Are there really deer in New Jersey.

When I was a teen I had this crazy idea that I wanted to harvest a deer in every state. Apparently I wasn’t working too hard at doing the math since I would have to harvest a deer in approximately two states every year for the next 25 years in order to actually complete the task before I became a blue hair. Trivial matters one dismisses under the blue skies and roses of youth. I don’t remember how the discussion came about but my friend and I (let’s call him Allen or Al for short) were discussing my dreams when Al said “dude I have a couple of friends in New Jersey that might be able to help us out.” Now I grew up in NY so I was well aware that people have these misconceptions of NY state being this gigantic city located somewhere on the east coast. When in reality NY has huge tracts of very rural land and very little of it is actually city. In fact NY has the largest state owned forest it is located in the Adirondack Mountains. So I should have known better but I had this perception that NJ was this sprawling mass of suburbs and strip malls with a turnpike running through the middle. It seemed to me in my small minded world of miss perceptions that getting a deer in NJ was going to be a significant challenge and one I would need to overcome in order to reach my dreams. Little did I know what kind of a challenge it would be…

In that youthful exuberance totally devoid of any care for logistics or planning, I bellowed “let’s do it dude”. We had our choice of my broken down Oldsmobile cutlass or his train wreck of an old VW Bug. Al’s assertion that even if the motor fell out of the bug he would still be able to fix it, convinced me that we should take the Bug. We piled the bare minimum of equipment and clothing into the back and off we went. About an hour into the trip I began to notice this roaring sound emanating from the back where the motor was. Al seemed to be less than concerned and there weren’t any flames involved so we kept going. Shortly thereafter I noticed I had a splitting headache and scratchy throat. I thought I might be coming down with something when Al explained to me that the heater in a VW Bug was a manifold wrapped around the exhaust pipe. My discomfort was most likely caused by the hole in the exhaust pipe. Apparently the heater had been pumping carbon monoxide into the car for the last half hour. No worries our NJ destination was only three more hours away. So in solving this problem we used the ingenuity and care often exhibited by young adults and decided that our best course of action was to stick our heads out the window. It was only three more hours and a balmy 30 degrees, what could go wrong?

As we were about to cross over the NJ boarder Al said something like “Gee I wish we had a piece of metal to wrap around the exhausted pipe”. At least I think that’s what he said since it was hard to form words using a frozen face. As if to reinforce my stereotypical beliefs of NJ being a cesspool of human squalor, within 5 miles of hitting the boarder we found some roof flashing laying in the middle of the divided highway. True to his word Al was able to somehow cobble the flashing together to at least stop the roaring sound and it seemed to reduce the amount of exhaust flowing into the car as well. Al’s friends were very gracious to give us a coach and part of their floor to crash on.

The next morning we weaved our way through two dozen housing developments and at least a half a dozen strip malls to a small parcel of property that was maybe 20 acres and half of that was a pumpkin patch. Who knew deer ate pumpkins? I was amazed we were able to find anything remotely resembling rural America in New Jersey so I was really excited. We spent the first morning hanging tree stands and scouting. The next two days were devoid of deer and relatively uneventful, well except for the Police who were convinced that we were domestic terrorist or something. After a short discussion with the land owners everything was resolved and we were allowed to go back to hunting. By the evening of the third day of our four day hunt we were beginning to think that the frost bite and carbon monoxide poisoning was not going to pay off. I moved my stand to a new random part of the 10 acre woods just so I would have different squirrels to watch and apparently that was the right move. Two healthy young deer in an attempt to skirt around the stench of exhaust and human sweat from my friend sauntered right up to my stand. I was about to shoot the bigger of the two deer when I realized that it still had spots. I really needed to shoot a deer in NJ in order to reach my goal but I just couldn’t bring myself to shoot one that still had spots. Lucky for me the smaller of the two had its winter coat completed. A perfect shot and a short blood trail got me one step closer to my ultimate goal of a deer in every state. Al had also seen six or seven deer that morning but was unable to connect. Unfortunately our time to hunt was at an end and we thanked our benefactors for their generosity and headed home secure in the knowledge that yes indeed there are deer in New Jersey.

The hunting lesson one should take away from my experience is that first stereotypes are seldom accurate and second despite the little hurdles life throws in front of you with a little tenacity you can still be successful. This lesson and many more await you at your friendly neighborhood bowhunter education class. Sign up today schedules are available on the WDFW website. In case you were wondering so far I’ve taken deer in only six or seven states so now the math is really not in my favor.