the southern region. Grouse prefer young forest habitat (less than 20 years old) and although New Jersey contains nearly two million acres of forest, only 4% of forests fall into the young forest category. The Division has undertaken several habitat projects designed to increase young forest acreage on several northern WMAs.

For more information about small game hunting in New Jersey visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/smgame_info.htm. The 2017-18 New Jersey Hunting and Trapping Digest can be picked up wherever hunting licenses are sold or viewed online at www.njfishandwildlife.com/dighnt.htm.

NOTE: the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Upland Game Project will conduct an online survey of firearm license buyers in January-February 2018 to estimate harvests of various small game species. All purchasers of a firearm license that provided an email address will be provided with a link to the survey and are encouraged to participate. Water Gap National Recreation Area. Pheasant hunting opportunities should still be excellent for Garden State sportsmen and women.

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