Monday, April 28, 2008

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Lowest Deer Harvest in 16 Years

During the 2007 and 2008 hunting seasons, New Jersey's deer hunters killed the least amount of whitetails in 16 years, according to newly released statistics.

The finding is reported in the state Division of Fish and Wildlife's just-published tally of the latest deer harvest. In it, the division says hunters took 47,017 animals in the Fall Bow, Youth Hunt, Permit Bow, 6-Day Firearm, Permit Muzzleloader, Permit Shotgun and Winter Bow hunting seasons.

That figure represents the fewest deer shot by hunters since the 1991 and 1992 seasons when 45,416 whitetails were culled. It falls far short of the 56,673 deer in 2006 and 2007, and pales in comparison to the high-water mark set in 2000 and 2001, when 77,444 deer were taken.

According to Fish and Wildlife, 17,467 of the most recent seasons' harvested deer were antlered and 29,549 were antlerless. As has been the case since the 1987 and 1988 seasons, most of the deer -- 17,094 -- were killed during the Permit Shotgun season. In 1999 and 2000, 28,498 deer were removed from the herd during Permit Shotgun season.

To find a Fall Bow season as slow as last year's, when 9,994 deer were arrowed, one needs to look to 1987 and 1988, when the tally was 8,483.

The anemic numbers are pretty much the same across the board: The 725 deer taken during the Youth Hunt is the second-lowest number since the hunt was initiated in 2001 and 2002; Permit Bow hunters, who took 6,086, fared worse than any Permit Bow participants since 1995 and 1996; 6-Day Firearm ("Buck Season") hunters managed 8,338 deer, fewer than in any season since 1995 and 1996.

However, there is one bright spot in the new numbers: The Winter Bow number of 1,232 is actually the third-best on record and is 110 more than reported for the comparable 2006-07 season.

Division of Fish and Wildlife assistant director Larry Herrighty said he'd like to see another year's worth of data before hypothesizing why the deer harvest is down so much.

"We don't see a pattern," he said. Herrighty added that a number of factors go into annual deer hunt numbers, including weather and hunter participation.

"During the early muzzleloader season there were heavy rains," he noted. "Even on opening day of buck season, the weather wasn't ideal."

The lower numbers could just be a sign that the efforts, by the division and the state Fish and Game Council, to winnow New Jersey's deer population are working. "We are attempting to decrease the population and, as we do, the harvest will go down," Herrighty said.


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