Proposed changes to deer, bear hunting seasons aim to better manage populations

(Wildlife Resources Commission)

JACKSON COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) - North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission is proposing changes to the state's deer and bear hunting seasons. The goal is to try to better manage the populations and, at the same time, improve hunter satisfaction.

One proposal would eliminate two weeks of muzzle-loading deer hunting season in October and have one week of muzzle-loading hunting the week of Thanksgiving.

Rifle season for deer would start after Thanksgiving week, but double the current three weeks into early January.

The commission said that would allow young bucks to grow bigger.

“We kind of wanted to change our seasons to that to give people more opportunity to harvest these mature bucks,” Lt. Andrew Helton with the Wildlife Commission said.

But some hunters worry about the impact.

“Now, they're opening up gun season, taking does and what you're going to see is everything that we've worked for, trying to limit our harvest and get the deer population up, is about to be taken away,” hunter Austin Neary said.

Another proposal would allow deer and bear hunting seasons in the mountains to overlap. Some hunters worry bear dogs would scare away deer or create conflict. Helton said the commission is adjusting its ideas.

“On the proposal, looking at opening bear season up two weeks early,” he said. Helton said under that idea, bear season would begin Oct. 1.

Neary still worries about depleting the population.

“I don't think the bear population is near what they think it is,” he said.

Helton told News 13 all input is valued. “We'll come up with what we feel is best for our deer herd and what is best for the public," he explained.

Input on the proposed changes is welcome at two more public hearings, one in Elkin on Feb. 21 and another in Morganton Feb. 22.

Online comment is also available until Feb 22.

The Wildlife Commission will meet Feb. 28 to decide which proposals to approve. Any changes will take effect Aug. 1.

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