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Look out for more aggressive deer-hunting policies


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Look out for more aggressive deer-hunting policies

 

Written by

Michele S. Byers

 

New Jerseyans know deer. They’ve hit them while driving, come down with Lyme disease, or had their gardens ravaged by hungry deer. They also take beautiful pictures of deer and are awed by the spectacular fawns.

 

White-tailed deer are literally everywhere. They’re abundant in all 21 counties, and have been spotted on beaches, city streets and even inside stores.

 

So it’s hard to believe that in the late 1800s, deer were virtually absent from New Jersey’s landscape. Their meat and hides were valuable commodities, and unregulated hunting for personal and commercial purposes left hardly a doe or buck to be seen.

 

In the past century, though, deer have made a huge comeback. Between restocking, state policies that encourage healthy populations and game laws banning commercial sale of deer products, deer numbers have skyrocketed … especially since our sprawling suburbs serve as safe havens with their smorgasbords of landscape plantings.

 

Deer are a resilient “edge” species, thriving along the edges of woods, hedgerows, farms and lawns. Suburbia is especially alluring habitat, with all-you-can-eat backyard banquets and lush corporate lawns around every corner. Deer are probably one of the most adaptable creatures to living around humans.

 

The northeastern United States now has about three times as many white-tailed deer as there were when European settlers first set foot in a vast wilderness of forest, where sunlight and squirrels seldom reached the ground.

 

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife just launched an online survey, “Living with Deer in New Jersey,” to find out what’s happening with the state’s burgeoning deer population today.

 

Take the survey at http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/survey_deermgt14.htm. It’s anonymous and takes only about 10 minutes. Among the questions:

 

• Have you or any member of your household had Lyme disease, an automobile collision with a deer, or experienced garden and landscaping damage from deer?

 

• Does anyone in your household feed deer, or hunt deer?

 

• Do you allow deer hunting on your property?

 

• Who do you feel is responsible for taking action to reduce damage and accidents caused by deer?

 

What will the survey’s “upshot” be? Perhaps new hunting rules, or new approaches to decreasing deer density in places where hunting can’t happen due to suburban sprawl? Perhaps hunting for commercial purposes in key forest areas, since recreational hunting alone has not been sufficient to reduce the population?

 

Overabundant deer are now the primary cause of forest degradation in New Jersey. More deer are browsing each acre of native vegetation than at any time in evolutionary history, and our forests and 850 species of rare plants cannot tolerate their appetites.

 

A 2011 article in the Wildlife Society Bulletin argues that a regulated commercial harvest of over-abundant white-tailed deer is consistent with conservation values and would meet market demand for venison. To read this article, go to http://www.njconservation.org/docs/WSB-article.pdf.

 

For additional information on deer biology and ecological impacts, visit the Rutgers Cooperative Extension website at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/fs1202/white-tailed-deer.asp.

 

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, go to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at http://www.njconservation.org, or contact me at [email protected]

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I was thinking about posting this later this evening, having read it this morning.  I know the person in her organization that believes we should re-look at market hunting to further reduce deer herds.  Many hunters complain now that they are not seeing enough deer, so imagine if environmental groups are pushing for open market hunting.  I keep saying it, forest health will ultimately drive our herds back down just like PA has done over the last decade or more and it will anger many hunters that believe only more is better.  And hunters will hate it and rail against it although some enlightened hunters will understand it.  NJ remains the most difficult state in the country to manage deer due solely to our human density and the associated buildings and roads that go with that density.

 

Like it or not, we hunters cannot control deer in densely populated areas.  Sure, we can whack 'em on public lands and larger private lands, but forget about in the tight burbs or larger cities where most of us simply don't want the hassles of getting written permission on top of archery hunting from elevated positions with the new 150' perimeter.  Too many chances Bambi will go flopping dead in the road or on some anti's backyard and cause issues.  And many of these deer freely move between larger tracts of land and our backyards and corporate business parks, so they are directly tied together.     

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I agree in many respects. But I really think if landowners (majority of private and some of the township/counties that aren't already involved) were more proactive in working with hunters to manage the deer herd in their areas, then hunters could indeed be a suitable tool for managing them. Instead it seems like the state implements a very flawed system with these ultra liberal limits in hopes it will help balance the herd, when it actually does the exact opposite: completely decimates the herd in hunted areas while the problematic areas are still left untouched/unhunted unless the townships bring in hired shooters.

