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Outdoors: Seasons were enjoyable this year
With 2006 only seven days away, hunters and anglers can look back at many seasons that were jolly in 2005.

The Pequest Hatchery churned out its 600,000-plus trout into public waters, the Hackettstown Hatchery did better than ever producing warm-water fish it stocked around the state and we were still able to keep hunting last year, even for bears, despite the people who don't like us and what we do.

Our ice fishing season last winter extended into March -- a major contrast to the dry spell and hot weather of August and September -- and now tip-ups, jigs and augers have already been working where some ice was safe early this month.

You can ice fish on three inches, five is recommended, but I'll feel safer when it's thick enough to hold snowmobiles.

We probably won't hit a total of 60,000 deer harvested before hunting that started in September ends in February in some zones, but hunters and cars still were able to kill enough to keep us buying licenses and insurance while nonhunting organizations have finally realized you can't keep down deer numbers without killing some annually.

The Audubon Nature Center off Hardscrabble Road in Bernards Township has fenced 14 acres and put a cattle bar on the road in to keep out deer out, but this year NJ Audubon recognized and supported hunting on some formerly off-limits tracts because deer are destroying the greenery needed for birds and healthy woodlands.

Hybrid and native bass, as well as muskies, channel catfish, walleyes and other warmwater fish kept warm-weather fishermen busy, then the Division of Fish and Wildlife continued its fall and winter trout stocking that gives trout fans something to do through winter.

The New Jersey Outdoors Congress that started forming this year is getting ready for next year's action to protect our natural resources, and the Association of NJ Rifle & Pistol Clubs, seldom seen or heard from in years past, has new, young leadership, and the New Jersey spokesmen for Ted Nugent USA provided good counterpoint to antihunters.

We're living in the most crowded state of all, we have many hunting and fishing opportunities from Sussex to Cape May, but more of us will need to do more than ever to protect our fish and wildlife resources and our sports in 2006.

Memories before 287

A wall hanger of a buck with widely spread white antlers made it across six lanes of Route 287 at 2:13 p.m. last Sunday. I was driving northbound when the big buck came from the center island, ran up the middle lane for about 40 yards, then darted down into a wooded gully. For a moment I wondered what chased it, then realized the lucky buck had just crossed the southbound lanes of the interstate near the Bedminster-Bridgewater line.

It was an area that brought back memories of bowhunting right about there, long before there was a Route 287. After a very busy day, I drove to that area to catch the last hour of daylight one October, sat at the base of a tree and fell asleep. When I awoke, it was night, pitch black, but I didn't know that right away; thought I'd gone blind.

Lights of a passing plane were a relief.

Turkey tally

The fall turkey kill this year was 119, the estimated bow kill was 13,731 deer and the estimated six-day kill of 7,982 didn't come from counting stubs, it was based on the estimated first-day kill. By March, which I estimate comes after February, we should know more.

Job change

Marty McHugh, director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife for the past three years, has resigned to take a job in the Department of Environmental Protection's Compliance and Enforcement Program. He starts there on Jan. 3.

Jim Stabile is the Daily Record outdoors writer. Fax fishing and hunting reports, comments and questions to (973) 401-9735, or e-mail to [email protected]

Courier News version
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