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North Carolina Hunting Seasons

Mike Slinkard

January 30, 2023

North Carolina is home to breathtaking, one-of-a-kind geography, from lofty ridges to deep gorges, pristine waterfalls, sunny islands, rivers, streams, and mountains. So it is no surprise that North Carolina is much praised for its scenic landscapes — and massive hunting trails. 

Because of its abundant wildlife, the state is a top hunting location for those looking to track and hunt deer, bears, and turkeys. But if you’re one of the many who flock to the great North Carolina woods, then it’s essential to understand the game lands regulations first. 

Here is a detailed overview of the Tar Heel State’s hunting seasons.

North Carolina Gamelands Hunting Rules and Restrictions 

Under the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Law, North Carolina has a specific hunting rule for Sundays. Hunting with weapons on Sundays is not permitted between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., except on managed hunting preserves.

Except for Buffalo Cove Game Land, Nicholson Creek Game Land, Rockfish Creek Game Land, Sandhills Game Land, and South Mountains Game Land, weapon seasons for deer on game lands coincide with the county in which they are located.

Where To Buy Hunting Licenses

Hunting licenses can be purchased online with varying costs depending on your residency and license type: 

  • A 10-day state hunting license costs $80 for all non-residents (excluding those in neighboring states, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia)
  • An annual hunting license costs $100 for residents and $25 for non-residents
  • Only residents may purchase a lifetime license for $265

Note that fishing and trapping licenses are not the same as hunting licenses. Hunters can purchase trapping licenses as either annual or lifetime by both residents and non-residents. Learn more about these details here.

Post-Hunt Regulations

State regulations don’t stop after the hunt. You still must report your recovered game and follow the proper importation rules when transporting deer carcasses. Here’s what you need to know. 

  • Importing deer carcasses and parts: Importing whole carcasses from any state, Canadian province, or foreign country is prohibited. Hunters may transport carcass parts that meet these standards. Hunters must also include proper identification. 
  • Big game harvest reporting: North Carolina State requires you to report your big game harvest online, via phone, or by email. Learn more here.
  • Deer disposal within North Carolina: Hunters may dispose of the remains of deer in one of three permitted places: Where the deer was harvested, in landfills**, or left in place. Hunters may not discard parts in another area after transportation, dispose of parts in water, or litter on roadsides or wherever restricted. Learn more here.

**You should always contact your local solid waste management location for exact disposal policies. 

Deer Season Dates According to Zone

nc carolina

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WesternSept. 10 – Oct. 2, Oct. 16 – Nov. 20, and Dec. 11 – Jan. 2 (antlered only)Oct. 3 – Oct. 15Nov. 21 – Dec. 10
NorthwesternSept. 10 – Nov. 4Nov. 5 – Nov. 18Nov. 19 – Jan. 2
CentralSept. 10 – Oct. 28Oct. 29 – Nov. 11Nov. 12 – Jan. 2
NortheasternSept. 10 – Sept. 30Oct. 1 – Oct. 14Oct. 15 – Jan. 2
SoutheasternSept. 10 – Sept. 30Oct. 1 – Oct. 14Oct. 15 – Jan. 2

North Carolina has a few specific rules regarding hunting techniques: The state forbids using fully automatic weapons for game hunting. 

It’s also unlawful to take wild animals using electronic or recorded calls, artificial lights (including laser sights), or both, except under specific circumstances, such as:

  • Lights may be used to harvest game 
  • Lights may be used for taking swine and coyotes at night (where legal) 
  • Lights may be used for taking bullfrogs
  • Electronic and recorded calls are legal for crows, coyotes, and swine 
  • Lights may be used for taking raccoons and opossums when with hunting dogs

Additionally, shotguns must not be any larger than a 10-gauge. 

Key Date Ranges for North Carolina Hunting Season 

Bows and arrows, crossbows, and sling bows are all acceptable and legal weapons to use during the Urban Archery season and Black Powder season. During Gun season, the state permits bows, arrows, crossbows, sling bows, black powder firearms, shotguns, rifles, and handguns.

