Small Game Season Opens November 12
Hunters are reminded that the 2005-06 small game season for pheasant, bobwhite quail, rabbit, fox and coyote opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday, November 12.
The seasons for ruffed grouse (open since October 20), squirrel and woodchuck (open since September 24), crow (open since August 8), opossum and raccoon (open since October 1), and North Zone woodcock (open since October 20), remain open with an 8 a.m. start time on November 12. Firearm hunting is prohibited on November 11 on wildlife management areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp Areas.
Hunters should review current regulations, season exceptions and bag limits in the 2005 Hunting Issue of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest (specifically pgs. 58-60). The Digest can be obtained from license agents throughout the state and may be downloaded from this Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com/dighnt05.htm.
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 can hunt small game with shotgun, muzzleloader or bow and arrow.
Small game season in New Jersey is an exciting and much anticipated time for hunters. Abundant opportunities to harvest wild game offer sportsmen and women a variety of quality hunting experiences.
Populations of small game are generally stable throughout New Jersey, although land use changes and natural habitat succession continues to affect certain species. Habitat loss, measured in terms of both quantity and quality, is considered the primary cause for decreased wild populations of northern bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse and woodcock. Cottontail rabbit, eastern coyote, eastern gray squirrel, gray fox, opossum, raccoon, red fox and woodchuck populations however, remain at healthy levels throughout the state.
An estimated 34,000 small game hunters can be expected to enjoy nearly half a million recreation days of hunting during the upcoming season. In addition to the license, permit and stamp fees collected by the Division, small game hunting activities contribute more than $6.5 million to state and local economies.
A New Jersey Firearm Hunter Harvest Survey will be mailed to a random sample of resident and non-resident firearm hunters following the 2005-06 seasons. The survey is the Division’s primary data source used to develop harvest estimates for all small game species. Recipients are strongly encouraged to respond even if they did not actively hunt or were unsuccessful in harvesting game.
This year, approximately 55,000 pheasants will be stocked on 23 wildlife management areas throughout the state, in addition to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Stocking will begin November 11 and continue through December 30. Check the Small Game Hunting over the next few weeks for an updated list of stocking dates and areas.
A Pheasant and Quail Stamp is required on designated areas (see the 2005 New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest Hunting Issue p. 58 for details) in addition to a valid hunting license. The cost for the stamp is $40, which provides more than six weeks of hunting birds that are stocked.
The statewide pheasant season dates are November 12 to December 3; and December 12, 13, 15-31, 2005 to February 20, 2006. Hunters should note that pheasant zones have now been eliminated and the daily bag limit is two pheasants of either sex statewide. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to ˝ hour after sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to ˝-hour after sunset thereafter.
Some of the best pheasant hunting in North Jersey can be found on the Black River, Clinton, Flatbrook and Whittingham Wildlife Management Areas. In Central Jersey, hunters can try the Assunpink and Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Areas and in the south, the Millville and Tuckahoe areas are a good bet.
Quail and pheasants will be stocked on the Peaslee Wildlife Management Area in Cumberland County and the Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management Area in Ocean County. Each area will receive a total of 2,600 quail and 1,000 pheasants stocked on 15 days between November 11 and December 30.
Hunters should note that there are now two zones for bobwhite quail. The dividing line between the two is Route 33. North of Route 33, the season is November 12 to December 3; and December 12, 13, 15-31, 2005 to February 20, 2006 with a 7-bird per day bag limit. South of Route 33, the season and bag limit are reduced -- November 12 to December 3; and December 12, 13, 15-31, 2005 to January 31, 2006 with a bag limit of 4 birds per day. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to ˝-hour after sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to ˝-hour after sunset thereafter.
There is no natural population of chukar partridge in New Jersey and any birds encountered are the result of stocking efforts by private individuals or clubs, semi-wild properties or commercial shooting preserves. Season dates are November 12 to December 3; and December 12, 13, 15-31, 2005 to February 20, 2006 with a daily bag limit of seven chukar (no possession or season limit). Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to ˝ hour after sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to ˝-hour after sunset thereafter.
Pheasant, quail and chukar season dates and bag limit exceptions to the statewide regulations listed above apply to properly licensed semi-wild properties and commercial shooting preserves, so hunters should consult the Fish and Wildlife Digest (page 59) for details.
The cottontail is one of New Jersey’s most popular game species. They prefer a variety of cover types, so hunting efforts should be directed to areas where fields, woodlots and hedgerows are interspersed. Use of a beagle or basset hound, though not essential, can increase the likelihood of success and add to the overall enjoyment of the hunt. Number 6 fine shot is a good choice.
Descendants of hares and jackrabbits introduced during the mid-twentieth century may still exist in small numbers, particularly in Hunterdon and Warren counties.
