You Are Now The Hunted
Story by Tom Pagliaroli
The eyes and noses are upon you, and it’s not for a cuddle session.
Instead, the canid attentions are for kill shots to the throat and/or back of the neck. Suffocate by blood-letting, or paralyze and succumb via a bite and crush to the spine.
And it’s you the responders to the crippled rabbit cries, mouse squeaks, whacked-out woodpecker, and pup-in-distress calls are stalking.
Welcome to the world of New Jersey predator hunting, specifically the Special Permit ($2) season, nighttime included, that extends through March 15, and the hair-raising thrills and downright fright night experiences associated with making the killers come to you.
“A challenge like no other. You are being stalked and targeted for a kill,” exposits Ron Jones, a professional wildlife control agent and president/owner of ACP Redneck’s Pride Game Calls & Outdoor Scents. His knowledge of predator biology and behavior is second-to-none, and when it comes to the “I want to kill you-you want to kill me” exchanges, well, is calling has put four-footed meat eaters close enough and suddenly enough to make all body hair stand on end as if hit with an electric shock.
And just as quickly, they were gone...much too quick an encounter to even get the scattergun up, much less get off a shot.
But that’s how it is in this heart-pounding game of cat-and-mouse.
No doubt coyotes are the pinnacle of the predator hunting game in New Jersey. They are plentiful and sizeable, with some topping 50-pounds. That’s a big dawg in any predator hunter’s book. Red fox and gray fox are not far behind popularity wise and are somewhat easier to fool. Size-wise either will max at 15-pounds In any event, all three represent the ultimate challenge, and yes, that includes hunting racker whitetail bucks.
It’s a call-and-wait game, but don’t wait to long. If there is no response within a half-hour, move to an alternate (and one must always have an alternate) location. No doubt the electronic callers, complete with an available take a lot of the guesswork out of attracting a predator, but there are those who maintain that mouth calls will bring in more fur. No matter the method is incumbent upon the hunter to scout the area, be familiar with predator travel routes and set up in a location that will offer the best (read: clearest) shot possible. By all means utilize a cover scent, as the quarry will try to circle downwind to see what the situation is. One whiff of what is human, and kiss that spot goodbye.
Regulations vary, so check page 54 of the 2018-19 Hunting Digest for the particulars. It’s the permit season when hunting after dark is allowed, and hours are half-hour after sunset to half-hour before sunrise. This is limited to shotgun-only with loads no less than No. 4 up to No. 4 buckshot.
During the daylight period, shotguns, muzzleloaders, center-fire rifles, and bows (crossbow, compound, recurve and longbow) can be used. Again, peruse the regs.
In the 105.7 The Hawk listening area, there are prime predator hunting locations, these include, but are not limited to the Assunpink, Colliers Mills, Stafford Forge, Whiting, Forked River Mountain, and Medford wildlife management areas, and Wharton, Brendan Byrne, and Bass River state forests.
There is no limit on either species of fox or coyote, but all coyote kills must be reported within 24 hours to the Division of Fish & Wildlife by calling 609-748-2058.
The season extends through March 15.
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