FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Township Council has approved modifications to the rules governing the 2018-19 deer hunting season.

Following a presentation by Open Space Consultant Tara Kenyon, the governing body voted at its July 10 meeting to prohibit hunting with firearms during season 2 from Oct. 27 to Dec. 2, then allow firearms until Dec. 31.

Another change is to close the Negri-Nepote and Griggstown grasslands to the public on Monday-Saturday during season 3, which runs from Dec.3, 2018 to Feb. 16, 2019, in order to make things safer for hikers and hunters while allowing for more deer to be taken.

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“(The resolution) will change what you did last year,” Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said. “The recommendations out of the Open Space Advisory Committee, the Trails Committee, the (Agricultural) Committee, and your township manager, who personally had to tell young people not to go out on the trails in Griggstown (last year) because there were hunters out there with shotguns.”

Vornlocker said closing off the properties to the public from Monday-Saturday during the season would make the situation safer and allow hunters to remain there during the entire day, hopefully increasing the culling of the large deer herd.

Hunting with firearms is not allowed on Sundays.

The resolution also will simplify getting a hunting license for farmers leasing township-owned properties, clarify the signs and enlist a team of graduate students from Rutgers University during the fall semester to study the deer population in the township and make further recommendations for the future.

According to Kenyon’s presentation, the deer population is abundant in the township, with a 1999 deer census showing an estimated 150 deer per square mile.

The state recommends a “healthy” population of 20-deer per square mile, according to the presentation.

There were  more than 27,000 vehicle collisions in New Jersey  with deer in 2016. Last year, there were, 160 such collisions with deer in the township, according to the report.

Despite the large deer population, only 217 were taken during last year’s seasons with 60 of those being bucks, Kenyon said.

Township Councilman Theodore Chase suggested the township look into hiring professional hunters to increase the annual culling and put up fencing in some areas to prevent deer from jumping out of the woods and into the roadways, including the spot on South Middlebush Road where a man lost his life after hitting a buck.

“(That would) both protect these forests and protect motorists from the deer coming out of the forests,” Chase said. “If they are coming right out of the forest at least you have a little more warning that they are there. We can’t have enough recreational hunting to put a dent in the deer population.”

Kenyon said that the fencing would be part of what the Rutgers students would be looking at as part of the study this fall.

Vornlocker said that such fencing would likely be a major capital project that could cost more than $100,000.

“We can’t do enough anymore for the deer,” Township Councilman James Vassanella said. “Those 160 crashes are probably more with people not reporting them.”

Vornlocker said that information on permitting for the upcoming season can be found on the township’s website and permits will start being issued Aug. 20.