New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Back to State of NJ Homepage Back to Fish and Wildlife Homepage Back to NJ DEP Homepage

Ducks Arrive Early Due to Cold Weather

By Jon Kline
Natural Resource Interpretation Technician

Early December's cold weather has resulted in a great opportunity for New Jersey's duck hunters. Pushed south early by this year's freeze, ducks seek refuge in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and estuaries that do not freeze so readily.

Puddle ducks near shore

Major changes to the migratory bird seasons this year include the following:

(Hunters should see the migratory bird regulations for a complete list of the opportunities available this year.)

Beginning waterfowl hunters must polish up on their knowledge of waterfowl species and be able to identify duck species before going afield. A field guide to eastern birds is a good resource to start with, and "Ducks at a Distance" is a good Internet resource. Hunters cannot afford to make mistakes in the identification of waterfowl because hunting regulations are strictly enforced. State Migratory Bird Regulations are available online and at license agents and hunters should familiarize themselves with the regulations.

Non-toxic shot is now required for all waterfowl hunting by both state and federal law. As always, hunters are reminded to shoot safely - know your target and what is beyond. Be aware that anglers and/or clammers may be utilizing the same unfrozen waters and act in a safe and responsible manner, and respect the rights of other users. (See the information about waterfowlers and shellfishers on the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers).

Duck hunters on the water

To hunt waterfowl in New Jersey, hunters must possess a resident or non-resident firearm hunting license, federal and state waterfowl stamps and a Harvest Information Program number (free) by calling 1-800-WETLAND or registering online. Federal waterfowl stamps are available at most post offices. State waterfowl stamps and hunting licenses are available at most New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife offices and at license agents. Hunters are also reminded to report banded birds at 800-327-BAND or online.

Challenges are many to the duck hunter. They can include getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m. or some other unnatural hour, cold and/or damp weather and a struggle with chest waders. More enjoyable are setting up the decoy spread and shooting location, good calling and then having the birds come into shooting range.

With all these challenges, many question why someone would hunt waterfowl. The answers? Camaraderie with other hunters. Training and working with a good retriever. Enjoying the fine table fare these wild birds afford. And overcoming those very challenges!

There are few other activities that come close to the adventure offered by hunting waterfowl. Arising early and spending time in New Jersey's productive wetlands has many rewards. Chief among them is that waterfowl hunting with friends creates memories that last a lifetime.

Back to Fish and Wildlife Homepage Back to NJ State Homepage Back to NJ DEP Homepage