North Carolina deer hunters posted an all-time harvest record during the 2013-14 season, tagging 188,130 whitetails according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The record harvest came just one year after a poor season sparked by an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) that knocked down harvests by 20 to 50 percent in some counties in the northwestern corner of the state and Foothills.
Evin Stanford, the biologist who the Commission’s deer and wild-turkey project leader, said a poor mast crop contributed to the big harvest in 2013, and weather through the season was reasonably cool, a factor that often seems to result in more deer movement.
“In 2013, I heard we didn’t have a good mast (acorn) crop in many areas of the state, and the harvest jumped up,” Stanford said. “I think the previous year, after the EHD outbreak, a bunch of hunters in parts of the state … were reluctant to pull the trigger; some of them who had (unfounded) concerns about eating deer meat. Plus, in 2012, we had a really good mast crop…. When there are plenty of acorns to eat, deer don’t often don’t come out into fields and probably don’t come to bait pile as much.”
Last season’s harvest numbers also revealed some other interesting facts.
Besides the usual leaders in deer harvest — the Roanoke River counties of Northampton (5,723), Halifax (5,533) and Bertie (4,482) led the state — last season showed that North Carolina hunters have embraced the idea of balancing the herd ratios. In essence, they’ll pull the trigger on does as quickly as they will on bucks.
Statewide, hunters tagged 86,558 antlered deer last season and 85,478 does – a ratio of 50.3 to 49.7. In the top three counties, hunters actually killed more does than bucks. The trend held across the state at most counties.
Other facts about the 2013-14 deer season:
* The harvest was up 6.7 percent from the previous record high of 176,297 set in 2008.
* Annual harvests from 2007 through 2012 had been relatively stable, averaging 172,250 deer: a low of 167,249 in 2012, a high of 176,297 in 2008.
* Districts 5, 7, and 8 saw the biggest increases in harvest when compared to 2012-13; these areas also had the highest levels of hemorrhagic disease activity in 2012.
“Comparing to two seasons ago ... we have indications that populations are recovering in these (EHD) counties and harvest has returned to or exceeded levels observed immediately prior to the hemorrhagic disease event in 2012,” Stanford said.