The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited and the New Jersey Waterfowler's Association, has developed a special use area for youth and disabled waterfowl hunters.
The Wading River Special Use Area is an 86 acre site within the 162-acre Wading River Wildlife Management Area, which is located in Bass River Township, Burlington County, The site contains two impoundments suitable for waterfowl hunting, and has enhancements that will provide access for handicapped hunters who wish to participate in what can be a challenging hunting tradition.
Formerly known as the Petrecca property, the site was donated to the Division of Fish and Wildlife by Charles Petrecca and Mary H. Petrecca. DFW designated the special use area as an area dedicated to youth and disabled waterfowling in order to help preserve the rich heritage of waterfowling in New Jersey.
Work to control extensive amounts of phragmites or common reed on the site, was initiated this summer with funding provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited. Replacement of water control structures on the impoundments will be completed in 2006. Water levels will be managed primarily for waterfowl, but also for shorebirds and wading birds during the appropriate seasons.
Ducks Unlimited and the New Jersey Waterfowler's Association built and donated five handicapped accessible blinds that have been placed on the impoundments. The Ducks Unlimited state chapter and NJ Waterfowlers are both providing experienced waterfowl hunters as mentors for both youth and disabled hunters that want to be introduced to the sport, or learn more about proper waterfowling techniques.
The Wading River Special Use Area will be opened to licensed youth waterfowl hunting during the 2005-2006 hunting season, with the first youth groups allowed to hunt the property on the Southern Zone Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days on November 11 and 12. The site will be open for disabled hunters shortly thereafter, as some access improvements are still being made.
The blinds are available for reservation through an application, and if necessary, a lottery process.
Only properly licensed youth hunters (until the end of the year they turn 16) and those meeting the criteria for a permanent handicap will be permitted to hunt on the property. A permanent handicap for this special use area is defined as "any person with an inability to walk without the assistance of a wheelchair, walker or crutches as a result of a chronic or permanent medical condition." Hunters applying to utilize the area under the handicap definition MUST have on their person while actively hunting, a signed statement from a licensed physician describing the nature of their permanent handicap
Information on reserving the site as well as use restrictions can be found on the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com.