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Hunting is certainly a tradition, and it once meant survival for our species, but for most Americans today, hunting is an option rather than a necessity. So why do people still hunt?

Most people have strong feelings on such issues. Some believe the act of hunting in today's modern society is barbaric and cruel, while others feel it is necessary to preserve balance. Some people may not think of it as an issue, but just as a long-standing tradition passed down through the generations. No matter your stance on the issue, I have found a little truth in all of these perceptions.

I feel like North Carolina has a good balance of modern sophistication and country values that allows me to look at this issue in a way that anyone can relate to, and I have chosen to explore the world of white-tail deer hunting because it is profound in this neck of the woods.

For those of you that feel that killing an animal is wrong in any respect, I will not try to change your position, but hopefully I can portray an accurate picture on your behalf. There are a number of poachers who kill deer in illegal manners. Poaching shows disrespect for wildlife, and the laws and seasons that are established to protect our wildlife resources. Hunting out of season is one method of poaching. "The reason that there is a hunting season is to protect animal populations and breeding cycles. The reasons that people hunt out of season range from ignorance to sheer arrogance."1 Spotlighting, or jack lighting, is another method of poaching. "'Spotlighting' is effective at night because the bright beams stop the deer in their tracks. The deer become confused and freeze in their tracks (making them easy targets)."2 What makes poaching so bad? Besides the fact that these people don't respect those of us who follow the law, when you shoot a deer at night, you don't know what is behind that deer. Especially, if a high-powered weapon is used, you may be putting local residents in harm's way. Also, poachers have been known to take the heads of big bucks and just leave the bodies to rot. My motto is "eat what you kill, or at least let somebody eat it." Fortunately, most hunters despise these deer stealing, reckless few that give true hunters a bad name. The North Carolina Bowhunters Association, NCBA, maintains the oldest anti-poacher reward program in North Carolina. They have continued their efforts to put a stop to poaching for more than twenty years. 3

When it comes to white-tail deer hunting in North Carolina, there are many people that would agree that it is a necessity for safety of humans and preservation of a healthy deer populace. In 2007, the North Carolina Department of Transportation issued an advisory for motorist to be on the lookout for deer. They stated that there are "an estimated 15,000 animal related crashes on North Carolina roads annually with over 13,000 of the incidents involving deer." They also affirmed that "in 2006 there were 17,715 reported incidents involving deer on highways. From 2004 through 2006 encounters involving deer resulted in almost 3,000 injuries to motorists
including 17 which were fatal. Additionally, there was almost $107 million in property damages as a result of the encounters." 4

"With the extinction of the wolf and cougar, and given the reproductive potential and adaptability of white-tailed deer to a variety of habitat and environmental conditions, man is now the primary factor limiting deer populations in North Carolina. The principal management tool utilized by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to regulate deer numbers is the formulation of deer hunting seasons and bag limits. Without hunting, most established deer herds would experience declines in individual deer condition. They would also damage native and agricultural plant communities and would experience excessive losses to factors such as automobiles, disease, and poaching. The Wildlife Commission establishes hunting seasons to allow sportsmen to help manage deer herds at levels compatible with herd, habitat, and human characteristics. Again, the idea is to maintain a healthy deer resource with population densities that can provide hunters challenging outdoor recreation experiences through the removal of a portion of the annual surplus of bucks and does. With the statewide deer population at an all-time high, over 250,000 deer die each year in the state from a combination of all causes. The Wildlife Resources Commission tries to ensure that Tar Heel sportsmen are able to harvest a sizable portion of this surplus, rather than have a large part of this surplus culled by natural controls such as disease or predation. The percentage of the total annual deer loss that is attributable to legal hunting is estimated to range between 50 and 70 percent. In recent years about 80 percent of the buck mortality has been due to hunting, but only around 40 percent of the doe losses can be accounted for by hunters. This difference is largely a matter of hunter preference, but hunters have been increasing the harvest of does each year in most areas of the state. Still, the ratio generally ranges from 20 to 40 percent does in areas with high to moderate levels of deer. Because bucks and does are born into the population in equal numbers, they must be removed in fairly equal numbers if densities and sex ratios are to remain stable. However, since in most areas we do not harvest the sexes in equal numbers, some other factors are operating on the herds to limit deer numbers and regulate population characteristics. In many herds other primary factors regulating populations include illegal hunting, poaching, and firelighting. Too often, persons participating in these activities are categorized as "hunters," but they are not hunters, they are law violators. Whether they are taking a few surplus animals from populations with high densities or whether they are limiting the growth and expansion of herds with low numbers, these thieves are stealing a portion of the resource that belongs to every Tar Heel citizen, and they should be penalized severely by the courts as well as by their peers in the community. Additional causes of non-hunting mortality include automobiles, parasite and disease organisms, depredation kills, and a host of other factors like fences, dogs, and mowing machinery. The severity of the losses and their impact on most well-established and hunted deer herds are usually minor. However, there are certain situations in which factors such as poaching and free­-ranging dogs can prevent the establishment and expansion of deer populations. Regardless of the situation, in most areas of the state much of the mortality associated with these non­harvest mortality agents can be minimized by allowing hunters to remove a greater portion of the available annual surplus. In other words, legal hunting helps reduce some of the losses to these other factors." 5

