After a disastrous deer season last year, it looks like 2015 resulted in a much better deer harvest. Complete data will be unavailable until spring, but preliminary figures are positive, says Dr. John Shaw, deer biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
“It looks like overall we’re up seven percent,” he said.
In 2014 the deer harvest was down 18 percent from a record number of deer taken in 2013.
A huge acorn crop and some disease caused the unusual drop in the deer harvest for 2014. Deer do not forage as much when food is readily available, thus cutting down sighting opportunities for hunters.
A 2014-15 WRC survey list among the top producing deer counties as Northampton, Halifax, Bertie, Anson and Union. Poor harvests were recorded in Graham, Swain, Jackson, New Hanover and Dare counties.
Shaw estimated the deer herd in North Carolina is close to 1 million. He said a three-year study is underway to determine what improvements, if any, might be needed.
In a letter to deer hunters, Shaw said, “successful deer management involves the blending of 1) scientific management principles, 2) limits of the habitat/landscape and 3) desires of people. With your help, our sampling efforts have given us a solid understanding of the first two components. We are currently developing a scientific deer hunter survey as part of the process of assessing the third and perhaps most important component, the desire of people…”
Among the biological objectives of the study are a balanced sex ratio before peak rut, limiting antlered buck harvest before peak rut and limiting the harvest of yearling males.
“There are lots of strategies that could move us closer to achieving those objectives that include shifting the muzzle/gun season back, and further restricting buck harvest,” Shaw said. “Most strategies would mean hunters would have to make tradeoffs. In order to improve the condition of the herd, they may have to give up some traditions, opportunity days, and or be okay with increased regulatory complexity…
“It is conceivable that the survey will show deer hunters are okay with the current seasons and current conditions of the herd, or there is no clear consensus, and we make no changes at all…If that is the case, that is okay too because our deer herd is in pretty good shape as is. It could be better, but in reality the deer herd is doing okay.”
Deer are among the heaviest harvested species in North Carolina. Topping the 2013-14 survey were doves, ducks, squirrel and rabbit. The smallest harvest was found among grouse, bear, bobcat and woodcock.