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NJ Small Game Season Opens November 7

October 27, 2009

2009 Pheasant Distribution Schedule (pdf, 15kb)

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds hunters that the 2009-10 small game seasons for pheasant, bobwhite quail, fox and coyote open 8:00 AM on Saturday, November 7. The seasons for rabbit, hares and squirrel (open since September 26), ruffed grouse and woodcock north of Rt. 70 (open since October 15) and raccoon/opossum (open since October 1) remain open with an 8:00 AM start on November 7.

Firearm hunting is prohibited November 6 on state Wildlife Management Areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp Areas to allow for stocking (except in tidal marshes open to an on-going waterfowl season). Hunters should review current regulations, season exceptions and bag limits in the August issue of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest (specifically pages 59-62), available at license agents statewide and on the Division's website at www.njfishandwildlife.com/dighnt09.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 may hunt small game with shotgun, muzzleloader or bow and arrow (including crossbow).

Small game hunting is expected to result in nearly 15 million dollars in economic benefits to the State of New Jersey during the 2009-10 season. A random sample of firearm hunters will be sent a 2009-10 Firearm Hunter Harvest Survey at the end of the season that will be used to estimate harvest levels and hunt-related expenditures. Results from prior surveys are available on the Fish and Wildlife Web site.

Most small game species such as coyote, eastern gray squirrel, gray fox, opossum, rabbits, raccoon, red fox and woodchuck remain at healthy population levels throughout New Jersey.

2009 SEASON PROSPECTS

CHUKAR/PHEASANT/QUAIL

The release of pen-reared game birds provides the overwhelming majority of recreational opportunity for these species. Wild populations of pheasant and bobwhite quail are greatly reduced compared to past decades due to habitat loss and habitat change.

A cooperative bobwhite study in Cumberland County conducted by the Division and the University of Delaware indicates our State's bobwhite population is declining 30% annually, compared to the national decline rate of 44%. Research results suggest that both improving the quantity and quality of habitat and reducing winter mortality are both critical components necessary to sustain and potentially increase the New Jersey bobwhite population.

Approximately 10,000 quail will be stocked through December on two WMAs (Greenwood Forest in Ocean County and Peaslee in Cumberland County), where portions of these areas are managed specifically for this native game bird. Hunters should note that a Pheasant and Quail Stamp is required on these designated areas in addition to a valid hunting license. Hunters are reminded that the daily bag limit of quail south of Route 33 is four birds per day. North of Route 33, the daily bag limit is seven birds. The statewide quail season will conclude January 30 south of Route 33 but will remain open north of Route 33 through February 15. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset.

More than 50,000 pheasants raised at the division's Rockport Pheasant Farm will be stocked on 23 Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state, in addition to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Hunters should note that a Pheasant and Quail Stamp is required on these designated areas in addition to a valid hunting license. Stocking will continue through December. The daily bag limit is two pheasants of either sex. There is no possession or season bag limit for pheasant. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset.

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. The daily bag limit is seven chukar and there is no possession or season limit. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset.

Properly licensed semi-wild hunting clubs and commercial shooting preserves have no daily bag limits for chukar partridge, northern bobwhite and ring-necked pheasants. However, the total season harvest for these species may not exceed the anticipated number of birds scheduled for release as indicated on the license application. All harvested birds must be properly tagged before leaving the property. Commercial shooting preserves have been open to hunting since September 1 and will remain open until May 1. Hunting on semi-wild properties will begin November 7 and end March 15. Sunday hunting is permitted on these licensed lands.

COTTONTAIL RABBIT/HARES/JACKRABBIT

The season for rabbit, hare and jackrabbit, which opened September 26, remains open.

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 hedgerow intersperse. A hound, typically beagle or basset, is not essential but increases the likelihood of success and adds to the overall enjoyment of the hunt. Number 6 fine shot is a good choice. Descendants of hares and jackrabbits introduced during the mid-20th century may still exist in small numbers, particularly in Hunterdon/Warren counties.

The daily bag limit is four cottontails, 1 hare and 1 jackrabbit. There is no season limit. Firearm hunting is prohibited November 6 on those Wildlife Management Areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp areas. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset until the season concludes on February 15.

