White-tailed Deer


White-tail Deer Species Profile

Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
Abundance: Common throughout state


Additional Information


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.

Seasons & Limits


Deer Season Frameworks Evaluation

2023 Western Deer Season Zone Forums

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission hosted two forums in western North Carolina in March of 2023.  Staff provided this presentation on the current structure of the western deer season zone and how it relates to deer management objectives and outlined recommendations for a shift in season structure that could address these objectives.

Deer Management Goal, Objectives, and Regulation Proposal Evaluation Form


Distribution and Peak Rut Maps

Harvest Reports

Deer Cooperator Programs


(DMAP) Deer Management Assistance Program

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s (NCWRC) Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) was created to assist clubs in reaching their deer management and harvest goals through collection of biological data and issuance of antlered and/or antlerless tags.  Participating clubs must meet certain criteria to apply for DMAP, and deer harvested with program deer tags do not apply to seasonal bag limits.  In return, it is agreed that the club will collect predetermined data to assist the local wildlife biologist in making management decisions regarding the club’s deer herd and harvest.
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
  • Tags that that do not count towards season bag limits and are valid during any open deer season, regardless of the either-sex season in your county.


Application Requirements:

Applications can be obtained from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s deer web page (www.ncwildlife.org/deer) or by calling 919-707-0050.  Prior to submitting applications, contact your District Biologist to discuss your deer management objectives, harvest history, herd status, and property details.

The 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 Zones, and 1,000 contiguous acres for properties in the Central, Northeastern, and Southeastern Deer Season Zones.  Multiple landowners with adjoining properties 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.


Program Guidelines:

Deer 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 do not count towards season bag limits.

  • 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, harvest authorization #, harvest date, and antler measurements. 
  • 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.


Related Links

(CDMAP) Community Deer Management Assistance Program

The Community Deer Management Assistance Program (CDMAP) is a voluntary program administered by the Wildlife Resources Commission.  The primary objective of CDMAP is to reduce or maintain deer numbers in residential or other highly-developed areas to minimize human-deer conflicts while preserving or improving herd health.  To help communities accomplish this, CDMAP provides additional opportunity for licensed hunters to harvest deer on enrolled properties with landowner permission. 


Related Links


Deer Hunter Observation Survey

If you would like to participate in the annual Deer Hunter Observation Survey, please use this following form Deer Hunter Observation Survey.


Deer Hunter Observation Survey Results, 2014-2021

Deer Jawbone Submission

If you would like to participate in the annual Deer Jawbone Submission program, please complete the following enrollment form.  Volunteers will be mailed two Tyvek business-reply, postage paid envelopes prior to each hunting season.   Each jawbone should be dried before being sealed into the envelope.


Jawbones should be submitted from does and bucks of all ages, not just large deer or trophies.  


Biologists will estimate the age of each jawbone based on tooth replacement and tooth wear patterns.  The goal of this program is to estimate the age structure of the harvest.  Participants will receive a report with the estimated ages of their deer


Submission Options

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