Garden State mini-game season for the gray squirrel and cotton hare begins at sunrise, Saturday, September 24.
Rabbit and Jackrabbits are included, but good luck finding one of those. In fact, these are so rare, if they are still found in NJ caps, that their daily taking is limited to one of each. Once again, good luck finding one, not to mention getting it out of hiding.
“Swamps,” those large rabbits found in the lowland swamps and forests of the southern tier counties, while close to the size of a hare, are classified as cottony and fall under the daily limit of four rabbits.
Squirrels, which we affectionately refer to as bushytails, have a maximum daily sack of five creatures.
In mid-October we look for bunnies on the grassy edges of the cover at the first legal release light when they venture outside for some early food. Then it comes to some quick handling with a scattered rifle (we’re 20 gauge fans) where they lunge back into the high stuff and disappear.
When conditions are right, we will occasionally try to sneak up close and take headshots with 177-caliber pellet rifles. These rifles, .20 and .22 are legal pellet rifles, and can be a real challenge.
Later in the season when the numbers are pruned and stick to the thicker cover when we beg to look for friends who have a dog or two. Then it’s time for precision shooting as bunnies run and pull various evasive maneuvers before the overloaded hounds.
When it comes to squirrels, it is either a sit and wait, or a slow leg. The latter is exciting and the way to go when the ground and leaves are wet, thus silencing my footsteps while scanning the upper limbs to try and see the bush’s tail busy cutting the mast or making its way from tree to tree.
The first entails locating a patch of oak or other acorn bearing trees, sitting on a tree trunk, and waiting for the squirrels to show themselves. Another productive location for setting up shop is just inside the cornfield. Bush Tails enjoy the ears of corn and will do their best to reach them. We have seen ears hidden in crooks in trees, and anyone who has used corn as bait for deer can attest to the affinity of rodents with yellow kernels.
While pellet rifles in the aforementioned calibers are legal, as are bows armed with arrowheads and blunt arrowheads, we prefer .20-caliber loads. .
The cottontail and squirrels season runs until February 25, 2023. It closes from December 5-10 and 14. Legal hours rise to half an hour after sunset, except for November 12 (pheasant and quail open) when the opening is 8 am.
For those with borderline bends, there is muzzleloader season in two regions of the state, which includes large parts of its southern and northern regions. See page 60 in ’22 -’23 Hunting & Trapping Digest for a map. Ballistics are limited to 36 calibers or less. A gun permit is required. The season runs from September 24 to November 11, and then from January 7 to February 25, 2023. The legal hours and daily baggage limit are the same.
A fluorescent orange (hunter) (cover, jacket or jacket with at least 200 square inches on all sides) is required whether hunting with a scatter gun, pellet rifle, muzzleload, or bow.
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