Located along the Atlantic Flyway, New Jersey has prime duck hunting along the coast as well as inland in many of the Wildlife Management Areas. Some duck species are just passing through with a stop-over during their migration, while others like the black ducks will winter in the salt marshes on the Jersey shore. Whether you are a seasoned duck hunter or this is the year you want to give it a try, here is everything you need to know about duck hunting season in New Jersey including season dates, bag limits and more!
What Kinds of Ducks are in New Jersey?
In New Jersey you have both divers and dabblers with a variety of sea ducks on the coast like eiders, scoters and long-tails, as well as the common ducks on lakes, rivers and ponds like mallards and wood duck. Waterfowlers tend to gravitate to a certain species, or a few favorites, so figure out what your style is and go for it! Some of the most common duck species in New Jersey include:
- Black Duck
- Wood Duck
- Whistling Duck
- Sea Ducks (eiders, scoters, long-tailed)
Where can you Duck Hunt in New Jersey?
The Jersey coast is around 130 miles long with various duck hunting available. You can hunt along the salt marshes, the tidal estuaries and brackish marshes. Hunting in the Barnegat Bay is a popular area for waterfowlers as well as just south of Barnegat you can hunt in the salt marshes of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. You will find one of the largest populations of Atlantic Brant here (for goose hunting) but a fair number of hunters also duck hunt along these marshes.
Inland you hunt along the Delaware River on the western border of the state or try along the Hudson River I the northeast. Many of the Wildlife Management Areas like the Black River WMA and the Assunpink WMA have excellent hunting opportunities.
What are the Hunting Zones in New Jersey?
New Jersey is divided into three zones; the North Zone, South Zone and Coastal Zone. The zones are created to help monitor the numbers of each species according to the weather patterns and timing of different species migrating through. The North Zone in New Jersey starts a little earlier due to the temps getting cooler earlier and the coastal zone can stay open later in the season because much of the coastal salt marshes still have open water. For a map of the zone lines check out the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife site here.
Duck Hunting Season Dates in New Jersey
|Species||North Zone||South Zone||Coastal Zone|
|Ducks||Oct. 15-Oct. 22 and Nov. 12-Jan. 12||Oct. 22-Oct. 29 and Nov. 19-Jan. 19||Nov. 10-Nov. 12 and Nov. 24-Jan. 28|
|Mergansers||Oct. 15-Oct. 22 and Nov. 12-Jan. 12||Oct. 22-Oct. 29 and Nov. 19-Jan. 19||Nov. 10-Nov. 12 and Nov. 24-Jan. 28|
|Coots||Oct. 15-Oct. 22 and Nov. 12-Jan. 12||Oct. 22-Oct. 29 and Nov. 19-Jan. 19||Nov. 10-Nov. 12 and Nov. 24-Jan. 28|
|Sea Ducks||Oct. 15-Oct. 22 and Nov. 12-Jan. 12||Oct. 22-Oct. 29 and Nov. 19-Jan. 19||Nov. 10-Nov. 12 and Nov. 24-Jan. 28|
Other Season Dates
|All Zones Statewide|
|Joint Youth and Veterans and Active Military Day||Feb. 4|
|Veterans and Active Military Day||Nov. 5|
Bag Limits and Possession Limits for Duck Hunting in New Jersey
The daily bag limit is 6 for ducks with a possession limit of 18.
|Species||Bag Limits||Possession Limits|
|Scoter (3 out of the 4 sea ducks)||3||9|
|Long-tailed (3 out of the 4 sea ducks)||3||9|
|Eider (3 out of the 4 sea ducks and only 1 may be a hen)||3||9|
*Duck specific limitations: 6 Ducks in aggregate but not to include more than 2 mallard (1 hen), 2 black duck, 3 wood duck, 1 pintail, 2 redhead, 2 canvasback, 1 whistling duck, 4 sea duck (no more than 3 scoter, 3 long-tailed duck, 3 eider [1 hen]), and 1 scaup (except during last 20 days in each zone, the limit is 2).
What are Hunting Hours?
The hunting hours in New Jersey are ½ hour before sunrise to sunset. This is important to note so that you can properly plan your hunt. You want to allow plenty of time before sunrise to set up your decoy spread, finalize your blind camouflaged and be settled in, ready to shoot right when hunting hours start.
Gear up! What do you Need to for Duck Hunting?
If you are just hunting in the shallow salt marshes along the coast you might not need much gear. You can pull on your waders, grab your gun and decoys and easily spend a morning nabbing some nice eiders or black ducks. For a longer hunt or to explore some of the beautiful chains of lakes in the WMA’s you will need a longer list of must-haves. Here is a starter list of gear you might need for duck hunting season in New Jersey:
- Shotgun: a 12 gauge or 20 gauge
- Gun case/bag
- Shells: 3” shells are common, depends on the duck species you are targeting
- Duck blind or boat blind: Your blind can be a basic layout if you are hunting on your own from the shore or in a field setting, to a more elaborate A-frame for hunting with a couple of friends and you plan to spend more than a couple of hours. Be sure to scout the area you plan to set up your blind well before sunrise so you have time to make final adjustments. For a boat blind remember that your boat, kayak or canoe needs to be stationary before you can shoot, so plan ahead.
