This dates me as an official “Old Timer” as far as hunters go but I well remember when it was relatively rare to even see a whitetail deer in Eastern North Carolina. Today the whitetail deer are so abundant that they have literally become a problem in many sections of the United States.
Whitetail deer seem to have adapted well to man’s intrusion into their habitat and, wherever you find agricultural fields close by woodlands, the deer thrive. The combination of lush fields of grains and other crops such as alfalfa or clover offer all the nourishing food a deer needs and thickets of woodlands nearby offer the deer places to rest. Water resources complete the deer’s basic needs and, without the usual predators such as cougars and wolves, the deer are thriving. We presently have more deer in America than at any other time in our nation’s history and man has become the top predator in this ecosystem
In some municipalities deer are such a problem that these towns have hired professional hunters to move into the towns with their archery gear and try and quietly remove (read that “kill”) a large percentage of the deer from town. The hunters are highly trained and they do their “pest removal” efficiently and silently as they haul the harvested deer carcasses off to the butcher for processing as meals for Hunters For The Hungry.
Municipalities aren’t the only areas where deer are a problem. Automobile insurance agencies routinely process claims for drivers whose vehicles have been smashed when they hit deer on the highways. It’s rare these days to meet a motorist that hasn’t tangled with a deer on our roadways.
North Carolina’s farmers are also experiencing major problems with deer that find fields of peanuts, cotton (yep, deer have learned to eat cotton foliage) and other crops to their liking too. The farmers have the right here to kill deer that are in their fields eating valuable crops. This legalized killing is called “animal depredation” and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission issues depredation permits to farmers who want to limit their losses to deer (and other animals such as black bear). It seems like a terrible waste of our natural resources when we hear about farmers shooting hundreds of deer every year and leaving the carcasses either in the field for the buzzards to eat or having to cart the dead deer off to the dump.
Several years ago the National Park Service was hiring professional hunters to try and kill off the wild boar up in the mountains of North Carolina. Like the whitetail deer these animals found plenty of food and protection in the parks and actually became a threat to the tourists. Problems arose when the park service officials found out that their hired hunters were gut shooting the wild hogs on purpose so that these animals would crawl off into laurel thickets to die and the hunters wouldn’t have to dispose of the carcasses. Any ethical hunter strives to take his prey quickly with his weapon of choice. Watching animals die a slow, painful death is frowned upon. The park service quickly stopped using these hunters to control the hogs.
The Wildlife Commission (NCWRC) is holding public hearings concerning the issuance of depredation permits and the practice of allowing landowners to kill deer (or other animals) that are destroying their property or crops. There’s no question that this crop (or property) damage is happening. The question seems to be just how the NCWRC is to manage these depredation problems.
The North Carolina Bow Hunters Association is very concerned with two proposals that are pending in our legislature. Ramon Bell is the president of this bow hunter’s group and states, “The NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is considering removing already very minimal requirements to obtain a depredation permit to kill deer and other animals that cause damage to property. If they approve these proposals, it will reinforce existing state law that already allows anyone to shoot animals that are in the act of destroying property, day and night, even with the use of artificial lights. “We (NCBA) have no problems with this law, as people should have the right to protect their property, especially farmers, who depend on harvesting crops to earn a living. The issues for us are the methods condoned and utilized in killing deer. This is most prevalent in the eastern and rural areas of the state where a lot of farming exists. But the law applies everywhere in the state.”
Ramon Bell also has deep concerns with the methods some landowners are using to remove deer from their fields. He states, “The method used is simple. Shoot deer with a .22 caliber rifle in the paunch (gut). This does not kill the animal quickly. It runs off to a secluded place and dies a slow and inhumane death. The landowner doesn’t have to dispose of the carcass. “Several years ago, I was canoeing up the Deep River in Chatham County bowfishing. I counted six dead deer floating in the river adjacent to corn and soybean fields. This was in July or August. There’s only one way they could have gotten there. They were shot in the fields and went to water to die. That’s what gut shot deer do. “Having read the NCWRC’s two proposals (H19 & H20), I think you can shoot turkey too, in addition to deer, and it appears all you gotta say is that “they were eating my crops.” Deer aren’t the only big game animal that’s being killed as they destroy crops. Our ever-growing population of black bears is causing problems in the eastern part of N.C. as well. Ramon Bell also realizes that this is a problem and feels that, “We (the NCBHA) have been asking for a early archery only, or primitive weapons bear season for years, but nothing happens. It appears that there are enough bears to issue depredation permits in some areas but still no early bear season when crops are still in the fields and depredation is occurring, even for still and stand gun hunters. “Legitimate hunters could be afforded the opportunity to legally hunt these bears, but as the bear population continues to increase, what is the WRC going to do?… issue more depredation permits? Any thinning of the bear population should be done by licensed hunters with a bear tag… not a depredation permit.”
“I think bear and alligator are the only 2 species mentioned in the proposal as still requiring a depredation permit, but if they also do away with the $50 minimum, (which was a farce), I guess you’ll just have to show some damage to get a permit, or to just to go ahead and shoot a deer? But just because a deer is on your property, it shouldn’t automatically be a free pass to shoot it. And, of course, we are concerned too with the outright poaching possibilities of it too, if this is approved.
“We feel the WRC could do two things to remedy this situation, that we strongly feel is unethical, inhumane, unacceptable and wasteful of our wildlife resources.
First, they should prohibit deer from being shot with any rim-fire cartridge or shotgun under the deer depredation laws. Only center-fire ammunition of a caliber capable of dispatching the animal quickly, on the spot, should be allowed. This will facilitate the recovery of the carcass so it can be processed for human consumption by people who need and could use it. The new regulation does allow for all carcasses to be retrieved, and that is a good thing! Secondly, the WRC should encourage (or require) landowners to allow anyone to retrieve the carcasses on site when they are shot. “Current hunting regulations prohibit hunters from using rimfire (.22 caliber) ammunition. This regulation should apply to the killing of deer, and all big game animals under all circumstances, including the depredation laws. It is simply the right, ethical and humane thing to do. Anything less sheds an unfavorable light on the reputation and integrity of the WRC itself for condoning this practice, and hunters as well by the non-hunting public, many who will not make the distinction between legitimate and ethical hunters and those who shoot deer unethically under depredation laws.”