However, in residential areas, hunting may not always be an option. There are several methods being looked at as potential solutions.

And for you hunters, here is some interesting information you may or may not be aware of:

Hunters for the Hungry
"The North Carolina Hunters for the Hungry, Inc (NCHFTH) is a voluntary, nonprofit corporation which exists for the following purposes:

  • To provide venison from North Carolina licensed meat processors to food relief organizations for the purpose of feeding the hungry people of North Carolina.
  • To compensate North Carolina licensed meat processors for processing legally harvested info venison burger.
  • To encourage North Carolina hunters to donate legally harvested deer to NC. Licensed meat processors.
  • To seek resources of revenue to compensate NC licensed meat processors.
  • To encourage the formation of individual chapters throughout North Carolina.

How it Works 

Why Deer?

  • America's deer population, which numbered 20 million in 1990, has increased to 34 million in 2000. (over one million in N.C.)
  • Crop damage sustained by farmers and deer-auto collisions have risen dramatically.
  • The NC and other state Wildlife Resources Commission have increased the harvest limits.
  • Hunting was found to be the only cost effective method of controlling and maintaining a stable deer population.
  • These factors have resulted in a surplus of nutritious venison that can be utilized to help feed the hungry in North Carolina." 6

There is also "an ongoing and continued effort to prevent Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from infecting North Carolina's resident deer population, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding hunters to use extreme caution in importing out-of-state harvests. Currently, there is no reported incidence of CWD in North Carolina. The Commission needs hunter cooperation to help prevent this dangerous disease from infiltrating the state's deer population. This is a devastating, always fatal disease, and this warning is another precaution the Commission has taken to minimize the chances of CWD entering the state and becoming established in North Carolina,' said Evin Stanford, the Commission's deer biologist. According to state law enacted in early 2006, it is illegal to import the carcass or carcass parts of a cervid - meaning any member of the deer family, such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk or moose - from any state or province where CWD occurs unless specific precautions are taken. The purpose of this law is to prevent potentially dangerous, infective tissues, such as the brain, spinal cord and nervous system tissues, from entering the Tar Heel state. Legal implications most often arise when a hunter brings an out-of-state carcass to a North Carolina processing facility for butchering or tries to deliver an out-of-state cervid to a North Carolina taxidermist. However, there are safe, legal methods for hunters to import a harvest, even when taken from a location with documented cases of CWD.

A carcass or carcass part may be transported if it is:

  • * Cut and wrapped
  • * Meat that has been boned out
  • * Caped hides * Cleaned skull plates
  • * In quarters or portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached
  • * Antlers
  • * Cleaned teeth
  • * A finished taxidermy product

Additional restrictions that apply to cervid carcasses, carcass parts or processed meat packages entering the state of North Carolina include labeling with the following:

  • * Hunter's name and address
  • * State or province of origin
  • * Date of harvest and the hunter's hunting license number from the state of origin
  • * Destination of the package

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is constantly watchful for animals that fit the clinical profile for CWD. Individuals observing animals displaying CWD symptoms should contact the Commission so that agency biologists can determine if it is necessary to test the animal for CWD. Symptoms of the disease include:

  • * Extreme weight loss
  • * Excessive salivation, drooling, drinking or urination
  • * Listlessness
  • * Lowering of the head
  • * Blank facial expressions
  • * Repetitive walking in set patterns
  • * Lack of coordination or other displays of neurological disease

Although CWD is 100 percent fatal in cervids, there is no evidence to suggest that humans are susceptible to infection. However, experts do not recommend consuming meat from animals afflicted with the disease. For a current list and map of states or provinces with documented cases of the disease visit the Web site of the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance at West Virginia is currently the nearest state to North Carolina with documented instances of CWD. As of September 2007, the following states had documented cases of CWD: New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Chronic Wasting Disease has also been found in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan." 7

And, can deer hunting be dangerous to your health?According to some research, it can.

