Story by Tom Pagliaroli


Shrug and Bear It

Segment A of the two-part New Jersey black bear season opens Monday and runs through Saturday, October 19 in the five designated Bear Management Zones located in (or portions therein) Sussex, Passaic, Warren, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, and Mercer counties.

For the first three days, it’s an archery-only dealio, with muzzleloaders (no less than .44 caliber), along with archery tackle, legal Thursday through Saturday.

Segment B runs concurrently with six-day firearm deer week, December 9-14 and is limited to shotguns (10, 12 and 20 gauges/slugs only) and muzzleloaders. Sale of Segment B permits start November 1.

If authorized by the Division of Fish & Wildlife, if the management objective based on harvest figures is not met during the combined take of the first two hunts, a third segment, again limited to shotguns and muzzleloaders, will extend from Wednesday, December 18 through Saturday, December 21.

For the second consecutive year via governor executive order, all state land (wildlife management areas, and portions of state forests, state parks, natural areas, and recreation areas) is off-limits to bear hunting, thanks to the severely misguided efforts of the governor who is doing his pander bear best to appease his anti-hunting voter base, especially the anti-bear hunt groups. A total ban of the bear hunt was a major part of his platform, and this is particularly egregious because hunters (along with anglers) pay for the bulk of the maintenance and habitat management on the wildlife management areas. Approximately 40% of the bear harvest was taken on state lands. However, the courts ruled in favor of the governor despite the legal challenge put forth by a coalition of hunting rights organizations. However, federal lands (the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in BHZ 1), county, and municipal properties (most notably the Newark Watershed in BHZ 3), and private lands are open for bear hunting.

Bear in mind, pun intended, that baiting is not legal in either the DWGNRA or the Newark Watershed.

Last year the harvest stood at 225 bruins, down significantly from the 2017  take of 409.

That was expected as 40% of the bears were tagged on state lands.

The Newark Watershed property located along Route 23, offers the best crack at a bruin. In addition to the $2 black bear permit for BHZ 3, though, it’s a $45 non-Newark resident fee for a Watershed hunting permit. Considering the number and sizes of the bruins wandering the mountains, valleys, and bottomlands, it’s a bargain investment.

Bear hunting season hours are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. The limit is one bear of either sex or size during each segment, with no more than two for the season, no matter the number of permits in possession.

Any bruin harvested must be tagged and immediately brought to one of the mandatory bear check stations. Locations and hours are listed on page 53 in the Hunting & Trapping Digest.

License System Upgrade

The Division of Fish & Wildlife’s licensing and automated deer harvest reporting systems will be undergoing a significant modernization from 9 a.m. Monday, October 14 through Wednesday, October 16. As such, hunting, fishing and trapping license, permits and stamps will not be available for purchase either online or through a license issuing agent. If you drop a deer during this period, it must be reported via phone between 7 a.m.-8 p.m. In the 105.7 The Hawk area, that means 609-259-7954 or 609-259-6965. This is the Division’s central region office. If you’re north, it’s 908-735-6826/908-735-2006; south it’s 856-629-0552/856-629-114. You will be issued a temporary confirmation number after speaking with a Division staff member. If the deer is recovered after 8 p.m, then a call must be made to the nearest Division law enforcement office. Central: 609-259-2120; North: 908-735-8240; South: 856-629-0555.

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