Deer Forecast-East

Hunterdon and Warren counties

Deer biologist Dan Ferrigno, with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, points to several management zones in the Garden State as being better for older age-class bucks. These are the zones governed by recently imposed "earn-a-buck" regulations, which stipulate that hunters take an antlerless deer before hunting for bucks. The areas included in the earn-a-buck program are zones 5, 7-14, 36, 41, 50 and 51, which cover most of northern New Jersey. But hunters should focus on Hunterdon and Warren counties. "In a lot of these earn-a-buck areas, we're seeing 40 to 50 percent increases in the number of bucks producing seven points or more," Ferrigno says. The program is designed to decrease doe numbers in agricultural areas, but it has had an added benefit. "What we ended up with in these zones is a really good formula for antler development," says Ferrigno. He states that in the three years since the program was initiated, decreased buck-hunting pressure combined with the excellent habitat has allowed many more deer in these zones to reach older ages and grow impressive racks. Ferrigno estimates the pre-hunt deer population in the Garden State to be 150,000 to 170,000 deer, with overall numbers declining due to aggressive ef