 

In turn, they hope baiting will help draw deer out of those areas into more huntable areas, but that too is a flawed and misused concept that doesn't belong in many areas of the state (especially with unlimited antlerless) such as WMAs and other public hunting lands. Those properties aren't targeted for aggressive management, so they don't require (and IMHO shouldn't have) tactics that lend themselves to that style of management.

 

This state is a gross imbalance in a number of areas, and it will remain so until more land is opened to hunters (actually a POSITIVE revenue for landowners and townships/counties) OR hired/sharp shooters are brought in to manage them (a NEGATIVE revenue and incurring cost to implement which translates to HIGHER TAXES). Seems like common sense which one should be adopted and promoted, and hunters are gaining traction and opportunity in many areas as townships and counties are opening more and more of their lands, but private landowners (homeowners, corporations, universities, etc) need to get on board with that same initiative because it's often their lands that are the refuge where deer overpopulation exists.

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The biggest issue I see in Jersey from someone on the outside looking in is hunters attitudes. They believe the 20 acres they own where a deer calls its home sometimes is somehow "there deer" when in fact no one owns deer and everyone owns the deer. The hunting is so cutthroat that deer cant be managed properly because its a state of haves and have nots. Either you have private property to hunt and limit the amount of deer and pressure or you don't have property and hunt overpounded public ground. With so much of the state being in private hands theres absolutely no way your dcnr can tell private land owners how to manage a herd... All dcnr can do is set bag LIMITS but the landowners will ultimately decide what and how many will get killed. Dcnr can manage public ground.

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I agree in many respects. But I really think if landowners (majority of private and some of the township/counties that aren't already involved) were more proactive in working with hunters to manage the deer herd in their areas, then hunters could indeed be a suitable tool for managing them. Instead it seems like the state implements a very flawed system with these ultra liberal limits in hopes it will help balance the herd, when it actually does the exact opposite: completely decimates the herd in hunted areas while the problematic areas are still left untouched/unhunted unless the townships bring in hired shooters.

 

In turn, they hope baiting will help draw deer out of those areas into more huntable areas, but that too is a flawed and misused concept that doesn't belong in many areas of the state (especially with unlimited antlerless) such as WMAs and other public hunting lands. Those properties aren't targeted for aggressive management, so they don't require (and IMHO shouldn't have) tactics that lend themselves to that style of management.

 

This state is a gross imbalance in a number of areas, and it will remain so until more land is opened to hunters (actually a POSITIVE revenue for landowners and townships/counties) OR hired/sharp shooters are brought in to manage them (a NEGATIVE revenue and incurring cost to implement which translates to HIGHER TAXES). Seems like common sense which one should be adopted and promoted, and hunters are gaining traction and opportunity in many areas as townships and counties are opening more and more of their lands, but private landowners (homeowners, corporations, universities, etc) need to get on board with that same initiative because it's often their lands that are the refuge where deer overpopulation exists.

 

Couldn't have said it better myself.  Maybe organizations like NJCF, which do support deer hunting on public and private lands including their own lands, are doing us hunters a service by reaching the "average home/landowner" that doesn't hunt and that has never thought of allowing hunters on their properties to hunt.  This winter is a perfect one to push for new spots since everyone, at least up north, got their foundation plantings and landscaping absolutely pounded by deer all winter long.  

 

Let's face it, hunting among houses and businesses is not exactly a wilderness experience and we can't expect all hunters to embrace it, but many will, especially when 1) they are bringing home venison and some good bucks at times and 2) they know their efforts are paying off with fewer deer running into cars, standing in their lawns, etc.  At the same time, 3) it will reduce some of the public lands pressure where most hunters are hunting currently.  Time will tell where this all goes, but the Division is at least asking some good questions. 

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Your cull hunts are a perfect example of how difficult it is to control deer in NJ.  Where "the tree" is was overrun with deer and we had to whack 'em and stack 'em.  Yet two miles away on a very large WMA in that same zone, you won't see a tenth of that amount of deer wandering through that mostly mature forest.  Same management zone only 2 miles away.  Only enlightened landowners like the ones you work with can help reduce herd sizes where there are too many.  The Division can give us the most liberal bag limits anywhere that deer exist and they do, yet it can't control deer on lands that don't allow hunting.  So one public property has precious few deer while the adjoining property(s) are overrun.  We need to better educated landowners, not hunters. 

