Leskie offers deer management update
BORDENTOWN — New Jersey senior wildlife biologist Joe Leskie offered an insight-filled update on deer management for soybean farmers at the eighth annual Soybean Producers meeting on March 6, organized by the New Jersey Soybean Board.
Leskie, a southern region biologist for 17 years, pointed out that white-tailed deer were essentially eliminated from the state in the early 1900s, but in 1908 the species was reintroduced.
“Some older folks have told me when they were young they had to go to the Pine Barrens, which now has the lowest deer density in the state, to hunt deer,” he said.
Leskie pointed out that New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has appropriated 60 deer management zones around the Garden State. Different sets of regulations apply to hunters in these areas, he said.
“When you hear us say antler-less deer, we’re basically referring to females but it also means male fawns and bucks that have shed their antlers,” Leskie said, adding, “hunters can’t necessarily identify if it’s a button buck or an antler-less buck.”
“A deer season is composed of six seasons, fall bow in September and October, early December is a six day fire arm season for buck, and we also have three permit seasons,” he said, noting these regulations were developed in the late 1960s to harvest excess deer, but Fish and Wildlife never meets its quota anymore, due to a slackening of interest in deer hunting by the public.
“It’s all coming to a head now: The hunters aren’t able to get to the agricultural areas to hunt and [they’re prevented from hunting] in more urban areas,” he pointed out.
Two major issues with the over-abundance of deer in the Garden State remain “damage to your crops of course, and every year New Jersey drivers report from 26,000 to 28,000 claims. In the late 1990s and early 2000’s, the deer population was booming here. There were deer dead on the side of the road everywhere here,” Leskie said.
“We got that down. This year we averaged about 50,000 deer, so the hunters have gotten to the point where the deer are accessible and they’ve gotten to them.”
Leskie showed some slides of drop nets used to contain families of wild turkeys, but noted drop nets with deer are just not a viable option.
“Fencing works, 8 foot or more, but it’s not just the cost of fencing by erecting the fencing and [over time,] breaches that may develop in the fencing and poles coming down.”
But the bottom line, he added, “is the farmers I’ve had who have a lot of fencing have no problems with deer.”
Leskie noted farmers are usually free to hunt the farms they live on, hunt without a license and get free permits for family members. Under Right-to-Farm regulations, farmers can of course invite hunters onto their property to shoot deer, and this is a good thing, “but the key here is hunting of antler-less deer, hunters coming onto your farm and shooting off bucks won’t be very effective over time,” he said.
Leskie urged soybean farmers exhausted from their battles with deer to get to know groups of hunters that can be found via the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen’s’ Clubs.
“We’re working with them, the Farm Bureau and the USDA to get the communication thing together so that we can get some kind of program going,” he said, perhaps via an internet website.
“Right now, if you call up and say, ‘Can you send eight hunters over here this week — right now, other than myself and seven of my buddies — we don’t have any program in place yet.”
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