Seventeen days and counting until the opening of the early archery (bow) season for New Jersey’s premier big game animal Saturday, September 11.

It will run through a half-hour after sunset on October 1, with the statewide season opening Saturday, October 2.

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The early bowhunting opportunities are in select Deer Management Zones (DMZs) around the state. In the lower central and southern regions of the Garden State, these include DMZs 27,28,29,31,35,42,47,48, 49 and 51. There is a load of public hunting land on that roster, but here’s the rub on either public or private acreage: the first deer taken must be antlerless. This means a doe or button buck. No antlered deer can be harvested until an antlerless one is tagged and reported.

To be sure, there will plenty of hot days through September. This makes recovering the quarry quickly, field dressing it, and getting it into a stand-up refrigerator, or to a butcher who offers deer cutting/packaging services with the refrigeration capacity of the utmost urgency.

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Tracking can be difficult with the vegetation still being thick as it will be most of next month. Even blow-through shots, with blood on both sides of a trail, are no guarantee the deer will be found even if it does not travel far. They will instinctively get in to the nastiest cover or head into a swamp and again, because of the thick verdant cover, can be nearly impossible to locate.

Should this be the case, consider utilizing the services of a blood trailing canine and its handler. This can mean the difference between venison in the freezer or a carcass left to the coyotes, foxes, and vultures.

You can find the lineup of such services on the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s website www.njfishandwildlife.com. Included will be names and phone numbers. For the southern tier counties, the numbers of handler/dog tracking teams are as follows: Atlantic-6; Burlington-9; Camden-2; Cape May-5; Cumberland-4; Gloucester-3; Ocean-11; Salem-3.

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