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Wildlife Commission biologists will share a recently completed biological evaluation of the state’s deer herd, including the average ages of bucks and does harvested, the peak breeding dates, and the timing of the harvest. Discussion will include how each of these can play a role in determining the future of deer management in North Carolina as well as other topics of interest to deer hunters. Commissioners and staff will welcome questions and discussion on the future of deer hunting and deer management in North Carolina.

“White-tailed deer are the most popular hunted species in North Carolina, with more than 200,000 hunters annually taking to the field in pursuit of deer,” said Brad Howard, a wildlife biologist with the Commission. “The forums are excellent opportunities for North Carolinians to learn about deer in their respective parts of the state. We also want to provide an opportunity for deer hunters and other stakeholders to discuss deer-management issues as we plan for the future.” The District 9 forum will be conducted June 23 at Haywood Community College in Clyde from 7 – 9 p.m. I hope a lot of hunters show up to encourage the WRC to put more pressure on the U.S. Forest Service to do a better job of managing for wildlife habitat. In my mind, that is the most critical issue facing District 9 deer hunters.

At its most recent full Commission meeting in Raleigh, Commissioners reviewed several proposals for land purchases to add to the Game Lands system. One of those under consideration is called the Caldwell Tract which is 60 contiguous acres that butts up against Cold Mountain Game Lands in Haywood County. According to the WRC ranking system that establishes importance of purchase, this one got a 5 of 5, the highest ranking. I think Cold Mountain Game Lands has the most potential for all around mountain game habitat. Sandy Mush has great upland game habitat with its open fields, but Cold Mountain is higher elevation and mostly wooded. I hope they approve the purchase.

Delayed Harvest trout water conversion is just around the corner. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will open 31 trout streams and two lakes classified as delayed-harvest trout waters under hatchery-supported regulations on June 6. From 6 a.m. until 11:59 a.m. on June 6, delayed-harvest trout waters are open only to anglers 15 years old and younger. At noon, waters open to all anglers. Delayed-harvest waters will stay open under hatchery-supported regulations through Sept. 30. During this time, anglers can keep up to seven trout per day — with no bait restrictions and no minimum size limits.

We’ve written about U.S. Forest Service lack of support for wildlife habitat. In what many consider a long overdue move, the Ruffed Grouse Society recently took action. RGS has filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) due to the agency’s consistent failure to provide the young forest habitats required by the ruffed grouse, American woodcock, golden-winged warbler and other game and nongame wildlife on national forests throughout the eastern United States. “The failure of national forests in Regions 8 and 9 to meet even their own minimum goals for young forest habitats has contributed to substantial declines in the populations of game and nongame wildlife that depend upon these habitats.” said RGS President and CEO John Eichinger.

The Pisgah/Nantahala National Forests falls within Region 8, headquartered in Atlanta. We have discussed in detail the deplorable state of wildlife habitat in our mountain forests. While USFS goals are 5 – 15 percent depending on Management Area, total young forest growth is barely one percent. The Petition for Rulemaking will require the USFS to answer why it has not implemented its plan for wildlife habitat in Districts 8 and 9 and what it will do to correct its failure to implement those plans. This is a legal filing but short of a lawsuit. I’m not sure how long the USFS has to respond to the Petition, but I do know this. They now know we are watching. Environmentalists have no concern for wildlife, but real conservation groups are watching their actions and won’t put up with ignoring habitat any longer.

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