COYOTE AND FOX

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. The majority of the hunter-harvested animals are taken during the firearm deer seasons. Both utilize a variety of cover types, but generally hunt for prey species along field edges. Heavier shot sizes, like #4 fine shot, are recommended for taking coyote and fox during the regular small game season

The bow and arrow season for coyote and fox, which began October 3, will remain open through February 15, 2010. Firearm hunters may pursue coyote and fox from November 7 until February 15. The use of dogs is prohibited on December 7-12 and December 16.

Properly licensed deer hunters may take coyote and fox incidentally while hunting deer 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 (i.e., 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.

There is no daily or season bag limit for fox or coyote. Successful coyote hunters are reminded to report their harvest to a regional Division Law Enforcement office within 24 hours. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from hour before sunrise to hour after sunset.

The Special (permit only) Coyote and Fox Season will be January 1 to March 15, 2010 (concurrent with the small game season for these species until February 15). A Special Permit is required during Jan. 1- March 15 when any of the following conditions apply: hunting between the hours of hour after sunset to hour before sunrise (limited to shotgun hunting only); hunting while in possession of shot sizes larger than #4 fine (up to and including "T" size); hunting with a muzzleloading rifle (must be .44 caliber or greater); and, hunting with a firearm while not wearing fluorescent hunter's orange.

Hunting under the provisions of the special season permit is limited to stand hunting only, and the use of dogs is prohibited for permit holders. Permit holders must also be in possession of a predator call. Permits cost $2 and will be available for purchase at any license agent or via the Division's Internet license sales site beginning December 1. A 2010 hunting license must be purchased prior to or in conjunction with the purchase of the 2010 Special Coyote/Fox Permit.

GRAY SQUIRREL

The season for gray squirrel, which opened September 26, remains open.

Gray squirrels may be found throughout the state, but prefer areas containing stands of mast-producing hardwood trees such as oak and beech. 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 needed for squirrel hunting, but patience is a must.

The daily bag limit is five squirrels, and there is no season limit. Firearm hunting is prohibited November 6 on those Wildlife Management Areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp areas. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset until the season concludes on February 15.

GROUSE/WOODCOCK

The season for ruffed grouse opened October 15 north of Route 70 and remains open. South of Route 70 the season will run from November 7 - December 5, and December 14, 15, 17 - 31.

New Jersey's mature hardwood forests provide good habitat for squirrels, turkeys and deer, but are not as hospitable to ruffed grouse and woodcock. Adult ruffed grouse feed on leaves, berries and mast crops, with their ideal habitat being early stage hardwood forests mixed with some mature mast trees, Much of this mixed-forest vegetation has disappeared from the New Jersey landscape because of development and natural habitat maturation.

The daily bag limit is two grouse and there is no season limit. Firearm hunting is prohibited November 6 on those Wildlife Management Areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp areas. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset until the season concludes statewide on December 31.

Woodcock prefer early succession habitat types, particularly along streams and rivers where soils are moist and easily probed for earthworms. New Jersey is the nation's only state that has split zones for woodcock.

Hunting in the North Zone, which opened on October 15, will conclude Saturday, November 7. Season dates in the South Zone are Saturday, November 7 to November 28, 2009 and from January 1-2, 2010. Hunters should note that a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number is required to hunt woodcock, in addition to a valid hunting license (see New Jersey 2009-2010 Migratory Bird Regulations supplement (pdf, 108kb) for details).

The daily bag limit is three woodcock, with six birds in possession. There is no season limit. Firearm hunting is prohibited November 6 on those Wildlife Management Areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp areas. Hunting hours are 8:00 AM to hour after sunset on November 7 and thereafter from sunrise to hour after sunset.

OPOSSUM/RACCOON

The season for hunting raccoon and opossum, which opened October 1, will remain open through March 1.

Both species prefer habitats characterized as deciduous woodlands associated with streams, marshes, reservoirs and agricultural areas (with access to water.) There is no daily or season bag limit for raccoon or opossum. Hunting hours are one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Use of portable lights is permitted for hunting raccoon.

Fluorescent hunter's orange on outer clothing is not required, but is strongly encouraged as a safety precaution. A current and valid rifle permit is required when possessing a .22 caliber rifle while hunting these species. The season will be closed during the prescribed deer seasons (December 7-12 and on December 16, 2009).

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: October 27, 2009