Story by Tom Pagliaroli

The statewide “Buck Week” deer season kicks off Monday, December 3 and runs through Saturday, December 8.

Segment B of the black bear season runs concurrently but is limited to private land, federal land and county parks open to bear hunting in the five Bear Management Zones in the northwestern part of the Garden State.

Also known as “Shotgun Week” the traditional six days of deer hunting in December is anything but. Besides shotguns, hunters are allowed to use muzzleloading rifles as well as archery tackle, i.e. crossbows and long, recurve and compound bows. The stickler is that those using a front-stuffer must also have a rifle permit and firearms hunting license, and those opting to go the bow route must also possess a firearms hunting license.

For bruins, the season is limited to shotgun (slugs only) and muzzleloaders (minimum .44 caliber). A bear permit (still available for purchase for $2) must be in possession.

The season bag limit is two antlered (one antler must be at least 3-inches in length) deer, and one bear. Any bear harvested must be taken to one of the mandatory check stations listed on page 52 of the 2018-19 Hunting & Trapping Digest.

If authorized, an extended hunt for bruins will be conducted Wednesday, December 12 through Saturday, December 15. Again, the limit will be one bear.

Saturday Ringnecks and Bobs: Pheasants and bobwhite quail be released for hunting this Saturday (they are liberated the evening before), and then there is a break in the stocking schedule until Saturday, December 15.  This Saturday’s ringneck numbers for those Wildlife Management Areas in 105.7 The Hawk listening area look like this: Manasquan-70; Assunpink- 210); Howardsville- 30; Stafford Forge- 100; Manahawkin- 30; Colliers Mills- 130; and Medford- 50.

Both the Greenwood Forest and Peaslee tracts will receive 260 quail each.

Beach Bass Funk: Save for Island Beach State Park, striper fishing in the surf continues to be an overall bust, with only scattered reports south of Barnegat Inlet. And it hasn’t been exactly on fire along the Island Beach sands, either. Perhaps a shot or two could develop in close, but the way the bait (sand eels and bunker) are moving, it looks to be a boat dealio when it comes to putting bass fillets in the oven. To be sure, the 2-3 mile zone has been hot for trolling mojos, doing the snag ‘n drop, and jigging metals, but remember striper fishing is not permitted beyond the 3-mile “line”. Getting caught will result in heavy fines both on the state and federal levels.

Those still prowling the beaches are catching a few on fresh bunker chunks and fresh clam (if you can find it), with salted clams also claiming a bass here and there. Increasing numbers of beach and jetty bass hunters are beginning to toss plugs, i.e. swimmers and poppers, while a few are working bucktails and metals. When, and if, the surf bite gets underway in earnest remains anyone’s guess.

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