North Carolina hunters mostly found last year’s deer season a downer, and statistics released in late April by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission proved them out.

The Commission reported a drop in the overall deer harvest of 7.8 percent between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, with last year’s reported harvest being 148,811 animals — 11.2 percent below the 10-year average.

The Commission’s statistics showed that the harvest declined across all nine of the state’s wildlife districts, from 1.2 percent in the extreme western mountain to 14.1 percent in the northern Piedmont.

“We expect to see annual variations in harvest for various reasons, including weather, mast crop, disease, hunter effort and hunter selectivity,” said Jonathan Shaw, the Commission’s deer biologist. “Our mast crop was spotty, but some areas had good mast, which can lead to declines in deer movements and a hunter’s ability to harvest deer. The largest decline ... this year occurred in the northern Piedmont area, which saw some scattered hemorrhagic disease activity.

“There are some possible solutions to address concerns about deer numbers in areas where they are declining,” Shaw said. “These solutions include promoting hunting and trapping of coyotes, habitat improvement, doe harvest management and overall harvest timing. Of course, we will continue to research and monitor data and trends.”

As usual, three counties along the Roanoke River led the state in total harvest: Northampton with 4,213, Halifax at 3,937 and Bertie at 3,165. Randolph and Rockingham counties rounded out the top five at 2,935 and 2,900.

Urban counties were tops in one harvest category that the Commission keeps up with: antlered bucks per square mile. Mecklenburg County led with 5.28 antlered bucks per square mile, followed by Forsyth with 4.64, Alleghany with 4.23, Gaston with 3.98 and Cabarrus with 3.89.

Top 10 counties total 

deer harvest 2016-17

County                     Harvest

 1. Northampton          4,213

 2. Halifax          3,937

 3. Bertie          3,165

 4. Randolph          2,935

 5. Rockingham          2,900

 6. Wilkes          2,840

 7. Stokes          2,793

 8. Ashe          2,716

 9. Union          2,644

10. Edgecombe          2,638

Top 10 counties 

antlered buck harvest 2016-17

  Antl. bucks

County                 per sq. mile

 1. Mecklenburg            5.28

 2. Forsyth            4.64

 3. Alleghany            4.23

 4. Gaston            3.98

 5. Cabarrus    3.89

 6. Northampton    3.87

 7. Ashe            3.83

 8. Vance            3.45

 9. Stanly            3.40

10. Lincoln     3.30