UNION COUNTY, NJ — The county's annual deer hunt will return following the freeholder board's approval of $19,515 for the purpose.

The deer management program, which the freeholders authorized on Thursday, will have volunteer hunters execute both shotgun and bow hunts at county parks and certain municipal properties located in 14 Union County towns. The freeholders approved the resolution authorizing the hunt program without public discussion.

“The County of Union will remove deer from various county and municipal park properties during the fall and winter of 2020-21 in an attempt to bring the deer population densities down to levels that are in balance with the ecosystems, with a specific goal density of 20 deer per square mile or less,” the resolution says.

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The freeholders' resolution says a lower deer density allows for the natural regeneration of the forests, minimizes damage to residential landscaping from deer grazing and reduces the number of deer-related motor vehicle crashes.

To accomplish a better ecological balance, the county will partner with up to 50 “community-minded licensed hunters with a proficiency in marksmanship to reduce the populations of white-tailed deer in the subject parks,” the resolution states.

The $19,515 allocated for the deer management hunts will go toward bait and costs for butchering deer carcasses, the resolution says. Venison not harvested by hunters will be transported to a butcher contracted by the county and then donated to those in need through the Community FoodBank of NJ.

The hunters will be responsible for the cost of licenses and permits, equipment, ammunition and the butchering of any harvest they keep for their own consumption, the resolution says. The different hunting sections will include both a bow and shotgun hunt on county and municipal properties within Union County, according to the freeholders' approval.

The fall bow season will run 66 says from Oct. 1 until Dec. 30, 2020 and be conducted during daylight hours Monday through Friday, except in Watchung Reservation, where hunting will only be permitted on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The fall bow season locations include:

  • Lenape Park
  • Ash Brook Reservation
  • Oak Ridge Park
  • Passaic River Park
  • Hawk Rise Sanctuary and Linden Municipal Landfill
  • Watchung Reservation
  • Elizabeth River Park
  • Linden Airport

The winter bow season will run 36 days, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 19, 2021 with hunting on the Watchung Reservation restricted to Tuesdays and Thursdays. The winter bow hunting locations include:

  • Lenape Park
  • Ash Brook Reservation
  • Oak Ridge Park
  • Passaic River Park
  • Hawk Rise Sanctuary and Linden Municipal Landfill
  • Watchung Reservation
  • Elizabeth River Park
  • Nomahegan Park
  • Galloping Hill Golf Course
  • Reeves Reed Arboretum
  • Hidden Valley Park
  • Linden Airport
  • Rahway River Park
  • Westfield County and Municipal properties

Shotgun hunters will deploy on Mondays running from Jan. 4 to Feb 1. Hunters will be able to harvest deer in morning and afternoon shifts. The shotgun hunting locations include Watchung Reservation, Ash Brook Reservation, Hawk Rise Sanctuary and the Linden Municipal Landfill.

The freeholders' resolution cites forestry recommendations that white-tail deer populations do not exceed 20 per square mile “as not to impair forest health.” In cases where forest health is compromised, ecologists recommend a density of five deer per square mile, according to the resolution.

The resolution refers to a deer count conducted in 2019 covering the Union County locations where this year's hunt is slated to occur.

The results show 66 deer per square mile in the Watching reservation; 163 per square mile in and around Lenape and Nomahegan Parks; 93 per square mile in and around Ash Brook Reservation and Oak Ridge Park; 205 deer per square in and around Hawk Rise Sanctuary and Linden Municipal Landfill and 188 deer per square mile in Elizabeth River Park.

A description of the hunt provided by the county says that in addition to promoting forest health, preventing deer grazing on residential property and minimizing the likelihood of deer-related vehicle accidents, the program will reduce the incidence of Lyme disease.

“The County of Union will remove deer from various county and municipal park properties during the fall and winter 2020-2021 in an attempt to bring the deer densities down to levels that are more in balance with ecosystems,” the description says. “With a specific goal of 20 deer per square mile or less.”

Here's a town-by-town breakdown of where hunts are slated to occur in Union County:

  • Lenape and Nomahegan Parks located in the townships of Cranford, Springfield, Union, Westfield and the borough of Kenilworth.
  • Ash Brook Reservation located in the townships of Clark and Scotch Plains
  • Oak Ridge Park located in Clark.
  • Passaic River Park located in the city of Summit
  • Hawk Rise Sanctuary and Linden Municipal Landfill located in the city of Linden
  • Watchung Reservation located in the townships of Berkeley Heights, Scotch Plains, Springfield; the boroughs of Watchung and Mountainside and the city of Summit.
  • Elizabeth River Park located in Hillside Township
  • Linden Airport located in the city of Linden
  • Galloping Hill Golf Course located Union Township
  • Reeves Reed Arboretum located in the city of Summit
  • Hidden Valley Park located in the city of Summit and Springfield Township
  • Rahway River Park located in the City of Rahway
  • County and municipal properties located in Westfield Township

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