"Researchers reporting in American Journal of Cardiology have found that deer hunting can be a dangerous endeavors for middle age men especially those who are already experiencing some heart issues. Researches followed 25 middle age deer hunters and found the activities associated with deer hunting; walking over rough ground, shooting, and dragging the animal out of the woods caused a significant rise in the subjects' heart rates. Many of these rises were greater than any achieved during treadmill stress tests.

The combination of physical exertion, adrenaline rush, and the stress of rough terrain and cold weather may explain the 'excessive cardiac demands' seen with hunting, according to Haapaniemi's team. What's more, they point out, most of the men in the study were taking part in an exercise program to treat their heart disease, or were regularly physically active. Hunting could be an even greater strain on the heart in men who are usually sedentary, the researchers note. (Scientific America)I think anyone that has been hunting for a while probably has knowledge of at least one person that has had a heart attack while hunting or other significant cardiac issue. People need to know their limits and should actively prepare for the upcoming season by getting some exercise. I know the guys I hunt with we help each other get deer out of the woods so no one has the strain of doing it all themselves. Now is the time to start preparing because the season will be here before we know it and we certainly don't want to be a statistic."

If you are a deer hunter, then you should be aware that there are many laws and regulations governing the sport. You should always keep up to date on any changes being made. Some of the biggest changes being proposed currently have fueled many hunters to speak up on the issue.

"North Carolina Wildlife Commissioners met... in Raleigh and unveiled a plan to revise the deer hunting season for 2009. The proposal will allow gun hunting for the entire deer season beginning early in September through Jan. 1. This will apply to private property only. Some hunters fear that the regular bow and muzzle-loader seasons will be eliminated everywhere in the state except on selected game lands. The proposal, if approved, will also extend the deer season in far western counties where deer populations are sparse. This proposal also will give property owners the right to use their weapon of choice on their property statewide during the entire deer season. It means that many hunters will gun hunt as much as 10 weeks earlier across the state. Many bow hunters and muzzle-loader hunters are fearful that the proposal will force deer into nocturnal activity much sooner, thus depriving them of quality hunting time. Many private property owners will also not be pleased with this change either as it will mean more intrusion by more hunters earlier in the year. More gun hunting also means the probability of more hunting accidents. Opponents say the proposal stems from two sources: 1) insurance companies worried about increasing deer-related traffic accidents, and 2) larger cities that have a high number of deer/motor vehicle collisions. But, many of these same municipalities apparently aren't willing to consider utilizing urban deer seasons that will help control deer populations. Insurance companies want action too, but have contributed little except lip service to help solve the problems. Bow hunters and muzzle-loader hunters should be concerned that this proposal will do great harm to their sport. It could create a downward trend in huntable deer populations. It also is likely to create a downward trend in the sale of archery and muzzle-loader weapons and accessories. Tim Bloodworth, manager of the Bass Pro Shops in Concord, says it may actually put his company's archery and muzzle-loader divisions out of business. Many small archery & sports shops may be forced to close their doors. This change is too dramatic of a change. The WRC enacted new legislation just last year to help combat the growing deer populations with the unlimited bonus antlerless deer tags and the urban archery seasons. They should give these programs at least a few years to see if they have an impact on curbing deer population growth.The commissioners also want to legalize Sunday bow hunting and falconry hunting. Another item on their agenda is to open turkey season one week earlier in the spring statewide. National Wild Turkey Federation chapters and members have indicated they will oppose this move."

