By Don Mallicoat- The NC WRC released the deer harvest results for this past season. This report contains both good and not so good news. There is also some amazing news. The full report can be found on the Commission’s website, www.ncwildlife.org. First we’ll look at some of the high level information. The statewide deer harvest was up slightly from the previous year by about 8 percent. That follows a significant drop during the 2013 – 2014 season. But first the amazing news.
In addition to this year’s report, the Commission published results by District showing a comparison to the 10 year average. District 9, covering most of the mountain region, showed an unbelievable 59.6% change from that average. That’s the amazing news. No other District came close. Our next door neighbor, District 8 which includes some mountain counties, was closest with a 26.5% increase over the long term average. Something is changing with habitat on private land (more on this later). But the devil is in the details. Let’s break it down.
The good news is Madison County led District 9 in the number of deer harvested with a total of 1,087 reported. Of that total, 968 were on private land and only 119 on Game Lands. The vast majority of those were taken during the rifle season, although nearly one-third were harvested using a bow or crossbow. Polk County came in second with a total harvest of 945 deer, again with most taking during gun season. Buncombe County followed up with 818 total deer. One big difference is that closer to 45% of those were brought down with either bow or crossbow. That may have something to do with Buncombe having more urban area. Yancey County is in District 8 but right on the heels of Madison with a total 1080 deer.
Now the not so good news. The Commission also reports harvest data by Game Lands. Remember, we have nearly half of the Game Lands in the state with the Pisgah/Nantahala National Forests, one million acres. These results should get hunters up in arms. The total number of deer reported taken on the Pisgah National Forest was 496. That number on the Nantahala was 554. That’s 1050 deer, or one deer per one thousand acres. It should be a red flag to both the National Forest and WRC leadership that habitat on those Forests are not meeting the needs of wildlife. With a 60% rise of harvest District wide, and low harvest on public lands, this indicates deer are moving off poor habitat National Forests onto private lands. Something needs to be done, and soon.
Another note about deer. I was talking with a WRC Enforcement officer last week who said they have seen several cases of Blue Tongue disease among deer in Madison County. This was confirmed by a private landowner who said he had found several dead deer on his property. The disease is carried by mites and transmitted from deer to deer. In its advanced stage Blue Tongue causes a swelling of the throat and tongue choking the deer. Most deer affected are found dead near a water source. If you find one, please report it to the WRC hotline at 866-318-2401.
Opening day of Hatchery Supported trout season was this past Saturday, April 7th. The season will run through Feb. 28, 2019.While fishing on Hatchery Supported Trout Waters, anglers can harvest a maximum of seven trout per day, with no minimum size limits or bait restrictions. Hatchery Supported Trout Waters, which are marked by green-and-white signs, were closed from March 1 until April 6 so that Commission staff could stock the waters with trout. Staff will continue to stock certain streams through June.
The Commission will stock many of these waters monthly, although they will stock some heavily fished waters more frequently. Over the four months, staff will stock nearly 916,000 trout — 96 percent of which will average 10 inches in length, with the other 4 percent exceeding 14 inches in length. In Madison County we are fortunate to have several Hatchery Supported waters: Big Laurel, Spring Creek, and Meadow Fork Creek being some of the more popular. There are others that can be found at the WRC website under the Fishing tab. You can also find the stocking schedule there. It’s time to cast for some trout!