The N.C. Wildlife Commission could propose unprecedented changes in the 2009-10 deer season, changes that almost certainly will draw opposition from archery and muzzle-loader hunters and major outdoors retailers and hunting supply stores.

David W. Hoyle Jr., chairman of the WRC's Big Game Committee, said July 9 at the agency's regularly monthly meeting in Raleigh, the changes would create a single deer season for the state, instead of the current four seasons - for  Coastal, Piedmont, Northwestern and Western zones - that have been in place for years.

A new statewide season would follow the current Eastern zone season, which begins the second Saturday in September and concludes January 1 (a four-month span).

With deer populations high, that proposal probably won't draw much opposition. However, the next proposal - to allow hunters to use any weapon (bow, muzzle-loader, centerfire rifle or shotgun) - from the start of hunting season to its end only at private land may create opposition.

"That proposal probably will make bow and muzzleloader seasons obsolete," said a representative of the N.C. Bow Hunters Association.

The NCBA officer said he believes hunters would turn to modern firearms rather than use "primitive" weapons, which have much shorter lethal ranges.

"Enforcement also will be a nightmare," the official said, noting enforcement officers will have to enforce one set of hunting regulations at private land and another at public game lands.

The any-weapon rule would not apply at game lands,

Another controversial proposal would move forward the opening day of wild turkey spring gobbler season by one week to the first Saturday of April.

The N.C. chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation opposed a similar proposal - but only for six southeastern N.C. counties - a few years ago.

Proponents said male birds usually gobble the week before the traditional spring season opens (the second Saturday in April) and hunters miss opportunities to harvest those birds by having to wait a week to hunt them.

Opponents, including N.C.'s former lead wild turkey project biologist, have said by opening the season a week early, many gobblers that haven't bred hens will be killed. Moreover, the WRC's Youth Turkey Hunting Day currently occurs the Saturday before regular turkey season begins (April 5 this year). If that date is taken by a new general season opener, Youth Day will move into March, which will be much too early.

Other proposals may include allowing bow hunting and falconry to occur Sundays at private land, asking the legislature to require dog hunters to have identifications on their hounds and fine the owners if dogs trespass at private land, and allowing coyote hunting at night with the aid of lights.

Commissioners said the deer proposals were attempts to add more hunters and reduce the deer population, plus curtail deer-car collisions and reduce crop damage.

Outdoor supply stores, including Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Gander Mountain and smaller stores, probably will oppose the deer season weapons change because they'll be left with unsold archery and muzzleloader equipment in their inventories.

In the past the WRC set aside the early season for bow hunters only (from September through mid October in the eastern zone and September through early November at other zones). After bow seasons ended, muzzleloader hunters  enjoyed a one-week season, followed by regular gun (shotgun and rifle) hunting to the end of the year.

"If this (deer) proposal is adopted, it also could destroy the rut," the NCBA official said, "because all the large bucks will have been killed. And those bucks won't be able to pass on their outstanding characteristics to offspring."

The proposals, if sent to public hearings and adopted, would take effect July 1, 2009.