The Coastal Zone (east of the Garden State Parkway) duck season closes January 31st at sunset (5:16 p.m.), which means that there are a mere eight days remaining to hit the bay marshes, sedge islands, tidal creeks, ditches, and salt ponds.

It’s been a bummer of a season for coastal waterfowlers because of the continued stretches of unseasonably warm weather. The lack of typical sustained sub-freezing temperatures and gusting winds apparently has kept the big migration of divers in their more northern haunts.

Sure, there are some “winter weather” ducks that made it down in big numbers. Buffleheads are more numerous than ever, and long-tailed ducks (old squaws) appear much more plentiful than in recent years. Common, surf and whitewing scoters (sea ducks) are plentiful, but divers like broadbills (scaup), ringnecks, goldeneyes, shovelers, redheads and canvasbacks have been conspicuously scarce. Sure, there are some decent size rafts of broadbills around, but it’s a search, for sure.

Tom P

Enough puddle ducks are around to keep things interesting. Mallards, black ducks, gadwall, pintails and widgeon will decoy and provide additional action. Hey, it’s been fast shooting with the buffleheads and longtails, certainly enough to make it worth the effort. Add some puddlers, and it can be a real bang 'em up.

The daily limit is six, no more than two which can be black ducks, redheads or mallards (including no more than one hen). The daily longtail limit is four.

Barnegat Bay and Great Bay offer prime late-season opportunities, as do the marshes, ponds, creeks, and ditches in the Manahawkin Wildlife Management Area.

If you’ve already stowed your gear and decoys away, or perhaps want to give late-season duck hunting a try, there are guides available. Next November’s opener is a long way off! In the 105.7 The Hawk listening area, it’s Reedy Creek Outfittitters (848-992-0621; Capt. Brian LaFay), and Joe Rizzo’s Waterfowl Guide Service (609-618-3847).

Tom P

Deer Here: The statewide winter bow deer season concludes 5:46 p.m. Friday, January 31st. However, there are certain Deer Management Zones (DMZ) where archery, muzzleloader and shotgun seasons continue into February. DMZ 51 in The Hawk listening area offers shotgun and muzzleloader deer hunting until February 8th and bow hunting until February 15th. To be sure, there are still more than a few whitetails out there, but they are on high alert and offer the toughest hunting of the year. While the majority of bucks have already dropped their antlers, don’t be surprised to encounter one or more still wearing their headgear.

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