Deer Hunting in North Carolina

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  • C
  • 1,100,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 230,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $39

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $200

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 181 7/8”

    Taken by Terry E. Daffron in Guilford County in 1987.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 33

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 228 4/8”

    Taken by Don C. Rockett in Person County in 1998.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 7

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

You can find great deer hunting in the hill country of North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Steven Davis)

Season Dates (2021):

Season dates are segmented and vary greatly for different areas of the state. Please check the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website to confirm season dates.

The Grade: C

Looking at data over the past 10 years, the harvest of trophy bucks and older age-class bucks in general has been relatively stable. There is potential in the state to grow bigger bucks, though. With over 2 million acres of public hunting access, with better management, even public hunting could get better in the future.

But for now, North Carolina isn’t a major producer of trophy bucks or jaw-dropping opportunities. Thus, it gets a C grade. However, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Deer Biologist Jonathan Shaw says they surveyed hunters to determine what they want in terms of deer management. So, that’s good news. Furthermore, he says the buck age structure and adult sex ratio continue to improve.

“Bag limit changes in 2018 have and continue to improve the buck age structure, adult sex ratio and have stabilized or increased deer numbers in most of the state,” Shaw said. “Some areas need additional changes in either-sex harvest opportunities to meet density objectives (increased deer numbers warrants increased antlerless harvest opportunity in some Western Zone counties, continued decline in deer numbers warrants decreased antlerless harvest in some Northeastern Zone counties).  Additionally, the timing of blackpowder and gun harvest relative to the timing of the peak rut continues to be an area where improvements are needed across the state, most notably in western North Carolina.”

Also, Shaw says that a ban on the use of natural cervid excrement to attract wildlife was proposed, but it is still being considered, and likely will not be effective during the 2020/21 deer season. He says this effort is focused on reducing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Antler Nation Knowledge:

Interested in a stud Tar Heel State buck? Certain counties have a better reputation than others. Ashe, Chatham, Durham, Forsyth, Granville, Guilford, Orange, Person, Rockingham, Stokes, and Wake counties are notable hotspots. Still, the best bet to take a trophy is in the northern Piedmont area of the state. Other good options are the counties along the Yadkin River and Pee Dee River.

Shaw notes an urban archery season, and obtaining permission from landowners within participating municipalities can produce solid opportunities at herds with older age structures. 

If public is your poison, though, best use available resources. Game lands and U.S. Forest Service lands abound. Use the interactive map to find a good place to go deer hunting.

Regardless of access types, according to Shaw, there is a lot of variation in the timing of the rut. This gives hunters who are willing to travel an opportunity to hunt peak-rut deer in numerous locations throughout the state, which plays out over several months.

North Carolina Harvests

  • Ashley Wallace

    Wake, North Carolina

  • Ashley Wallace

    Wake, North Carolina

From the Realtree Trophy Den