The South Zone duck hunting season comes to an end at sunset Thursday, January 20, with the Coastal Zone (east of the Garden State Parkway) open until sunset Saturday, January 22.

The North Zone season concluded this past Thursday.

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It’s been an up and down autumn period for waterfowlers, with the more northerly reaches of the Coastal Zone producing decent gunning, with the central and southern marshlands and bays producing, on the overall, fair opportunities at birds, nothing more.

TSM, Tom P.
TSM, Tom P.
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Sure, there have been some bang-up days, but nothing like past years. Basically, it’s been a bufflehead, long-tailed duck (old squaw), and black duck deal, with numbers of mallards, pintails, and shovelers down. Canvasbacks have been been very few and very far between, with scatterings of goldeneyes, widgeon, gadwall, redheads, and ringnecks adding to the bags.

Here’s hoping the blast of 20-something degree temperatures expected through the weekend (possible single digits at night) will push the ducks hanging farther down along the shore. A double-edged sword as the waters at the boat ramps and the shallower areas of the estuaries will no doubt be sheathed in ice. Breaking through the ice to launch is nothing new to the late-season coastal gunning scene, but finding a place(s) where the birds are landing can be challenging, to say the least.

TSM, Tom P.
TSM, Tom P.
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It will be the same on the lakes and ponds in the South Zone’s interior. Creeks and rivers, by virtue of current, might have more open water, a can’t resist the invitation to ducks searching for a place to settle in.

Still, it’s worth it to give both zones some effort, as there are ducks around and hopefully more will be winging it down with the short but deep freeze.

The Coastal Zone Canada goose season (two bird limit) closes January 29; the South Zone (one bird limit) closes next Tuesday. Meanwhile, the statewide Light Goose (snows and blues) season continues through sunset, February 15, with a daily limit of 25.

The Special Winter Canada goose season that offers a five bird limit will run from January 19 through February 15 (a half-hour before sunrise to sunset) in two select zones, one north, and one south. These areas are highlighted on page 63 of the 2021-2022 Hunting & Trapping Digest. Ostensibly, this hunt is geared toward populations of resident Canadas, not the migrants.

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