This is a copy of the letter that I emailed to the committee chair for the proposed changes in North Carolina’s deer season.  There are probably more things that I could have said, but you get the point.  If you agree with what I written, or only some aspects of what I jotted down, and would like to email this text as well…every voice is important, then by all means, copy-paste, edit where you see fit and send to dwhj@bellsouth.net

To whom it may concern,

I do not believe that opening an any-weapons season in September through January would increase the deer harvest and is not the best solution for several reasons.

#1 – Bowhunters, let alone rifle hunters, have difficulty getting out in the early season because of the warm weather, bugs, etc.  Participation will not be as high as you will expect.  But granted, there will be a spike in early season harvests because of increased opportunity to be in the woods.

#2 – I would dare say, 80-90% of hunters, if not more than that state-wide report 0-3 deer on their harvest report cards.  Guys are content with having a buck and a doe in the freezer, and after that they are holding out for a trophy buck.  They aren’t filling 6 slots on their tags.  Giving hunters an extra 2 months to hunt with a firearm will not increase your overall deer harvest.  Hunters will simply be content with what they have bagged earlier in the season, and November and December will have even fewer hunters than it has currently.  I can assure you that hunters are getting more than 6 opportunities per year to fill their quota of tags, they just don’t.

#3 – Increasing buck age structure (part of the 2-buck central and western limit) will be hampered by opening firearms season in September.  Mature bucks are most vulnerable during the first week or two of archery season, not during the rut.  Do more big bucks get killed during the rut?  Of course, but are they more vulnerable…I do not think so.  September is a time when mature bucks willingly enter fields during daylight hours to feed on agricultural crops, food plots, etc.  Firearm hunters worth their oats will have their choice of which big buck to shoot during the first week or two of season and we will see an overall decrease in older age class bucks.

#4 – Because of increased hunting pressure during September and October (and granted…an increase in doe harvest and buck harvests for those 2 months compared to years past), November harvests (70%+ of annual harvest currently I would think) will decrease because of the effects of hunting pressure on deer behavior…well documented in the literature.

#5 – The last point I’ll make in opposition to this proposed rule change is that nixing archery and muzzleloader only seasons will severely impact local archery shops and to a lesser extent sporting goods stores across the state.  Most guys will not pick up their bow when they know everyone else around them is carrying a firearm.

#6 – As for your response that if you keep archery hunting on your property and everyone else around you is gun hunting, you will have an ingress of deer onto your property…there is probably a good chance that will happen…but deer are not going to behave as they would if it were archery season still.  Archery properties will act as refuges across the landscape with lower hunting pressure and statistically more selective  hunters thereby decreasing expected harvest even more.  More restricted movements in refuge areas will be the case…as it always is when hunting pressure increases (again, the literature backs this up time and time again).

Now, how do I think that deer harvests can increase?  I am not saying I don’t believe that deer populations are above cultural, and in some areas, biological carrying capacity.  They are.

#1 – Publicize ‘Hunters for the Hungry’-type programs.  How you would publicize them better, I’m not sure.  But if hunters knew there were deer processors and food banks that accepted venison for the hungry in their area that would encourage them to pull the trigger on deer they would have otherwise passed up because they don’t need the work or the venison that comes along with a harvest.

#2 – Increase hunter recruitment…  I know, easier said than done.  If people are reluctant to join the ranks of hunters, shifting season so that they could have 5 or 6 more weeks to hunt is not going to convince them either.  They are holding back for other reasons.

#3 – Extend season 2 weeks into January.  You shouldn’t have much antler drop to deal with and harvest would increase especially in areas where dog hunters and drive hunting is commonly practiced.  An archery-only January season would also drive up numbers a little – probably not far-fetched to say 3-5,000 additional harvests, mostly antlerless.

#4 – Even dragging muzzleloader season back a week or two into the last week of October (maybe not even as drastic as the eastern season) and starting rifle season thereafter would allow rifle hunters more opportunity during the chasing period of the breeding season and probably bump your harvest a little.

#5 – Lastly, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been passed yet if you are so concerned with raising deer harvest, state-wide 2 buck limit.  Guys are abusing the privilege already, and killing more antlerless deer, especially down east where dog hunting is prevalent, will drive up overall harvests.

I would like for you to contact me with any questions you have and hear your feedback.  If I can be of any more service, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely

If you like what you see, check out my previous discussion of the proposed change to North Carolina’s deer hunting season and my informal rebuttal.