New Jersey Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

Deer numbers have dipped just slightly in New Jersey, from nearly 113,000 deer in 2007 to the current estimate of 106,600.

"New Jersey's mild winters and above-average [deer] productivity, in most parts of the state, make for an overall healthy herd," said Carole Stanko, deer biologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. "We did experience an outbreak epizootic hemorrhagic disease in August and September of 2011. EHD occurred in localized areas of 6 counties and did not significantly affect the State's herd."

Clearly, many areas of New Jersey are over-populated with deer. If you were to add up the square miles of the sate and divide it by the deer population, it would average out to about 15 deer per square mile. Not a bad deer density at all.

Yet, the reality is that New Jersey's urban areas have few deer, while the suburbs and rural portions of the state have plenty--in many suburbs, densities of 100-plus deer per square mile are the norm. The Schiff Nature Preserve, just 25 miles west of Newark, has counted approximately 200 deer per square mile!

Deer hunters are trying to do their part. Of the 50,100 deer harvested last year in the Garden State, 31,500 were antlerless deer. To ease deer overcrowding, some municipalities, like Bernards Township, have extended their hunting season from mid-February to the end of March, archery only.

As far as forage? The standard green types of vegetation were doing fine, spring through summer. Fish and Wildlife does conduct a mast survey, but not until September. Hunterdon, Monmouth and Salem Counties produce the biggest bucks consistently. New Jersey also has a very long rut. Stanko said the "peak" can be up to three weeks long, usually from November 3 to 23.

The Northeastern Regional Report
_A very mild winter (which followed a generally mild winter in 2010-2011) and average-or-better amounts of spring and summer rain this year have the Northeast region looking good this fall. States like Vermont and Maine are expecting improved harvests, as the easy winters have allowed deer herds to rebound. Except for a small pocket of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Hampshire County, West Virginia, and a limited outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in west-central New Jersey, deer here have no real health issues.

While there are still many good-size deer in the Northeast, trophy antler production has eased away from here and moved into the Midwest region. The Boone and Crockett Club's "Trophy Whitetail Production, 2005 to 2010," for example, doesn't list a single Northeastern state in the top 10. Pennsylvania, at number 20 (with 26 entries), is the highest-ranked state from this region.

That said, Northern states still grow big-bodied deer. "During the 2011 season, we had 124 bucks registered that, on the hoof, would have tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds," says Vermont deer biologist Adam Murkowski._
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Top Trophy Zones****
NY: Monroe, Wayne, and Suffolk counties. Comprising the eastern two-thirds of Long Island, Suffolk County produces approximately half the state's Pope and Young records--including a 2006 buck that netted 196 2⁄8 non-typical.
NJ: Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Salem counties.
PA: Alleghany, Chester, Washington, and Beaver counties.
WV: McDowell and Wyoming counties.