Tar Heel deer hunters had an average year in 2012, harvesting 167,249 of the state’s estimated 1.1 million whitetails. No records were set, and most hunters can expect the 2013 deer hunting season will be similar to those in recent years.

(See our National Deer Forecast 2013 here.)

“The only exception is likely in some areas of the western Piedmont that were hit hard with hemorrhagic disease last year,” explained Evin Stanford, a research biologist for the state Wildlife Resources Commission. “Extremely high morality in some of these areas has likely resulted in decreased deer densities for the short term, but we anticipate that deer herds will rebound in the next couple of years.”

Three counties experienced high deer losses due to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), with whitetails in Caldwell, Surry and Wilkes falling by the hundreds. Hunters looking for areas with higher deer densities should focus their efforts on the Upper Coastal Plain and Piedmont.

“Hunters who are seeking high quality deer to hunt should focus on the Northern Piedmont and Foothills areas,” Stanford added.

Public Land
There are no major deer hunting regulation changes to report. Wherever you choose to hunt, you’ll find plenty of public land to hunt on. In the Mountains Region, the South Mountains Game Land in Burke, Cleveland, McDowell and Rutherford counties offers 21,446 acres for hunting, while the Uwharrie Game Land in the Piedmont provides 50,189 acres. Those in the Coastal Plain Region have 160,724 acres open to hunting at the Croatan Game Land. And you’ll need to obtain a hunting permit to access the Lower Roanoke River Wetlands and the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge found in Bertie and Martin counties.

Finally, if you haven’t hunted the Tar Heel State before, note that the average peak rut date for the Coastal Plain is around Oct. 27; Nov. 18 for the Piedmont; and Nov. 16 for the western and northwestern portions of the state.