Seasons & Limits
Occupied Range Expansion
1971 - 2010
2010 Distribution Map
2005 Distribution Map
2010 Distribution Map
There are nine species of resident small game in North Carolina including, three species of rabbits (Eastern cottontail, Appalachian cottontail, and marsh rabbit), three squirrels (fox, red and gray squirrels) and three birds (quail, grouse and pheasants). Many differences exist between the species including their distributions, abundances, and future conservation challenges. Information about other types of small game species, including woodcock, doves, groundhogs, etc., can be found in other parts of this website.
Habitat changes over the past 40-50 years have presented the greatest challenge to management, and for the most part, have been detrimental to small game. Conservation challenges include urban growth, habitat fragmentation, exotic plants and insects, incompatible farming and forestry practices, and unchecked forest succession. Currently, undisturbed maturing forest conditions are beneficial for most squirrel species. However, habitats are deteriorating for bobwhite quail and grouse which are dependent upon early successional conditions. Remnant populations of pheasants, a non-native gamebird, also continue to decline on the Outer Banks where larger populations once existed.
In situations where habitat is created for these species, small game populations are often quick to respond due to their high reproductive rates and ability to colonize new areas. To address recent declines of these species dependent on early successional habitat, the Wildlife Resource commission has developed programs such as the CURE (Cooperative Upland Habitat Restoration and Enhancement) program.
Many people hunt small game species in North Carolina. Each year approximately 150,000 sportsmen/ sportswomen take more than 1.0 million trips afield in pursuit of resident small game species. Based on a survey of hunters during a recent hunting season, it was estimated that hunters harvested approximately 8,750 grouse, 230,000 quail, 382,500 rabbits, and 482,000 squirrels in North Carolina
North Carolina has long been known for the diversity and numbers of waterfowl which breed or spend the winter in the Tarheel state. It is just as well known for its rich waterfowling traditions as exhibited in its decoy art. Hundreds of miles of coastal marshes, coastal and inland swamps, small ponds and large lakes host a great diversity of waterfowl species.
2014-15 Hunting Regulations & Season Information (PDF)
Webless Migratory Birds and Early Season Waterfowl – tri-fold brochure (PDF)
2014-15 Regular Season Waterfowl Occurring After September 30 (Ducks, Geese, Swan) (PDF)
2014-15 Regular Season Waterfowl – tri-fold brochure (PDF)
2014-15 Extended Falconry Seasons (PDF)
2014-15 North Carolina Goose Zones Map (PDF)
Tundra Swan Information
Waterfowl Additional Information
This section contains information regarding migratory game birds other than waterfowl. Among others, these include doves, woodcock, rails and snipe. North Carolina has abundant opportunities to pursue these species and dove hunting is extremely popular throughout the state. North Carolina typically ranks in the top 10 states for annual harvest of mourning doves. Hunting pressure for woodcock and snipe is typically much lower but these birds can be found throughout the state where suitable habitat exists. Hunting for rails can occur anywhere along the immediate coast with higher success in the southeastern portion of the state.
2014-15 Dove / Webless Migratory Birds and Early Season Waterfowl (Canada Geese, Dove, Rails, Woodcock, etc.) (PDF)
Additional Webless Migratory Game Bird Information – doves, woodcock, snipe and rails
2015-2016 Big Game Pre-Season Dates (PDF)
2015-2016 Other Species Pre-Season Dates (PDF)