Here is a rebuttal from one fellow hunter... I would hate to think that on September 13 this year I would hear high-powered rifles going off around my favorite bowhunting stand...but that may the direction that the NCWRC is moving in the next few years. In response to the proposed changes of a any-weapons season across the state, I will state my stand on the issue.  I do not have so much a problem with extending out the mountain hunting season district to match up with the central hunting season...but I would not like to see the central and mountain districts both move to match the eastern hunting season schedule (basically takes away 3 weeks of bow season and replaces it with rifle season).  A longer mountain deer hunting season would help ease some deer density issues that the region is experiencing. The bigger issue - any weapon legal on private lands from September “archery” opener until January 1.  I absolutely oppose the proposal.First, we have primitive weapons seasons for a reason…it is tradition, many hunters live for that time of year, enables archery hunters to pursue un-pressured deer, generates revenue for many sporting goods stores and archery stores.  These businesses would take a huge hit if exclusive archery seasons were eliminated. Second, deer harvest will not increase for many reasons.  Hunters are going to still kill their 2 or 3 deer (often 2 or 3 immature bucks) and be done for the year - it will just happen 2 months earlier in the calendar year.  They won't kill a deer or two more per year just because they can carry a gun for 2 additional months. Third, during the rut, which is usually the peak of harvest because deer are most vulnerable, hunting will be extremely difficult because deer have been pressured for 2 months already, causing an overall drop in harvests. Fourth, the age structure of the buck population will be altered.  Instead of archery hunters taking their fair share of mature bucks, then gun/muzzle loader hunters following up with 2 or 3 weeks of high 'trophy' kill rate, the first week or two of September hunting season will be when most of the mature bucks will be killed.  After 2 months of hunting pressure, mature does and bucks will be very difficult creatures to kill - even with the rut in full swing.  This could go so far as to alter breeding behavior. Instead of the proposed changes, the NCWRC should change the bag limit of eastern counties to 2 buck, 4 does for starters.  Additionally, changing the way hunters can use their tags will produce the greatest increase in overall deer harvest.  One option would be to require hunters to Earn-A-Buck tag by shooting an antlerless doe.  Another option would be to adopt a system like Maryland has in some counties.  I might be a little off on this, but you can shoot a buck before an antlerless harvest, but then require 2 more does to be tagged to receive your second buck tag.  Another avenue to increasing deer harvest is to increase hunter numbers…aggressively attack hunter recruitment by any number of state-sponsored and non-profit programs.  Any of those 4 choices would increase overall harvest and help reduce some of North Carolina's deer density problems. I could list some more reasons that I am opposed to the proposed regulations, but I'll leave it at that.  This process, if it continues, will be one of the most heated debates in recent history between hunters and the NCWRC, but time will tell..." 10

Furthermore, the North Carolina Bowhunters Association had this to say:

"We see a very big problem with this proposal for deer hunting and for ALL deer hunters.  It will have a devastating effect on both bow and muzzle loader seasons.  It will adversely affect the 'quality' of deer harvested, and the quality of the deer hunting experience itself for all deer hunters, not just the bow hunters and muzzle-loader hunters.  Deer that survive the first couple weeks of hunting will go nocturnal and be very difficult to pattern and hunt for the remaining 3 months of deer season. 'Rutting' activity would be non-existent in daytime. This could adversely affect the total harvest and actually reduce the annual deer harvest. Extending gun deer seasons will not result in hunters choosing to shoot more deer. This rule, if passed, will drastically reduce the demand for archery and muzzle-loading weapons, supplies and accessories and will adversely affect retail dealers of archery and muzzle-loader equipment. It will be devastating for bow hunters and muzzle-loader hunters alike, and for their respective sports. We urge our members to consider all these and other possible ramifications of this proposal and vote accordingly below.  We also encourage each and every one of you to contact all of your wildlife commissioners and let them know that the 'Deer Proposal' is not good for the resource, our deer.  Nor is it good for the quality of the sport of deer hunting in any form. We should also note that we oppose any further lengthening of any gun seasons that encroach upon our 'bow only' seasons, should this issue arise."

This seems to be an issue where most deer hunters will want to speak their mind to ensure the best solution for the hunters and the deer is chosen. In closing, I would like to say that I have known loss of human life due to vehicle-deer collisions and deer hunting accidents. I also know the joy found in the sport, so this is a subject that I am dedicated to. If you are going to hunt, do it smart; do it safe; and do it legal.

Here are some great links that may be useful!

NC Inland Fishing, Hunting, & Trapping Regulations Digest (Effective July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009)

General Regulations for North Carolina's deer hunters

Big Game Harvest and Reporting  starting on page 53

Current hunting with dogs/spotlighting regulations  on page 5

Current deer hunting seasons for NC  starting on page 37

2007 NC Deer Harvest Statistics

NC Accident & Fatality Report for 06-07

Free Hunting Safety Courses 

Survey of Deer Hunters in NC

Basic White-Tailed Deer Information

A brief history of deer in North Carolina

Deer Problems in Residential Areas

Suggestions on Ways to Avoid Deer-Vehicle Collisions

Deer Contraceptives?

Sources used: