New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Back to State of NJ Homepage Back to Fish and Wildlife Homepage Back to DEP Homepage 

Oct. 30, 2003


The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds hunters that the 2003 New Jersey small game season for pheasant, bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbit, red fox and coyote opens Saturday, Nov. 8. The seasons for grouse and squirrel, which opened on Sept. 27, remain open. Hunters should review current regulations, season exceptions and bag limits in the August issue of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest (specifically pages 50-53), which is available at license agents statewide and on the Division’s website at


Small game season in New Jersey is an exciting time for hunters. Some of the nicest weather of the year in combination with the backdrop of colorful fall foliage and abundant opportunities to harvest game provide participants with quality hunting experiences. Small game season is also a great way for families to spend time afield and an even better way to introduce young hunters to the excellent hunting opportunities that are found in the Garden State.

A current and valid hunting license (bow and arrow, firearm or all-around sportsman) is required to pursue any small game species. Properly licensed hunters may hunt small game with shotgun, muzzleloader or bow and arrow. HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES


This year, approximately 50,000 pheasants will be stocked on 23 wildlife management areas (WMAs) throughout the state, in addition to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Stocking will begin in early November prior to the opening day of the pheasant season, Nov. 8, and continue until Jan. 3. Hunters should note that a Pheasant and Quail Stamp is required on designated areas (see Digest page 50) in addition to the regular firearm hunting license. The cost for the stamp is $40 which provides more than six weeks of hunting birds that are stocked three days each week on most of the 23 WMAs. This stocking regimen amounts to 17 stocking days at a cost of $2.35 per stocking day to the individual hunter. For $2.35 per day the stamp buyer gets a place to hunt that has been stocked with one of America’s finest strains of game farm pheasants.

The opportunity to pursue quail is also included with the purchase of a pheasant / quail stamp. Eleven thousand quail are purchased and stocked on 17 days spread over two months. The quail are stocked on two South Jersey WMAs, Peaslee and Greenwood Forest, where portions of the areas are managed specifically for quail.

For chukar hunters, the daily bag limit has increased from three to seven birds. Since there is no resident population of chukar partridge in New Jersey, any birds harvested would have been stocked on either private clubs, commercial, or semi-wild preserves.


Eastern coyotes are found throughout the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. They are the largest wild canine in New Jersey, and have been sighted in all 21 counties and in nearly 250 municipalities. Their population, estimated at less than 100 in 1975, is currently estimated at 3,000 animals and continues to increase. Although they can be found throughout the state, reports indicate the highest density of coyotes to be in northwestern New Jersey, primarily in the counties of Sussex, Warren, Passaic, Morris and Hunterdon.

Coyotes have excellent senses of sight, smell and hearing, making them extremely wary and challenging to hunt. Last year, 64 coyotes were taken during the various hunting seasons, which included hunting with bow and arrow (3), shotgun (56) and muzzleloader (5). Hunters who participate in the coyote season and who are successful, should note that all harvested coyotes must be reported to a Division law enforcement office within 24 hours (North: 908-735-8240; Central: 609-259-2120; South: 856-629-0555). The bag limit for coyote is two per day.


Red fox populations are at a healthy level throughout most of their range in New Jersey, although the Division’s Bureau of Wildlife Management does report that mange has been reported in several locations, particularly in the southern counties.

Fox are most active during the evening hours so hunters in the field typically encounter them at dawn and dusk. Fox hunters (those with fox hounds) are few in New Jersey; therefore the majority of the 2000 – 3000 animals harvested each year are probably taken during deer season. There is no bag limit for fox.


There are two seasons for coyote and fox in New Jersey; the regular or traditional season and the special February permit season.

The regular coyote and fox season runs from Sept. 27 to Nov. 7, 2003, for bow and arrow, and from Nov. 8, 2003, to Feb. 16, 2004, for firearm and bow and arrow. Hours for hunting are half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset, except for Nov. 8 when hunting hours are from 8 a.m. to half an hour after sunset. The use of dogs is allowed except during the bow and arrow only season for coyote and fox, the six-day firearm deer season and the Wednesday of the shotgun permit deer season immediately following the six-day firearm season. Bows must have a minimum 35 lb.- draw (long and recurve bows) or 35 lb. peak weight for compound bows. Arrows must be fitted with a well-sharpened broadhead with a minimum width of three-quarters of an inch. Shotguns may not be smaller than .410 or larger than 10 gauge and capable of holding no more than 3 shells. Shot size may not be larger than # 4 fine shot.

