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October 25, 2004

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds hunters that the 2004-05 small game season for pheasant, bobwhite quail, rabbit, fox and coyote opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday, November 13.

The seasons for ruffed grouse and squirrel (open since September 25), opossum and raccoon (open since October 1), and woodcock (open since October 21), remain open with an 8 a.m. start time on November 13. Firearm hunting is prohibited on November 12 on wildlife management areas designated as Pheasant and Quail Stamp Areas.

Hunters should review current regulations, season exceptions and bag limits in the 2004 Hunting issue of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest (specifically pages 50-53). The Digest can be obtained from license agents throughout the state.

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. GENERAL INFORMATION

Small game season in New Jersey is an exciting and much anticipated time for hunters. Beautiful weather, colorful foliage and 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 agent in decreased wild populations of northern bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse and woodcock. Eastern coyote, eastern gray squirrel, gray fox, opossum, raccoon, red fox and woodchuck populations however, remain at healthy levels throughout the state.

Results of the New Jersey Firearm Hunter Harvest Survey indicate that an estimated 34,680 small game firearm hunters enjoyed nearly half a million recreation-days of hunting and spent more than $6.9 million (excluding license, permit and stamp fees) during the 2003 - 2004 small game season. The 2004 - 2005 season should be similarly successful and enjoyable.

This year, approximately 60,000 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 before November 13 and continue through December 30. Check DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife web site over the next few weeks for an updated list of stocking dates and areas.
Hunters should note that 10,000 more pheasants will be stocked this year than in previous years. This, in conjunction with less hunters pursuing pheasant, will provide increased opportunities for Garden State sportsmen and women.

A Pheasant and Quail Stamp is required on designated areas (see 2004 Hunting Edition of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest p. 50 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. This equates to $2.67 per stocking day. For such a minimal price the stamp buyer gets a place to hunt that has been stocked with one of America's finest strains of game farm pheasants.

The daily bag limit is two pheasants of either sex on all areas stocked by the Division, in pheasant hunting zones 1 and 3, and on the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station. Hunters should not take or attempt to take female pheasants elsewhere or to have female pheasants in their possession unless in the areas described above. The daily bag limit is two male pheasants in pheasant hunting zone 2.

Exceptions exist for semi-wild and commercial shooting preserves so hunters should consult the Fish and Wildlife Digest for more details.

Hunting hours are sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.

Some of the best pheasant hunting habitat 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.

The opportunity to pursue quail is also included with the purchase of a Pheasant and Quail stamp. Eleven thousand quail will be stocked on 15 days between November 13 and December 30.

The quail are stocked on the Peaslee Wildlife Management Area in Cumberland County and Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management Area in Ocean County. The daily bag limit is seven quail and hunting hours are sunrise to a half-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 sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.

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.

Spring and early summer conditions were near optimal during 2004, so expect to encounter higher numbers of rabbits than in 2003, particularly in the southern half of the state.

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 half-hour after sunset on November 13 and from sunrise to a half-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. The majority of the animals harvested are probably 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 (#2 to #4 fine shot) are recommended for taking coyote and fox.

The bow and arrow season for coyote and fox, which began October 2, will remain open through February 21, 2005. Firearm hunters may pursue coyote and fox from November 13, 2004 until February 21, 2005. The use of dogs is prohibited from December 6 through 11 and on December 15. Hunters should note that a valid rifle permit is required when hunting these species with a muzzleloading rifle in addition to a valid firearm license. There is no daily or season bag limit for fox. The daily bag limit for coyote is two and there is no season limit. Successful coyote hunters are reminded to report their harvest to a regional Division Law Enforcement office within 24 hours. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to a half-hour after sunset on November 13 and from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset thereafter.

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).

The Special (permit only) February Season for coyote and fox will be February 1-21, 2005. The application period for the special season, which began October 15, will close November 15.

Interested hunters should submit a 3" x 5" index card containing their name, mailing address, date of birth and evening telephone number. Be sure to write "Special February Coyote/Fox Season" on the bottom of the card. Send the card along with a $2 processing fee to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, Coyote Permits, P.O. Box 003, Trenton, NJ 08625-0003. Make check or money order payable to the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife.

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 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 ½ 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 a half-hour after sunset on November 13 and from sunrise to a half-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 because of 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.

The bag limit for grouse is three birds per day. Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to a half-hour after sunset on November 13 and from sunrise to a half-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.

Hunting in the North Zone, which opened on October 21 will conclude Saturday, November 13. Season dates in the South Zone are November 13 to November 27 and from December 24 to January 1.

Hunters should note that a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number for the 2004-05 season is required to hunt woodcock in addition to a valid hunting license (see New Jersey 2004-05 Migratory Bird Regulations supplement for details). 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). Hunting hours are 8 a.m. to sunset on November 13 and from sunrise to sunset thereafter.

The season for hunting Virginia opossum and raccoon, which opened October 1, remains open through March 1, 2005. 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. The season will be closed during the prescribed deer seasons (December 6-11 and on December 15).
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