By Jay Cook |
RUMSON –For many, Sept. 1 meant the start of a relaxing Labor Day Weekend. But for avid waterfowl hunters, that Friday marked the start of a full month reserved for hunting Canada geese.
In September, hunters can take advantage of lax regulations and high bag limits for harvesting the big, black-necked resident birds with the distinctive honking call.
While pretty to look at when they fly across the sky in a v-shaped formation, hunters and conservationists believe their high numbers on land are causing harm to the local environment.
“It’s like any species that gets out of control or unbalanced within nature,” said Joe DeMartino, a sitting member on New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council. “And right now, the hunters are trying to do their part.”
DeMartino is also a member of Ocean County Ducks Unlimited, a local branch of the nonprofit waterfowl conservation organization. He said the state estimates over 200,000 Canada geese live year-round in New Jersey.
For the strictly Canada goose hunting season spanning the month of September, hunters can harvest up to 15 birds per day. They are allowed to hunt with unplugged shotguns (no more than seven shells) and electronic calls, and hunting is permitted from a half hour before sunrise until a half hour after sunset for all of September, according to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection guidelines. Hunters also must not discharge their weapon within 450 feet of an occupied dwelling, and must hunt below the high tide water mark.
With the overpopulation of resident Canada geese comes a number of different issues that can be bothersome to residents.
“They reproduce in great numbers here, and since they’re no longer migrating, they’ve exceeded the capacity for the habitat to really carry them in a way that doesn’t impact other species,” said Colette Buchanan, president of Monmouth County Audubon Society.
While Buchanan agreed the population has become burdensome, she says the bigger issue is what Canada geese can do to small and large bodies of water. Their excessive fecal matter “works its way into the rivers, ponds, and lakes mostly by runoff from rain.”
From that, Buchanan said the feces quickly pollute the water and make a once flourishing environment nearly uninhabitable for smaller animals and fish.
Canada geese are generally found around two specific areas – resting on expansive fields while they graze and eat, and in bodies of water where they go to relax, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
One of the few locations in Monmouth County where large areas of grass meet in close proximity to waterways is along the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, surrounding the Two River peninsula. The spacious properties and tamed lawns along the riverside provide a nearly perfect habitat for the birds to eat and take a breather.
That combination also makes for a near perfect location for hunters to capitalize on.
Cory Wingerter, a Fair Haven native, said he couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day than goose or duck hunting. Although he hasn’t been out in a few years, he said he still remembers some of the best spots.
“In my opinion, the Shrewsbury is better,” he candidly said. “I have not been in the Shrewsbury or Navesink for some time, but for a while I was going out every single weekend. And the nastier the weather, the better.”
Rumson Borough Police Chief Scott Paterson, an avid hunter with Monmouth County Ducks Unlimited, was a bit evasive when asked his favorite hunting locations.
“Let’s just say that both rivers, when the weather is conducive, can be productive,” Paterson said, being careful not to give too much away.
With Rumson set between both rivers, it hosts the most potential shoreline hunting in the area. And Paterson said he has seen a fair share of Canada geese in town.
“There’s a resident population in every town in New Jersey,” he said. “It’s obviously become a bit of a problem in the parks and whatnot, but as long the people harvesting these birds utilize them and consume them, I’m all good with it.”
And these hunters certainly do eat what they take from the environment. DeMartino said Canada goose cooks like, and is similar in texture and taste to, steak, although he personally likes his as a sausage or brined and made into a corned beef.
Wingerter said he likes to “breast them out,” and then either go with an easy stew or sauté.
Considering the time of year, as the usual waterfowl hunting season is on the cusp of opening, residents should not be overly worried if they hear gunshots in the distance, Paterson said. If people have concerns, Paterson urged residents to call and be safe. Although most times, it’s a responsible hunter on the water.
Paterson said hunting in those two waterways is “no different than people Jet-Skiing or using the water as they see fit.”
“Once it’s explained to (residents) that it’s the start of a specific season, most understand it’s a legal hobby to participate in,” the police chief continued.
And following the rules and regulations is important to keeping the season open for new hunters every year. Responsible conservation through responsible hunting is something the hunters are trying to achieve during this annual special Canada goose season.
Paterson said it’s an important part of hunting in the Two River area, especially to cull the resident Canada goose population.
“Hunters, first and foremost, are conservationists,” he said.
The state’s primary waterfowl hunting season for ducks and brant in the Coastal Zone is open from Nov. 9 through Nov. 11, and then again from Nov. 23 through Jan. 27. The Canada goose season – not resident geese – is open from Nov. 9 through Nov. 11, and also from Nov. 18 through Feb. 15. Youth hunting days open on Nov. 4 and Feb 10. For more information about waterfowl hunting in New Jersey, visit the Division of Fish and Wildlife website.
This article was first published in the Sept. 7-14, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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