All About Hunting In North Carolina

North Carolina, stretched over more than 1.8 million of public land, has a wide variety of game species in the United States ranging from deer, wild boar, black bear to turkey, squirrel, rabbit, waterfowl, and many more.

Hunting in this state is the most popular among hunter enthusiasts and an economically profitable activity generating $400 million of revenue to the state every year. 

Related Articles:

1. What Species To Hunt

1.1 Deer

Deer remains the most hunted species with a whitetail population of 1,100,000 in the state. Though North Carolina is not a major producer of bigger bucks, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission sells around 230,000 deer licenses annually.

Hunters are allowed to hunt deer from archery equipment to black powder, guns creating different seasons according to that order.

However, there are restrictions not only on the number of deer to be hunted per person but also on male and female deer seasons. 

Proposed NC Deer Season Regulations (2018-2019)

1.2 Bear

Black bears are typically populated at the eastern and western edges of the state. Being plentiful, the Piedmont bear and the eastern bear are only open for hunting in the fall season.

However, you can only hunt one bear per season and are prohibited to take them down in a designated bear sanctuary.

1.3 Wild Boar

Wild boar is one of the large game animals which are densely populated in North Carolina than any other southeastern state. Also known as feral hogs, wild boars are mostly found in a hybrid species of domestic Hampshire pigs and Russian boars.

The counties of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain are the six hotspots where you can easily find these wild pigs.     

Validating Your Big Game Harvest Report Card in North Carolina – New for 2020

1.4 Bobwhite Quail

The quail population has heavily declined over the last decade due to a lack of good habitat.

However, according to records, around 5,000 hunters make at least one trip for quail each year. This game species is easy to find in the eastern part of the state whereas there is almost no sign of them in the western section.

One can also check out Blue Horizon Quail Preserve LLC, Arrowhead Hunting Preserve for an excellent experience.       

1.5 Rabbit

North Carolina is home to two species of rabbit- cottontails and cane-cutters or blue-tails.

Cottontails are usually found at higher elevations in Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville counties whereas swamp rabbits run around the Savannah River drainages in Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson counties.

Crackerneck WMA is the best place to find rabbits especially swamps in its 3,000 acres.  

1.6 Pheasant

Long-necked pheasant gives a tough time to hunters all over the state of North Carolina. You can only find them in the coastal region between Oregon and Barden Inlet.

One may also visit Core Banks as there might still be a population.    

1.7 Ruffed Grouse

North Carolina has around 1.5 million acres of rugged goose habitat overlapping the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, and Pisgah National Forest.

However, you should not try your luck in the Piedmont region rather go to the South and look into the Brushy Mountains.       

1.8 American Woodcock

This bird is unique to the region of North Carolina. They have a permanent settlement along the coastal region and also common to find in forest habitats.

However, in the north, they are very less. To hunt all migratory birds in North Carolina, you need a HIP certificate.    

2. Seasons

In North Carolina, season dates and bag limits vary by zone and for specific dates, you should visit the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website.            

  • Deer season is divided into three sections -archery, black powder, and firearms. It usually starts from September to January. There is also a special Youth Day at the end of September.   
  • Black Bear season lasts from October to January. It is illegal to hunt Cubs weighing less than 75 pounds and female bears with cubs.            
  • There are two seasons for wild turkey- spring general season and spring youth season. Spring General season starts from April to May and Spring Youth season is held in the first week of April.     
  • Rabbits are open for hunting from October to February.   
  • There are separate dates for gray and fox squirrels’ seasons. Gray and red squirrels can be hunted from October to February whereas Fox squirrels hunting is open till January.   
  • Quail season starts in November and grouse in October. Both of the species hunting close in February.   
  • Pheasant season starts from November to February.  
  • Raccoon and opossum seasons are open from October to February.   
Peak of the Rut Across North Carolina

3. Where To Hunt

3.1 Public Land

Both public and private land in North Carolina is designated as “game lands”. It includes both national and state forests, sanctuaries placed in different parts of the state from mountains to salt marshes.

Some of the best public hunting lands are stated below:

  • Dupont State Forest South Mountains Game Lands 
  • Pisgah National Forest 
  • Nantahala National Forest 
  • Uwharrie National Forest    

3.2 Private Land

Hunting on private land demands a good knowledge of rules and regulations as there are many laws related to private property and landowners in North Carolina.

According to the Landowner Protection Law of 2011, hunters of all kinds, those interested in fishing and trapping must possess a written consent from landowners to hunt, fish, or trap as long as there are posted signs on the land. 

North Carolina allows purple paint to post a private property for hunting purposes.   

The landowner is, however, not responsible for any injury or damage to the hunter.     


North Carolina’s Landowner Protection Act Explained

4. License Requirements

All first-time hunters are required to purchase a license after the successful completion of a hunter education course through offline or online mode.

