South Jersey Hunting: New Year Winter Bow Deer
Whitetail hunting opportunities continue starting Saturday with the opening of the statewide January winter bow season.
Extending through Monday, January 31, the season was started in the mid-Seventies purely as a recreational opportunity. It was one week in duration, and the harvest was minimal but offered archers a chance to be afield during the beginning of winter’s raw splendor. Ensuing years saw the season extended to two weeks to today’s 31-day span.
Some big numbers of whitetails get taken during the winter bow span. Last January’s harvest was 3,865, more than half the total tagged during the Six-Day Firearm season in early December.
Putting venison in the freezer at this stage of the game can be a tough go. Predicated on the Deer Management Zone (DMZ), whitetails have been hunted since September 11, and in certain DMZs, they can still be pursued with archery equipment through February 19, and with shotgun and muzzleloader through February 12.
That’s a lot of pressure on the resource, and deer numbers have been significantly thinned even more by the near statewide (17 out of 21 counties) fatal outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). Preliminary figures have the overall 2021 harvest number down 30-something percent.
Adding to these are that whitetail senses are on super high alert, and many view the winter bow season as the most challenging of all, even without EHD having sliced through the respective herds.
Weather is always a factor, and Jersey’s January patterns are indeed capricious. Near bluebird one day and penguin the next. Bare ground, then snow cover. It all adds to the intrigue of the winter bow season. Of course, there are ways around plummeting temperatures and bone-chilling temps should they occur, the primary being a pop-up blind and a portable propane heater. While the more hardcore views this as cheating, we see it as a way to extend the day and lose a shot from a warm and comfortable position. From this corner, it will also serve to increase accuracy as opposed to shooting under the distraction of frigid temps, namely numb feet and fingers. Yeah, there are miracle fabrics that retard the cold, but that only lasts so long.
To each their own.
Bag limits vary based on the DMZ, ranging from one deer of either sex (DMZs 21, 23-24, 34, 43,45-46) to unlimited antlerless and one antlered, with two being allowed to be taken at a time (DMZs 7-15, 17, 36, 41, 49-51). The winter bow limits are listed on page 36 in the Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Depending on genetics and habitat, some bucks will have already shed their antlers while others will carry them into February and sometimes beyond. The latest we observed an antlered buck was Valentine’s Day in Belleplain State Forest.
Be aware of the Antler Point Restrictions (at least three points on one side of the rack) in DMZs 3, 9, 13, 27-29, 30, 31, 34-35, and 63.