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Your cull hunts are a perfect example of how difficult it is to control deer in NJ.  Where "the tree" is was overrun with deer and we had to whack 'em and stack 'em.  Yet two miles away on a very large WMA in that same zone, you won't see a tenth of that amount of deer wandering through that mostly mature forest.  Same management zone only 2 miles away.  Only enlightened landowners like the ones you work with can help reduce herd sizes where there are too many.  The Division can give us the most liberal bag limits anywhere that deer exist and they do, yet it can't control deer on lands that don't allow hunting.  So one public property has precious few deer while the adjoining property(s) are overrun.  We need to better educated landowners, not hunters. 

 

Bingo!  :up:

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The Division can give us the most liberal bag limits anywhere that deer exist and they do, yet it can't control deer on lands that don't allow hunting. So one public property has precious few deer while the adjoining property(s) are overrun. We need to better educated landowners, not hunters.

EXACTLY!

 

And what I had mentioned in the survey is that the state should really try doing what North Dakota does in offering a tax incentive for landowners that open their lands to hunting. In ND, the properties are calls P.L.O.T.S. lands: Private Land Open To Sportsmen. :up: :up: :up:

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In Vermont, the law is that if you do NOT post your land, it is open to hunting without the need to ask permission.   

 

Same in NH. Most of the state's land is private (millions of acres owned by paper companies, etc) but open to hunting. There is an entire section of their annual regulations compendium discusses how not to park on logging roads and that loggers always have the right of way. In short, respect the land or lose your access and spoil it for everyone else. 

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Honestly Jersey is the only place where Ive seen people so cutthroat over private property. Its insane. Hunting is viewed differently by the surrounding states and so are trespass laws. In Pa we hunt private land sometimes. No posted signs we hunt. Even if posted we ask and almost always they will let you hunt because they are hunters too!!!  Not that way in jersey at all. You can ask other hunters and the answer is NO!!!! Its like your fellow hunters are so afraid your going to shoot "their" deer...HAHAHAHAHAHAHA  Sadly this attitude is becoming ever more pervasive as the younger generation is raised on antler porn tv.

I understand people trying to "protect" deer but at the end of the day its a deer!!! not a 100lb solid gold bar!!!!!

Im really praying that antihunter attitude amongst hunters doesn't permeate Pa. Ive seen some of it around the city now too... In the country though its just a whole different philosophy towards deer and hunters.

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Honestly, I think that NJ mentality is just born and bred into people here. Everything is a million mph, go go go, and time is limited and therefore extremely valued. So when it comes to hunting (really just about everything here) they want to maximize that time and improve the outcome of the result in as little time and with as little deviation as possible. OR if they do choose to invest a lot of (valued) time into hunting and their properties, they don't want anything "spoiling" or compromising that effort or time.

 

This is the same reason I dislike baiting in general, as it creates unnecessary and unwanted conflict between the mindset of hunters here, while promoting maximum potential conflict in the most heavily hunted areas (public lands) without any true purpose (that benefits the overall wildlife management). But that's another subject.

 

Beyond that, the reality is (IMHO) that the majority of people are just selfish...and those experiences with selfish people propagates to others being equally selfish at times (perhaps instinctively, subconsciously, unintentionally) in fear of being taken advantage of (think of all the theft, trespassing, property damage, dumping, vandalism, etc that goes on and the effect of it all to landowners and hunters alike). It seems the good willed nature of hunters helping hunters without the fear of something negative happening has decreased over time here in NJ.

 

I think that's why (at least) some of us look towards forums/sites such as this, to seek out and share experiences with other outdoorsmen and women that perhaps aren't like that...or maybe to just develop friendships that overcome that fear and apprehension of "sharing" fishing spots, or hunting spots, or tactics/techniques. I know over the years I've made a bunch of friends off forums and had some tremendous experiences with them as a result. And to be honest, it's a big reason I started this site, to offer that same opportunity to many of you.

 

And I agree, it's a different world when you get away from NJ and the Northeast in general...just a totally different mindset and way of life, much more laid back and the "value" of time just isn't that critical. It's a more of a "get to it when get to it" way of life, and it's a hell of a lot less stressful! We need a little more of that right here in New Jersey! :)

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