A high number of the 184 P&Y entries from North Carolina occurred during the last 10 years. From 1962 to 1997 North Carolina had only 61 total P&Y entries.
Not only has a new trend been set, but hunters continue to see positive results from the diligent efforts of state wildlife professionals, private land managers and more-informed and better-educated hunters.
However, today we face a question of whether positive results of quality deer management can continue. More importantly, will it do any good to continue these efforts if deer seasons are adjusted to suit someone's personal agenda?
From a quality-deer standpoint, the course we are on appears to be working, should be allowed to continue to work, and shouldn't be tampered with by making changes to traditional weapons seasons, especially before the onset of the whitetail rut in central and western N.C.
But commissioners of the N.C. Wildlife Commission were asked recently to do something about the quantity of deer in North Carolina. They've apparently come up with a proposal that may throw the baby out with the bath water.
The strongest cries for help have come from the insurance and agricultural industries and from large metropolitan areas across the state where dense populations of deer are coming into contact with humans, often through a grill or windshield of their vehicles. Crop and plant depredation are additional deer-created problems for farmers and urban dwellers, as deer browse night and day on edible plants.
However, for agricultural problems, the WRC already has "depredation" and DMAP permits that allow special harvests of excess deer. The permits most often are used at rural and urban areas near cities.
As with any deer or wildlife management program, this practice must continue to keep deer herd numbers in check. Deer are prolific breeders and will rebound from the effects of these programs in a couple years. They're also adaptable to habitats encompassing areas of dense human habitation.
But the point is the tools are already in place to deal with these problems. They simply need to be utilized.
Two new tools were introduced last year to help control and manage deer populations. One was free "bonus" antlerless deer tags. N.C.'s total deer harvest numbers increased 10 percent, including a 28-percent doe-harvest increase from 2007.
Bonus tags are the only possible explanation for the 28-percent increase in the doe harvest. Bonus tags are available this year, but they won't be free. Two tags will cost $10 but hunters may purchase as many as they want during the season.
Another new program introduced in 2007 was the Urban Archery Deer Season. Many city-dwellers think the program is only for smaller, rural towns but that's incorrect.
The program can help large cities and, in fact, was designed to aid metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham and other large municipalities. These cities would benefit most from adopting some form of urban deer management program.
These programs weren't something the WRC's staff pulled from their hats. Similar programs work at cities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states. Most deer/auto collisions occur at such population centers.
The insurance industry, as well as the motoring public, would reap the most benefits from this program. Because of the limited range and accuracy of the modern bow, it's a safe weapon and effective wildlife management tool.
There are no reported incidents of accidental shootings involving bow and arrow in North Carolina since records of hunting accidents have been kept.
It's certain bow and gun hunting already occurs inside the city limits of most municipalities, even though it currently isn't a legal activity.
Local urban deer management programs controlled by larger cities also could be a source of additional income for municipalities while allowing them to regulate who could hunt where within city limits. Presently, cities provide nothing less than deer sancturaries that serve as incubation areas for whitetails to multiply and increase unwanted contact with humans.
The Urban Archery season and bonus deer tags are new, innovative programs that help control deer populations, if given ample opportunity to work. One year is not long enough to show appreciable benefits. Time also is needed for the public to be educated about these programs.
The goal hunters have in common with the WRC is to bring the deer population problem under control, where necessary. The agency needs to view seasons and special opportunities for hunters as resources that can be utilized to accomplish its goals.
WRC wildlife managers and commissioners know this just as well as we do. But, the focus must be on managing doe harvests where they create the most problems.
One problem that exists is most hunters want to fill buck tags first. When that's done, many hang up their weapons for the rest of the season.
Opening more days to gun hunting earlier in the season, before the rut, won't solve that problem. It most likely will result in more deer being killed - but they will be the wrong deer, bucks, at the wrong places (rural lands where deer populations don't pose the same problems.)
If gun seasons are going to be lengthened, it should occur after the regular gun season closes (Jan. 1). The WRC commissioners' proposal (any weapon at private land from beginning to end of deer season) won't accomplish already-set goals and will ruin the quality of the deer hunting experience for everyone, as well as damage current quality deer management efforts just beginning to show results.
If the goal is to reduce the deer population by removing more does, several ideas are out there, in addition to bonus tags and Urban Deer seasons. The N.C. Bowhunters Association, along with other outdoor organizations and wildlife partners, have suggested the WRC consider a number of other approaches.
One is known as "Earn-A-Buck." It allows a hunter to take one buck, then he must take one or two does before being allowed to harvest a second buck. Another forces a hunter to take one or two does before he can take a buck.
But N.C.'s white-tail deer population problems can be solved without changing traditional opening dates for deer seasons.
The transition between bow, muzzle-loader and gun seasons are where they should be to afford all hunters prime time in the woods and quality hunting experiences.
Opening deer gun seasons earlier in the central and western seasons would have a drastic effect on hunting the rut by all deer hunters, regardless of the weapon of choice. Most importantly, it would result in the harvest of too many bucks too soon in the year and too early in their life cycle to allow them to mature into quality animals.
Opening gun season earlier appears to be an attractive option, but it's a quick-fix that will have negative effects on achieving the WRC's primary goal.
Management tools to handle deer already are in place. We simply need to utilize them to their full potential, and most importantly, give them time to work.
South Carolina is noted for its long gun seasons and is a prime example of how not to manage a deer population.
It hasn't worked there, and it won't work here.