Well, a day and a half was lost because of legal maneuvers by various animal rights groups that caused a halt to the already-approved December 5-10 hunt via a decision by State Appellate Division judge Lisa Rose last week.

However, after reviewing legal briefs submitted by said organizations and New Jersey DEP’s Fish & Wildlife, she, along with State Appellate Division judge Carmen Messano, ruled Tuesday that the hunt could proceed.

No doubt the Garden State offers some of the best, based on its size, hunting opportunities for black bears in the northeast and, from this corner, most likely the best.

Tom P.
Tom P.

In fact, the Pope & Young archery world record was taken with bow and arrow in 2019 on private land in Morris County by Jeff Melillo and certified in 2020. It weighed 700-pounds and had a skull measurement of 23-5/16.

There are five bear hunting zones in northern New Jersey. In addition to private property, all state lands, including wildlife management areas (WMAs) and state parks and forests, as well as federal properties including the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and various county and municipal properties and recreation areas, and natural areas are open if hunting is allowed.

The bear hunting zones map is available at www.njfishandwildlife.com.

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The hunt will extend through half an hour after sunset Saturday, December 10. In the event that the management goal of 20% tagged bruins is not met, there will be an additional three days of hunting, Wednesday, December 14 through Saturday, December 17.

Bear hunting permits ($2) are available via the aforementioned site or at license-issuing agents. Two permits can be purchased, but the season limit is one bear no less than 75-pounds live weight or 50-pounds dressed weight.

Only those holding permits who did not harvest a bear during the first week will be eligible to hunt during the extension.

This is a shotgun (10-12-16 and 20 gauge; slugs only; adjustable sight required) and muzzleloader (single shot; not less than .44 caliber) hunt. If hunting with the latter, a valid rifle permit must be in possession.

Tom P.
Tom P.

In addition to the size restrictions, there are several new laws governing the hunt. These include the prohibition of shooting an adult bear traveling with cubs less than 75-pounds, and possessing a loaded firearm within 300 feet of a baited area. Note: baiting on federal lands is prohibited.

Upon downing, a bruin, affix the tag and get it gutted as soon as possible (reproductive organs must remain intact). By law it can be quartered but said organs and tag must remain with the carcass.

Any bear harvested must be taken to one of the mandatory check stations. These include the Pequest Trout Hatchery (605 Pequest Road, Oxford/Warren County); Green Pond Golf Course (765 Green Pond Road, Rt. 513, Rockaway/Morris County); the Black River WMA (275 North Road, Chester/Morris County)*; the Flatbrook-Roy WMA (Walpack Road, Rt. 615/Sussex County) and the Whittingham WMA (148 Freedom-Sprindale Road, Newton/Sussex County). Hours are noon-7 pm. (*The Black River WMA check station will be open on December 10 only).

If it’s too late to bring it to a check station, phone the DEP’s northern region law enforcement office at (908) 735-8240.

By all means, get ice in the carcass and get it to a butcher as soon as possible. Bear meat is delicious but, owing to the winter fat layer, can spoil quickly if the carcass is not skinned and refrigerated. Two well-known establishments that skin, butcher and wrap bruin cuts are Tom the Butcher (193 Harmony Brass Castle Road, Washington/Warren County), and Game Butchers LLC (1221 NJ-31 southbound, Lebanon/Hunterdon County).

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