- Life vest or PFD: If you are hunting from a kayak, canoe or duckboat be sure to have a properly fitting life vest or PFD.
- Decoys: Choosing the best decoys is one of the best parts about duck hunting. Finding the right combination of decoys and the optimal placement is one of the tasks you can experiment with. Most spreads include around a dozen decoys but you can have more to attract a variety of ducks or less if you are just out for a short hunt. Decide if you need moving decoys to attract mallards for example or floaters to attract black ducks or pintails.
- Camo: The goal is to blend in so the more you look like the coastal salt marsh (or whichever habitat you are hunting in) the better the chance the ducks will feel safe to come in and land. Everything needs to be camouflaged from your waders to your hat to your face covering.
- Duck callers: Having the most expensive caller but not practicing how to use it won’t do you much good. You need to take time to really listen and perfect your duck calls. Be ready with a few different specie’s calls so that you can be prepared for what comes your way.
- Waders: You want to invest in a really good pair of waders. Ending up wet and cold can ruin a hunt. Don’t risk setting up the most epic spread and the best blind to have to call it early due to a wardrobe malfunction! Good waders usually have a removable liner so you can use them throughout the season and many have reinforced knees, waterproofing and some have built in boots for a simple one-piece set up.
- Dog (technically not “gear”, but enjoyable to have): Taking the time to train a dog to retrieve with you can be challenging and rewarding. Watching your pup bring in a catch and plate it is very satisfying. Some of the common breeds used in duck hunting are Labs, Goldens, Pointers and Spaniels. Plan ahead with gear for your dog as well.
- First Aid Kit: Keep a first aid kit in your blind bag at all times. While duck hunting is a safe sport, there are always dangers when wading in unknown waters.
Factors for Success
Three of the biggest factors in a successful hunt are your blind location, the details in your decoy spread and the weather. You could have the most prime location with a heavily camouflaged blind and a 30 duck fishhook spread, but the weather is hot, sunny and there is no wind causing few ducks to be on the move. Most duck hunters prefer to hunt in cool, wet conditions, with overcast skies and nice wind. You can’t always be choosey about the days you get to hunt and you can adjust your spread to the wind conditions but checking the forecast a few days ahead can help you line up your hunt for the best success.
Where are the Best Places to Duck Hunt in New Jersey?
The best duck hunting is along the coast with a mix of beaver swamps, salt marshes and estuaries you can’t go wrong. Most of the Wildlife Management Areas allow duck hunting and offer hundreds of acres of open land for exploring. Barnegat Bay is a popular area for goose hunting and duck hunting (go ahead and try both). Don’t forget the Delaware River to the west and the Hudson in the northeast.
Meet the Species: 3 of the Most Common Ducks in New Jersey
- Mallard: The most common duck in the US is the mallard and it is the most harvested in New Jersey as well. The male mallard has an emerald green head that shimmers a bit in the sun. In flight you can see the blue edged wings and the white underside with brown to gray backs.
- Bufflehead: These smaller ducks have a colorful head with iridescent greens, blues and purples. They have a white patch on the back of their heads and their bodies are black on their backs and white on their bellies.
- Black Ducks: The black duck is universally black or dark brown but when in flight you can see the contrasting white underside of their feathers and the blue strip on their wings. These heavy set ducks are shaped much like mallards and have a similar yellow bill.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can you duck hunt in New Jersey?
Yes, you can duck hunt in New Jersey. Waterfowl hunters must have a New Jersey hunting license, New Jersey Waterfowl Stamp, Federal Duck Stamp and HIP certification.
When does duck hunting season start in New Jersey?
The duck hunting season begins on October 15, 2022 in the North Zone first followed by the South Zone on Oct. 22nd and the Coastal Zone on Nov. 10th.
What are the most common ducks in New Jersey?
The most common ducks harvested in New Jersey are Mallard, Bufflehead and Black Duck.
What is the bag limit for Mallard ducks in New Jersey?
The daily bag limit for Mallard ducks is 6.
How does New Jersey rank in the country for duck harvest numbers?
New Jersey is ranked 37th in duck harvest (based on a 10-year average).
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- NJ Migratory Bird Regulations, Available here: https://dep.nj.gov/wp-content/uploads/njfw/migratorybirdcard_2022_23.pdf
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Available here: https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/hunting/waterfowl-and-migratory-birds-in-new-jersey/
- Ducks Unlimited / Michael R. Shea, Available here: https://www.ducks.org/hunting/waterfowl-hunting-destinations/five-atlantic-flyway-public-hunting-hotspots
- Audubon Guide to North American Birds, Available here: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/bufflehead