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Deer Hunting Season Dates in North Carolina

Any open deer season allows for the taking of animals with clearly visible antlers. Only during either-sex deer hunting seasons may antlerless deer be harvested.

Youth DaySept. 24
Urban ArcheryJan. 14 – Feb. 19
ArcherySep. 10 – Dec. 11**
Muzzleloader/Black PowderOct. 1 – Nov. 18**
Firearms*Oct. 15 – Jan. 2**

**Disclaimer: Season dates may vary across the state and by county. For specific dates in your part of North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Division of Wildlife Resources website.

*Shotguns must not be any larger than 10 gauge. 

Either-Sex Deer Hunting Season Dates in North Carolina

These either-sex deer hunting dates are for guns only, except for Urban Archery Deer season and Youth Deer Hunting day. 

Note the season and possession bag limits: In North Carolina, the limits are six deer, two of which may be antlered deer, and four may be antlerless deer. As for a bag limit, no daily limit applies. 

Introductory SeasonNov. 26 (Only for Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania counties)**
Conservative SeasonNov. 21 – Nov. 26 (Only for Avery, Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Mitchell, and Yancey counties)**
Moderate SeasonNov. 19 – Dec. 2 (Only for Cleveland, Polk, and Rutherford counties)**
Maximum SeasonEntire gun season
No SeasonCherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties
Urban Archery Deer SeasonJan. 14 – Feb. 19 (Archery only)**
Youth Deer Hunting DaySept. 24 (Any legal weapon)**

**Dates are subject to change every year. Double-check with your current year’s deer season dates.

Wild Turkey Hunting Season Dates in North Carolina

Spring Youth SeasonApr. 1 – 7
Spring General SeasonApr. 6 – 8

Black Bear Hunting Season Dates in North Carolina

General SeasonOct. 12 – Jan. 1

Small Game Hunting Season Dates in North Carolina

Raccoon and OpossumOct. 17 – Feb. 28
Fox SquirrelOct. 17 – Jan. 31
Gray and Red SquirrelOct. 17 – Feb. 28
GrouseNov. 14 – Feb. 28**
RabbitOct. 17 – Feb. 28**
QuailNov. 19 – Feb. 28**
GrouseOct. 17 – Feb. 28
BobcatOct. 17 – Feb. 28
PheasantNov. 19 – Feb. 1
ArmadilloOpen season

**Disclaimer: Season dates may vary across the state and by county. For specific dates in your part of North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Division of Wildlife Resources website.

Make the Most out of North Carolina’s Hunting Season

Whether you’re hunting for big game or small game, it’s essential to be properly licensed and stick to the state’s rules to avoid consequences. But what’s just equally as important is having the right tools.

The good news is that you can enhance your hunting experience with the lightweight feel, breathability, and durability of HECS® patented apparel products. 

In addition to providing visual camouflage, HECS® lightweight, breathable, and durable digital camouflage clothing also obstructs your body’s natural electrical emissions. Even if deer notices you from afar, HECS® apparel helps minimize your emissions, allowing you to get closer to game while out on the field.

Our camouflage clothing and hunting jackets have carbon fiber grids, making it harder for animals and birds to detect your presence. So by investing in HECS®, you gain a competitive edge with cutting-edge hunting technology. 

Get the advantage you need with HECS today.

Shop HECS Today
Shop HECS Now

Improve your hunting experience
with HECS clothing.

Shop HECS Today

About the Author : Mike Slinkard

A hunter displaying his bear on rocks near a lake

Mike Slinkard is a life long bow hunter, professional archer, successful entrepreneur, and self described science geek from the rural town of John Day Oregon. Mike has spent his life in close proximity to all types of animals. His grandfather was a well known cattle and horse rancher who first instilled Mike’s keen interest in animals and why they react the way they do in different situations. Mike’s insatiable curiosity in this realm led him to team with other professionals to make the HECS discovery in 2009. Mike has hunted all over the world and has taken over 30 species with archery gear including 48 elk to date. Mike currently hosts “Hunting with HECS TV” on the Pursuit Channel. He has also written many bow hunting and archery articles as well as being a guest on many different hunting podcasts.

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