Some game zone numbers were down, some were up
According to NCWRC’s latest statistics, North Carolina hunters harvested 143,529 deer during the 2018-19 deer hunting season. This marks a 9-percent decrease in comparison to data compiled over the last three deer hunting seasons.
The numbers didn’t change much in the Central or Northwestern zones of the state. Hunters killed 1.2 percent fewer deer in the Central zone over previous years. And Northwestern zone hunters killed slightly more deer (.6 percent) than they have over the past few years.
In the Western zone, the harvest was up 7.3 percent, but numbers declined in the Southeastern (-19.2 percent) and Northeastern (-20.4) zones. Those declines were even sharper (-23.9 percent in the Southeastern zone, and -24.9 percent in the Northeastern zone) among antlered buck harvest numbers.
Hunters harvested most deer with conventional guns
Fifty-one percent of all deer harvested in the 2018-19 season were antlered bucks. Button bucks accounted for 4.6 percent, and 43.9 percent were does.
Conventional gun harvests made up 81.1 percent of those numbers. Blackpowder guns accounted for 8.1 percent. Bow kills amounted to 6.3 percent, and crossbows made up 4.5 percent of the harvest.
Although the declining numbers may seem startling at first glance, they are not completely surprising. The NCWRC made some rule changes for the season with the intention of reducing overall harvest numbers to improve the sex ratio and age ratio of the state’s deer herd. The legal doe harvest dates in the Western zone were also shifted before the season.
According to NCWRC deer biologist Jon Shaw, the overall outlook for North Carolina’s deer herd is positive.
“We primarily focus on long-term trends rather than annual variation to monitor the population. Changes in the structure and condition of the herd take years. But early results are encouraging and indicate we are heading in the right direction. Of course, we will continue to closely monitor the herd. And with the help of hunters, we will make additional adjustments if needed,” he said.