However, a person born on or after July 1, 2013, regardless of age, may not obtain a hunting license without completing some specified requirements.  

Residents whether permanent or have resided for six months or 60 days can obtain a resident license for hunting. 

Non-resident students are also allowed to purchase a resident license while studying in a university, college, or community college in North Carolina. The student must produce a valid student identification at the time of purchase.    

Active-duty military members of the U.S. Armed Forces, stationed at North Carolina or outside the state, can purchase a resident license.

Disabled licenses are available to North Carolina residents. It can directly be obtained from the Wildlife Resources Commission. However, the state does not acknowledge disabled licenses from other states.     

5. Hunter Education Course

5.1 Do You Require It

A North Carolina Hunter Education course is mandatory if you are hunting for the first time. It is also applicable to those who are of 16 years of age and want to hunt without supervision. You also don’t need to be a resident for taking up this course. 

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission provides free access to this course for all types of hunters.    

5.2 Online Course

Hunters may study materials provided by the instructors through online mode and are required to pass the examination. You can also give unlimited attempts for the exam.    

6. Rules And Regulations

6.1 Legal Shooting Hours

Hunters may take all types of game birds and animals between 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.

However, raccoons, feral hogs, and opossums can be taken at night in all counties except Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington. 

How to Determine Legal Shooting Times in North Carolina

6.2 Bow Requirements

  • Hunters can legally use longbows, recurved bows, compound bows, and crossbows to hunt during open hunting seasons.  
  • Bear, deer, elk, wild turkey, feral hog, and alligator hunting require longbows and recurved bows to have a minimum pull of 40 pounds. However, compound bows must have a minimum pull of 35 pounds and crossbows of 100 pounds. 
  • You can also use sling bows for all types of hunting and fishing but with a minimum pull of 40 pounds.    
  • For hunting small-game animals like rabbits, squirrels, quail, and grouse, and birds, one can use arrows with blunt heads.    

6.3 Firearms Requirements

Hunters can use shotguns, pistols, rifles, and black powder for hunting specific animals.  

  • While hunting with shotguns, it must not be larger than 10-gauge.   
  • Pistols with no restrictions on caliber and barrel length may be used to hunt rabbits, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, furbearers, non-game species, and birds.  
  • During gun hunting season, deer and bear can be taken with a handgun without any specified caliber and barrel length. 
  • Hunters must use all rifles apart from fully-automatic ones. 
  • Black powder shotguns, rifles, and handguns are lawful to use during the black powder deer season. 

6.4 Can You Hunt On Roads

Laws of North Carolina prohibit hunters to hunt or shoot from any public road. It doesn’t even allow to use of loaded firearms in some counties while on roads. 

6.5 Can You Hunt On Sundays

You cannot hunt on Sundays on public lands. However, in military installations, the federal government may allow hunters to hunt, shoot, or kill. You can also hunt on private land though with some restrictions.   


Hunting on Sundays in North Carolina

6.6 Can You Do Night Hunting

The state of North Carolina allows its hunters to take raccoons and opossum at night. Recently, it is also added that hunters may hunt coyotes and feral swine at night with a light.        

6.7 Hunter Orange Requirement

Anyone hunting bear, feral hog, rabbit, squirrel, grouse, pheasant, or grouse by using a firearm, must wear a cap or hat of hunter orange material. It should be visible from all sides at all times.

Archery hunters during deer firearms season and any person hunting on Youth Hunting Day must also follow this rule. 


North Carolina Requirements to Display Hunter Orange

7. Prohibited Practices

  • Hunters cannot use motor vehicles, boats, floating devices, or airplanes while in motion or stationary to hunt.   
  • Hunters are barred from using any artificial or electronic calls to take down animals or birds. However, hunting coyotes and feral swine with light at night; hunting crows, coyotes, and feral hogs with the help of electronic or recorded calls are legal. 
  • Many counties even prohibit using any artificial light for searching for animals.   
  • You cannot fire during wild birds or animals hunting, take down swimming deer or shoot at a squirrel’s nest.    
  • It is illegal to hunt with firearms between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. except on controlled hunting preserves. 
  • Migratory birds cannot be hunted on Sundays.    
  • It is unlawful to allure any wild animal with the aid of salt, grain, fruit, or any other bait. Only bears can be taken while consuming the bait.   
  • Dogs are not permitted for hunting, running, or chasing purposes except in the west and counties of Rockingham, Montgomery, Guilford, Randolph, Stanly, and Union. 
  • You cannot stock up any exotic species such as birds, animals that are not native to the land.   


North Carolina never disappoints its hunters as it is abundant with a variety of wildlife species. With liberal hunting regulations and reasonable cost for almost all hunting animals, you may not want to miss the opportunity of hunting in this land.

For more information, visit North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website:


Leave a Comment