Is allowing commercial deer hunting a good idea? Some lawmakers in New Jersey are trying to overturn the state’s ban on hunters selling deer meat, and they are getting support from some ecologists. According to the Asbury Park Press, a bill was introduced into the General Assembly earlier this year that would do just that, and is currently waiting for a hearing in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

To say that the bill is controversial would be an understatement. Some ecologists believe that allowing individuals to sell harvested venison will get more people into the woods to help control the rising deer population. Others, however, believe that the return of commercial hunting will only recreate the far-ranging consequences caused by overhunting in the early 1900s.

“Anybody who lives in Monmouth County and is driving around is able to see a deer population that has exploded,” Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth), who is sponsoring the bill, told the Asbury Park Press. “I’m concerned about the high number of Lyme cases and I’m also very concerned about the car accidents, half of which occur between October and December.”

The exploding deer population in the East Coast is not only a road and health hazard, ecologists are warning that the deer are degrading forests as well, which could lead to mass starvation for the animals. Supporters of a commercial deer season also point to the fact that almost all of the venison that Americans enjoy in restaurants or local grocery stores come from captive deer farms. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported last year that about 85 percent of all commercially-sold venison in the United States actually comes from New Zealand. Casagrande and her supporters say that it makes little sense to import deer meat into New Jersey when the state is currently grappling with an overpopulation of whitetail deer.

Not everyone agrees, however, and in a rare occurrence, sportsmen’s groups and animal right organizations have found themselves on the same side of the issue—if for different reasons. Many hunters say that revisiting the same strategies that led to the overhunting of deer in the East Coast is a very bad idea. All 50 states have placed restrictions on the sale of deer meat, with laws stretching back to the early twentieth century. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection explicitly states that it is “illegal to sell deer meat, deer antlers or any part of a deer except deer hides, tails and the lower portion of the legs,” in the state.

To combat the rising deer population, hunters and wildlife biologists instead advocate for increased awareness of the problem, and promoting hunting as a valuable activity in the state. Animal rights activists oppose the bill for much the same reasons, but offer an alternative solution. Instead of hunting the deer either way, they instead call for non-lethal population control methods such as sterilization.

The bill, AB A3039, is still waiting to be heard by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee before it can move forward. If passed, hunters will be able to apply for a commercial hunting license which not only allows the sale of deer meat, but also meat from small game such as beavers, raccoons, and otters.

What do you think? Should you be able to sell meat from the deer your harvest, or could that open the door to a host of problems for hunters and wildlife? Let us know in the comments below.

Image from Kripptic on the Wikimedia Commons

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9 thoughts on “New Jersey Bill Could Allow a “Commercial” Deer Season

  1. I moved from Vermont, where a hunting license automatically came with a deer tag, to Arizona, where you enter a lottery to win a tag. I think that the sale of meat is a great idea. I had a tag this year, but did not harvest an animal. It’s how they distribute tags that will matter. They want to remove ‘x’ number of deer in ‘x’ areas. So that’s how many tags are available. I get drawn to hunt every few years (I go for elk, now, instead of deer), but I know that the Game and Fish Dept does a great job of managing herd numbers. After all, that’s what hunting is about…conservation of a healthy herd.

  2. I’d think most of the land in Jersey is private. I’d rather see a hefty tax on all land not open to deer hunting by the general public and a year round open season. What has the New Jersey done so far? Free deer licenses to out of state hunters? Bounty? There’s no reason to toss out one of the foundational tenets of the North American Model of Conservation.

    Hunting is already far too commercial.

  3. I think this would be a recipe for disaster, although some local places need to rethink bans they have on hunting! Many gated communities for example totally forbid any kind of hunting although deer are devastating to landscaping both on private and public holdings within there boundaries!
    Bow hunting could provide much needed relief with these problems and also allow the donation of the meat to foodbanks or groups that feed the homeless!
    Just please keep the politicians out of it, they are just too corruptible and would soon sell out any management practices for the opportunity to make a buck!

  4. Selling venison in NJ is not going to solve the perceived problem of to many deer. The problem is access. The problem areas in NJ are the areas where you can’t hunt for a variety reasons, mostly permission or lack there of. NJ has instituted controlled hunts on state parks and county parks to control deer populations with great success. Allow hunting in the problem areas and the problem will be solved

  5. How about educate our kids in schools about the values of hunting, and end the class with a hunter trapper education class, and safe firearms instruction. Teach your kids to hunt, and you never have to hunt your kids.

  6. I think it is a bad idea and I will fight it tooth and nail .I know what will happen it will end up a huge mess and the hunter’s will be hurt the most .all you need to do is give the hunters more tags don’t limit how many you can take in a season

  7. If a bill like that ever passes in any state there will have to be strick controls on how the animal was harvested, where it was shot, if it was field dressed properly or if the meat was tainted which is what people call gamie, unlike processing plants where there are USDA inspectors. It will present health issues. Why not a program like certain areas in Connecticut where a hunter can get a doe replacement tag for every doe taken on private land and a buck tag for every three doe’s taken, that makes more sense. Commercial hunting in this hunters opinion will devistate what ever deer herds that exist. By the time it’s stopped May be to late.

  8. Pure stupidity from NJ. This has remifications for every state in the nation that has whitetail deer. Opening a box that’s best left closed. Exploitation, special interest pandering, and heads up arses is what this is all about.

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