During the special February season, a permit from the Division is required. Hunting methods are restricted to calling and stand hunting, and a predator-calling device must be in possession while hunting during the special season. Coyote and fox may be hunted with bow and arrow, shotgun and single barrel muzzleloader rifle between one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. Bow and arrow equipment requirements are the same as for the regular coyote and fox season but shotguns may not be smaller than 12 gauge or larger than 10 gauge and shot size may not be larger than # 2 or smaller than # 4. Muzzleloading rifles shall be no less than .44 caliber and smoothbore muzzleloaders shall be single barreled.

The special February season also allows hunters to take coyote and fox between half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise. During this time period, only 10 or 12 gauge shotguns with # 2 or # 4 fine shot may be used. Portable lights are allowed.

NOTE: Hunters are also allowed to take coyote and fox during the six-day firearm, muzzleloader permit and shotgun permit deer seasons, and should consult the Fish and Wildlife Digest for those regulations.


The cottontail is one of the most popular game species to be found in New Jersey. The population of rabbits statewide is at a healthy level, although numbers do fluctuate from year to year. The wet spring and early summer of 2003 may result in somewhat lower numbers of cottontails this year than in years of higher productivity.

Rabbits prefer a variety of cover types so hunting effort should be concentrated in areas where fields, woodlots and hedgerows predominate. A beagle or basset hound, while not necessary to hunt rabbits, makes the hunting more enjoyable and also increases the likelihood of success. Number 6 fine shot is the preferred choice for use by rabbit hunters.


The seasons for squirrel and grouse, which opened on Sept. 27, remain open.

The eastern gray squirrel is one of the most abundant, yet underutilized game species in New Jersey. Gray squirrels may be encountered virtually anywhere in the state, but prefer areas containing stands of mast producing hardwood trees such as oak and beech. Larger shot sizes such as #5 or #6 are recommended for taking squirrels while leaves remain on trees. After the leaves fall, #7 ˝ fine shot will suffice. A dog is not needed for squirrel hunting, but patience is. Hunters who pursue gray squirrels should find a large tree to rest against and allow the woods to quiet down after their arrival. If you do so, you shouldn’t have long to wait.

The abundant eastern gray squirrel provides an excellent hunting opportunity for sportsmen and women, and also an excellent opportunity for families to spend quality time afield. Squirrels are easy to find and hunt, fun to pursue, and are probably the quarry that most hunters sought early on in their hunting lives. Young hunters will find squirrel hunting rewarding and challenging, and an excellent way to sharpen their skills. Those who haven’t gone into the woods for squirrels in many years should give it a try again. The experience may very well bring back fond memories of a simpler and less hectic time.

Hunters can find opportunities for grouse in New Jersey, but they will have to work harder to be successful in taking home their bag limit.

While New Jersey’s mature hardwood forests provide good habitat for squirrels, they are not as hospitable to ruffed grouse. Ideal habitats for grouse include areas with early stage hardwood forest mixed with some mature mast trees. Adult ruffed grouse feed on many plant species including berries and mast crops so early stage forests interspersed with shrubby vegetation and some large mast trees such as oak provide the best source of food. This diverse vegetation also provides concealment from predators, good nesting and brood rearing habitat, and protection from cold winter weather. Much of this mixed-forest vegetation has disappeared in New Jersey because of habitat loss and the maturation of forest. Forest manipulation and renewal from prescribed burning or professional forest management can improve habitat for grouse as well as their populations. The Division of Fish and Wildlife along with conservation organizations such as the Ruffed Grouse Society (New Jersey Chapters) has embarked on habitat improvement projects in many areas that will not only benefit grouse, but also other ground nesting and ground dwelling wildlife.

For more information about hunting in New Jersey, visit the Division of Fish and Wildlife online at or pick up a copy of the 2003 hunting issue of the Fish and Wildlife Digest. The Digest is available free of charge at Division offices and from license agents.

Back to Fish and Wildlife Homepage Back to NJ State Homepage Back to NJ DEP Homepage