May 5, 2018
Hunting in Readington: April 16, 2018 Township Committee Meeting
No one lives in Readington very long before realizing that it’s a lovely little town with a large deer problem. At the April 16, 2018 Township Committee meeting, the Deer Management Advisory Committee (DMAC) suggested modifications to the ordinance pertaining to the deer hunting. Background information and the proposals were presented by Robert Becker and Adam Mueller.
According to studies, the deer population in Readington is roughly ten times the carrying capacity identified by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.* Above that carrying density, deer begin to do ecological damage.
The current rules are referred to as Existing Plan A. Under this plan, the Township contracts with hunting clubs and those clubs organize the hunt. Under the current hunting practices, too few deer are killed, thus leaving the deer highly overpopulated. Last year, 127 deer were killed under the existing Plan A. The DMAC researched hunting programs in other towns, including those with greater success managing deer populations through hunting, and incorporated their findings in their recommendations.
The modification proposed to Plan A is to extend the existing one-year hunting license to a club to a second year provided that the target harvest of 0.15 deer per acre is taken at a 3-doe to 1-buck ratio. The 3-1 ratio was added to increase the hunting of doe, which are not prized by hunters looking for a rack of horns as a trophy. Hunters will be required to submit their kill data to the Township at the same time they have to report it to the State. Hunters will be reimbursed $25 by the Township for each deer donated to the “Hunters Helping the Hungry” program, up to 3 deer annually.
A newly proposed Plan B introduces 311 additional acres for hunting. If approved, Plan B would be in force at the same time as Plan A, but apply to different acreage. Township residents and employees would be able to submit an application of interest to hunt, which would be reviewed by a hunting committee. The committee would evaluate hunting experience and submit applicants to a background check. Approved hunters would then be placed in a lottery for hunting. One hunter would be allowed to hunt 10 acres for a $100 annual fee. Plan B hunters would have the quota of 3 doe in order to maintain hunting privilege on current property or else be placed back in the lottery. The reimbursement for up to three deer donated to the “Hunters Helping the Hungry” program would also be available.
The DMAC believes that Plan B hunters will harvest more deer than Plan A club hunters, since they live nearby and will hunt more often. Plan B is for bow hunting only, and hunters will be required to adhere to NJDFW rules and regulations plus the additional ones specified in this ordinance.
There was a lively discussion among the members of the Township Committee. Mrs. Duffy was concerned about the administrative burden that the proposals would have on the Township. Meanwhile, Mr. Heller, himself a DMAC member, stressed the need for township action and the extensiveness of the research by the Deer Committee. Mayor Smith concluded that the Township Committee would have to do more research and obtain information from the Township administrators before TC could decide the issue.
* According to a 2016 calculation by Raritan Valley Community College, the deer population in Readington is between 100 to 300 deer per square mile. Taking the midpoint, it translates to 9,600 deer or 0.312 deer per acre. The NJDFW has stated that the carrying capacity is much smaller, at 0.031 deer per acre.