Outdoors

Sunday Hunting, Public Input Welcome

Asheville We’ve mentioned before in this column that the NC WRC is moving forward on implementing Sunday hunting on public land. Starting December 1st the WRC opened up an online survey to get public comment on the proposal that will also be part of the 2021-22 Game regulations. If you would like to comment, there is a link to the survey ncwildlife.org/Hunting/Where-to-Hunt/Public-Opinion-Survey. The online survey will be open through February 1, 2021.

The Commission has also opened up online comments for the proposed regulation changes for the 2021-22 hunting, fishing, and trapping seasons. The link to provide online comments can be found on their website ncwildlife.org/proposed-regulations. Because of Covid-19, it looks like there will be no in-person public hearings this year. They will, however, be hosting an online public hearing for anyone interested. It will be conducted on January 21, 2021, at 6:30 pm. The link to that is on the same page. I’m sure there will be more reminders before that date.

Seasonal Hunts

The regular deer season is over, ending January 1st. I went into the Commissions website to look at the real time harvest reports. This is not their final season report, but a look at harvest data as of January 1st. By all indications, the harvest in our area continues to grow. Buncombe County had another banner year. At the end of the season, a total of 1,252 had been bagged, compared to the three year average of 901. That’s 28% above the three-year average. The data provide a further breakdown. The antlered buck harvest was 817 with a three year average of 610, a nearly 25 percent increase. The doe harvest increased by nearly 32 percent, with 389 bagged compared to the average of 260.

Next door in Madison County we saw similar increases, maybe not quite as dramatic. Their total deer harvest was 1,518 against the three-year average of 1,233, a 19 percent increase. Antlered buck harvest increased by 17%, 1,061 compared to an average of 884. The biggest increase was in doe harvest, 424 against an average of 314, a 26% increase.

These increasing numbers are reflective of a trend in the mountains. The total deer harvest in the Western region this season was 14,317 compared to a three-year average of 11,567. That’s an overall increase of 18 percent. But we need context which will come with the final report. What we don’t have until then is a further breakdown on private versus public land by game Land. With over one million acres of National Forest, we don’t have a good track record there. In past years, the total harvest on both Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests was about 1,000 deer. If you do the math that’s about one deer per one thousand acres. Along with other wildlife observation data, this makes a very strong case for more active forest management for wildlife.

Surge in Gun Ownership

On another note, shooters and hunters are asking, “Where’s all the ammo?” It’s tough finding ammo for target shooting, even standard shotgun target loads in 12 and 20 gauge. Don’t even talk about pistol ammo. The answer is economics: supply and demand. Conspiracy theories abound, all of them refuted by the major ammo manufacturers. They say ammo is shipping out the same day or day after it is produced. We’ve had a confluence of events starting with COVID-19 shutdowns that have led to a perfect storm that’s impacted availability.

A surge in home and self-defense interest from Covid and civil unrest brought over 5 million new gun owners to the market since March. If each of them bought two boxes of ammo you can start to see the impact. Even if they didn’t shoot since they bought a gun, that’s 10 million boxes of ammo the manufacturers didn’t anticipate. Then existing gun owners went and stocked up with similar concerns after the riots and looting in large cities. 

In the middle of this Remington Outdoor Group, going through bankruptcy proceedings, shut down their huge Arkansas facility which has since reopened. That still removed a big link in the supply chain for a short time during a critical period. Add to that increased interest in all outdoor activity, including shooting sports, since Covid restrictions and the picture comes together. There is no short term fix unless everyone stopped buying ammo. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Bottom line: If you find the ammo you need, buy it and expect to pay a higher price for it.