North Carolina hunters harvested 143,529 white-tail deer during the 2018-19 hunting season. This marked a 9-percent decrease in comparison to data compiled over the last three seasons, according to NCWRC data. The deer harvest increased by 8 percent the previous year.
The numbers didn’t change much in the Central or Northwestern zones of the state. 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. The SE zone also was hit hard by fall storms.
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 also were shifted before the season.
According to 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.
Chatham harvested 2,398 deer last year including 1,197 antlered bucks, 135 button bucks, 1,066 does, but that was down from 2,643 in 2017-18 but up from 2,225 in 2016-17.
Hunters took 1,666 deer in Orange last year (744 does, 3.98 antlered bucks per sq. mile), down from 1,773 the previous year but up from 1,457 two years ago.
Durham accounted for 757 deer taken, down from 853, but up from 664 in 16-17.
The three counties are part of the state’s Central deer district (19 counties).