No wild animal in North Carolina is as recognizable as the white-tailed deer. Whether a mature buck with splendid antlers, a graceful doe or a spotted fawn running with its mother, the white-tailed deer is one of the most popular of animals.
A deer’s coat is usually a tannish brown, or some shade of brown, ranging almost to gray. It usually has a white patch on its neck and large prominent ears. Its eyes are circled with white and a white band rings the muzzle. The belly is white, with white running down the inside of the legs. The tail, about 9 to 11 inches long, is mostly brown although the underside is all white. The hooves have two toes covered with a hard fingernail-like material, and another toe, called the dew claw, appears about 3 inches high on the back of each leg.
Bucks, or male deer, grow and shed their antlers each year. Antlers range in size from little spikes that protrude from the skin, to larger “racks” that branch out to a variable number of points.
The white-tailed deer is a herbivorous animal. It will eat many green-leaved succulent plants and the tender new growths of stems and fruits. One of their most important food sources is acorns. White-tailed deer also forage on a variety of agricultural crops. Deer are so adaptable that they are found in almost any type of habitat. They like creek and river bottoms, oak ridges, pine forests, farmlands or any other type of habitat that offers food, water and cover.
North Carolina’s population of white-tailed deer is estimated at around 1 million animals. The state had a growing population of white-tailed deer until either-sex seasons were liberalized in the early 1990s. This liberalization of either-sex seasons across most areas of the state allowed for increased opportunity for sportsmen/women to harvest antlerless deer. The population trend of our state’s deer herd quickly stabilized and has actually started to decrease for most areas of the state. However, there are areas throughout the state where localized populations continue to increase. Those areas where populations are rapidly increasing are typically urban/suburban areas where the utilization of hunting as a management tool has been greatly hindered.
It is estimated that only 10,000 deer inhabited the state in 1900. North Carolina's major efforts to restore our state's deer resource took place in the 1940s through the 1970s. Our state's restoration program was responsible for stocking approximately 4,000 deer throughout the state.
The cost of our state's white-tailed deer restoration program has been conservatively estimated at $1.2 million (in 1950-1970 dollars). Today, North Carolina sportsmen/women spend approximately $311 million on deer-related hunting expenses every year.
More people hunt white-tailed deer than any other game species in North Carolina. Each year approximately 250,000 sportsmen/women take more than 2.9 million trips afield in pursuit of deer.
The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) is designed to assist participants with achieving their deer management objectives. While some DMAP participants may be interested in simply reducing deer densities, others may be more concerned with the development of a quality deer management program. Some may be interested in cooperating with their neighbors to effectively manage deer on a larger scale. Whatever your management objectives are, DMAP provides both flexibility and professional assistance to develop an effective deer management strategy. Benefits of the program include:
- Professional assistance from a North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission biologist
- A structured data collection program to better evaluate the condition of your herd, to make science-based management decisions, and to track the long-term success of your program
- Antlerless (i.e., doe & button buck) tags that are valid during any open deer season, regardless of the either-sex season in your county.
Applications can be obtained from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website (www.ncwildlife.org) or by calling 919-707-0050. Following are general application requirements and instructions.
- A $50.00 processing fee must accompany each application.
- The minimum acreage requirement is 500 contiguous acres for properties in the Western and Northwestern Deer Season areas and 1,000 contiguous acres for properties in the Central and Eastern Deer Season areas. Multiple landowners with adjoining property can apply together to meet this requirement.
- New applicants must submit an 8½” x 11” map illustrating the location of the property. A map does not have to be submitted for renewal applications, unless there has been a change in the property enrolled.
- Applications must be received by August 1 to ensure antlerless tags are issued by the opening of deer season.
Antlerless deer (i.e., does and button bucks) harvested on enrolled properties must be tagged with provided DMAP tags or be validated with the hunter’s big game harvest report card. DMAP tags can be used at any time during any open deer season, and daily and season bag limits do not apply.
- Antlered buck harvests must be validated on the big game harvest report card issued with the hunter’s license. Daily and season antlered buck bag limits for the general hunting season apply on DMAP properties.
- All harvests must be registered with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
- Biological data must be collected from each deer harvested. Data to be collected include sex, weight in pounds, number of antler points, antler circumference, and inside antler spread. Antler circumference and spread must be measured in millimeters using the measuring tape provided.
- A jawbone must be removed from each harvested deer for age determination. Datasheets and jawbones will be transferred to the assisting biologist at the end of the hunting season.