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STATE: North Carolina’s deer harvest increased in 2020-21 season

Results from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s annual deer harvest summary indicate hunters across the state reported harvesting 169,973 deer during the 2020-21 hunting season — a 9.1 percent increase compared to the average harvest the last three seasons.

Of the deer harvested, 50.8 percent were antlered bucks, 4.7 percent were button bucks and 44.5 percent were does. Most deer were harvested with a gun (76.9 percent), followed by blackpowder (9.7 percent), bow (7.7 percent) and crossbow (5.7 percent).

Deer harvests increased in all zones (Deer Zone Map). In the Western Zone, deer harvests increased by 23.7 percent; 8.4 percent in the Northwestern Zone; 12.3 percent in the Central Zone; 3.7 percent in the Northeastern Zone; and 6.5 percent in the Southeastern Zone.

The 2020-21 deer hunting season was the third season following implementation of significant rule changes intended to improve herd condition across the state. These changes included a statewide antlered bag limit of two and an antler-less bag limit of four.

Earlier this year, Wildlife Commission Biologist Jon Shaw conducted a webinar called Managing NC’s Deer Herd: A Look at Databases & Key Metrics explaining in detail how the Commission uses the reported harvest and other data to monitor the herd.

“Reported harvest data provide valuable trend information that biologist use, in combination with other recurring agency surveys and biological data, to monitor the herd.  These data indicate we continue to move closer towards meeting density, sex ratio, and age structure objectives across most of the state,” said Shaw.

The 2020-21 reported harvest is likely influenced by both increased deer numbers and hunter effort.

“The pandemic resulted in more time at home and opportunity to engage in outdoor activities for lots of people.  The increase in new hunters and overall hunter participation is an encouraging trend that we hope will continue in the future” Shaw said.

Other reported findings include:

  1. Deer harvested on game lands comprised 3.3 percent of the total harvest.
  2. Dog hunting comprised 19.3 percent of the harvest in counties where hunting deer with dogs is lawful.
  3. 85 municipalities and communities participated in the Urban Archery Season or Community Deer Management Assistance Program, and harvested mostly (82.4 percent) antler-less deer.

The Commission posts annual harvest summaries on its website, as well as live harvest reports, which are available anytime throughout the hunting season. For more information, visit the Commission’s white-tailed deer page.

About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

Due to COVID-19, we encourage the public to visit ncwildlife.org to purchase fishing, trapping and hunting licenses and to renew a vessel registration.