The six-day firearm buck season draws to a close Friday, and so far it’s been a pretty good season from what we can see visiting various parts of the Garden State.

Yeah, a few counties were hard hit this past late summer/early autumn with EHD, and the local herds took some hits, but on the overall, from clubs to small groups to individual hunters, there are plenty of bucks that have been cut, wrapped, labeled and put in the deep freeze.

And still plenty of bucks still running around, some even chasing does in late rut behavior.

On public land, no less.

Make no mistake about it: the Garden State’s three-quarter million acres of public lands that offer free access (read: no special permits or registration required) provide deer hunting opportunities.

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Throw in thousands of more acres in the form of county lands, federal wildlife refuges,  natural areas, and well, this fifth smallest state certainly offers alternatives for those who do not have entree to private properties.

B. Flesche
B. Flesche

Sure, putting a tag on a buck on public lands is no easy task as the quarry is heavily pressured, especially on those public tracts subject to near-constant drives during the six-day run. Still, put in the time, get familiar with the area and make the effort to get off the beaten path, and, well, there is still time and opportunity to put bone on the ground.

Opines one veteran buck buster (who wanted to remain anonymous) who’s been deer hunting the 12,000-plus acre Colliers Mills wildlife management area, as well as other public tracts, for decades, “You’d be surprised at the quality of the bucks on public land like Colliers Mills. Put in the time, scout the area and know the deer movements. Get way back into the thick stuff where the bucks go when the shooting starts.”

There’s still plenty of deer hunting ahead after Saturday. The permit shotgun and muzzleloader seasons kick off next week. Check page 37 in the 2022-23 Hunting & Trapping Digest for the varied dates and bag limits.

And as a follow-up, the winter bow season kicks off on January 1.

As John Rambo exclaimed, “It’s never over!”

Well, almost.

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