The daily bag limit is four cottontails, one hare and one jackrabbit. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to a ˝-hour after sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to a ˝-hour after sunset thereafter.
Coyote and fox are perhaps the most challenging of the state’s small game species. Their intelligence, wariness and predominately nocturnal behavior enable them to elude most sportsmen. Both utilize a variety of cover types, but generally hunt for prey species along field edges. Heavier shot sizes (#4 fine shot) are recommended for taking coyote and fox during the regular season. The majority of the coyotes harvested are taken incidentally by deer hunters during the firearm deer seasons.
The bow and arrow season for coyote and fox (open since October 1) will remain open through February 20, 2006. Firearm hunters may pursue coyote and fox from November 12, 2005 until February 20, 2006. The use of dogs is not allowed October 1 – November 11, December 5-10 and December 14.
There is no daily or season bag limit for fox. The daily bag limit for coyote is two and there is no season limit. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to ˝-hour after sunset on November 12 and from ˝-hour before sunrise to ˝-hour after sunset thereafter. All successful coyote hunters are reminded to report their harvest to a regional Division Law Enforcement office within 24 hours of harvest.
NOTE: Hunters may take coyote and fox while deer hunting during the Six-day Firearm, Permit Muzzleloader and Permit Shotgun seasons provided they are in possession of a valid deer transportation tag for the applicable season (e.g., before a deer is harvested). Hunters should note that a valid rifle permit is required when hunting with a muzzleloading rifle in addition to a valid firearm license.
The Special Winter Season for coyote and fox (permit only) has been extended by two weeks and is now January 16 – February 20, 2006. In addition, the maximum shot size allowable has increased from #2 fine shot to “T” shot. The permit is required for hunters who (1) use a shot size larger than #4 fine shot, (2) hunt with a muzzleloading rifle outside of the prescribed deer season, or (3) hunt at night (shotgun only). The application period for the special season is October 15-November 15. See the Fish and Wildlife Digest (p. 58) for details.
Gray squirrels are abundant in New Jersey and provide exciting opportunities for hunters. They can be found throughout the Garden State, but areas containing stands of mast (nut) producing trees such as oak and beech are favored habitats.
Larger shot sizes such as #5 or #6 are recommended for taking squirrels while leaves remain on the trees. After leaf fall, #7˝ fine shot will suffice. A dog is not necessary for squirrel hunting, but patience is a must.
The daily bag limit is five squirrels. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to ˝-hour after sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to ˝-hour after sunset thereafter.
Ideal habitats for grouse include areas with early stage hardwood forests mixed with some mature mast trees. Unfortunately, much of this mixed-forest vegetation has disappeared from the New Jersey landscape due to intense land development and natural habitat maturation. Ruffed grouse populations have suffered accordingly.
Adult ruffed grouse feed on many plant species including berries and mast crops as well as a wide variety of green leaves, fruits and some insects. In the winter when snow is on the ground, they feed on the buds of trees such as aspens, birches and cherries. Acorns are also an important winter food item.
Ruffed grouse abundance can often be restored using intensive land management practices such as proper harvest management of forested lands and the use of prescribed burns. This helps provide the diversity of habitats necessary for ruffed grouse survival.
Hunters should note that the season and bag limit for ruffed grouse has been reduced. The season is now October 20 – December 31 with a bag limit of two birds per day. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to ˝-hour after sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to ˝-hour after sunset thereafter.
Woodcock also prefer early succession habitat types, particularly along streams and rivers where soils are moist and easily probed for earthworms. New Jersey is the only state in the nation that has split zones for woodcock. The dividing line between the two is Route 70.
November 12 is the last day for woodcock hunting in the North Zone, which opened October 20. Season dates in the South Zone are November 12-26 and December 23-31. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to sunset on November 12 and from sunrise to sunset thereafter. The daily bag limit is three woodcock, with six birds in possession (i.e., a hunter may not have more than two days’ bag limit stored).
NOTE: A current Harvest Information Program (HIP) number for the 2005-06 season is required to hunt woodcock in addition to a valid hunting license (see the New Jersey 2005-06 Migratory Bird Regulations supplement available at license agents/sporting goods stores throughout the state or on the Division’s Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com/waterfowl_info.htm for details).
The season for hunting Virginia opossum and raccoon (open since October 1) remains open through March 1, 2006. Both species prefer habitats characterized as deciduous woodlands associated with streams, marshes, reservoirs and agricultural habitats with access to water.
There is no daily or season bag limit for opossum or raccoon. Hunting hours are one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Sunday hunting is permitted only from midnight until one hour before sunrise. The season is closed during the prescribed deer seasons (December 5-10 and on December 14).