DAN KIBLER COLUMN: Some hunters will face new laws this fall

Deer hunters across North Carolina – and particularly in northwest North Carolina and the northern Piedmont – will have to jump through a few more hoops because of chronic wasting disease, the fatal neurological disorder that showed up in a Yadkin County deer in 2021.

Dan Kibler

The N.C. The Wildlife Resources Commission announced last week that it has initiated rule-making and is accepting comments on rules to address CWD in some new areas.

A virtual hearing will be held on April 18 at 2:30 p.m. Sportsmen wishing to comment can register at www.ncwildlife-org.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_BGZ_r4hCST6YvuL2ngwS9Q.

Sportsmen can also comment through April 28 at www.ncwildlife.org/Proposed-Regulations.

The Commission has tested more than 10,000 whitetails across the state since July 1, 2022, plus thousands more deer before 2022, and 10 have tested positive.

The first deer that tested positive was a 2½-year-old buck killed during the 2021-22 season in northern Yadkin County. That set in motion a series of regulation changes from the Commission designed to try and keep the disease pinned in a relatively small area, and to ramp up testing in that area to determine the extent of the disease’s movement.

The Commission set up primary and secondary surveillance areas in Yadkin, Surry, Stokes, Forsyth, Davie and parts of Wilkes, Iredell and Alleghany counties.

Several more deer from Yadkin and Surry counties tested positive since the first buck showed up with CWD, and the Commission was able to keep its original surveillance areas – the primary being a circle with a 5-mile radius around the spot of the kill, the secondary being a circle with a 30-mile radius around the spot of the kill.

But this past season, the disease jumped the fire break the Commission set up in a big way. First, a deer from Cumberland County tested positive, then deer from Stokes and Wilkes counties tested positive. The location of those kills has forced the Commission to expand its surveillance zones to include new areas.

Addressed in the rule-making will be changes to regulations that add to the primary surveillance areas portions of Wilkes and Stokes counties in northwest North Carolina and Cumberland County in the Sandhills area. The regulation changes also extend secondary surveillance areas to include Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Guilford and Rockingham counties, along with Bladen, Harnett, Hoke, Robeson and Sampson counties.

In the surveillance zones, fawn rehabilitation is prohibited, the transfer of whitetail glands and produced secretions out of the area is prohibited, the transportation of deer carcasses out of the primary surveillance zones is prohibited with certain exceptions, supplemental feeding and baiting of any birds and wildlife, including mineral sites, is prohibited except from Sept. 1 to Jan. 10, and testing of all deer killed in the primary and secondary surveillance zones is required during certain periods during the season.

It often takes 18 months before a deer infected with CWD begins to show symptoms. The disease has been detected in 29 states and four Canadian provinces. There is no vaccine and no way to test live deer for the disease.

Youth turkey harvest may be up over 2022

Through the first two days of the youth-only spring wild turkey season, it appears that the harvest could be up over last season, based on N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission statistics.

Through April 3, hunters under the age of 18 had tagged 1,733 turkeys, including 1,527 longbeards and 266 jakes. The youth-only season lasts through April 7, before the regular season opens on April 8 for a four-week run.

Last spring, youth hunters took 1,777 turkeys during their week in the woods, including 1,439 longbeards and 338 jakes. With schools on spring break in many North Carolina counties, there appears to be a good chance that the 2023 harvest may approach 2,000 birds.

The record youth-season harvest was in 2020 – 2,763 birds – which foreshadowed the record statewide harvest of 23,431 birds. The 2021 harvest – the second-highest on record – was 21,974 birds, with 2,172 killed during the youth season.

Dan Kibler has covered the outdoors since 1985 as outdoors editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and later as managing editor of Carolina Sportsman until his retirement in 2021.