Local News

Ask Anything: 10 questions with N.C. Wildlife Commission Chairman Steve Windham

Posted September 1, 2009


Steve, why does North Carolina continue to ban Sunday hunting? I for one would love to be able to hunt on Sundays since I work Monday – Friday. — Mark, Cary

Your question touches on several areas of wildlife management, regulations and rule-making that are important to the Wildlife Resources Commission and to our broad constituency of all citizens of North Carolina. First, it is important to realize that Sunday hunting is a contentious issue among North Carolinians. In a 2006 comprehensive survey of N.C. residents, we found an almost equal split between those favoring and those opposed to hunting on Sunday. Secondly, you should know that the ban on Sunday hunting is established in law and would require action of the General Assembly to change. However, this law pertains only to Sunday hunting with firearms, and, therefore, hunting on Sunday with archery equipment is not prohibited by this law.

In March 2009, the Wildlife Resources Commission approved a regulation change proposal that would allow hunting on Sunday with archery equipment on private lands, except for migratory game birds. This was done primarily on the basis of providing additional hunting opportunities for persons, just like you, who have limited time to participate in hunting. This decision was also restricted to private lands, because the Commission felt it was appropriate to allow private landowners to make the decisions, within the biological constraints of appropriate wildlife management, regarding hunting on their properties.

In April 2009, the Sunday bowhunting proposal was reviewed by the Rules Review Commission (RRC), as required by law, for compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act. One provision of that law requires the RRC to refer any rule proposal to the General Assembly for review if the RRC receives written objection from 10 or more persons regarding that proposed rule. The General Assembly has until the 31st day of its next session to act on the proposed rule; otherwise, it will take effect as proposed. The Sunday bowhunting proposal was one of the proposed rules for which the RRC received sufficient written objection. Therefore, for the 2009-2010 hunting season, hunting on Sunday with archery equipment will continue to be prohibited.


License sales are down and declining, state agency budgets are very tight right now, and there doesn't seem to be enough public hunting areas to accommodate those who enjoy the sport in our state. Look into a crystal ball if you will and tell me what see in the future for hunters and sportsmen in our state? Tell us about the warts and the roses! — Brian Newton, Wilson

Providing public hunting opportunities has long been a major focus of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and will remain so. Public hunting opportunities in North Carolina date to 1939, when the reallocation of 38,500 acres from the Board of Education resulted in the creation of what was known at that time as Holly Shelter Wildlife Refuge (now Holly Shelter Game Land). As a result of continued acquisitions and cooperative agreements with other state, federal, corporate and private landowners, the game land acreage in our state has increased to more than 2 million acres.

The Wildlife Resources Commission currently owns approximately one-half million acres in fee title, and more than half of that has been acquired since 1990, largely as a result of the funding opportunities provided by the creation of the North Carolina Natural Heritage and Clean Water Management Trust Funds, along with the support of numerous conservation partners that have worked with us to identify and protect these valuable properties in conservation ownership.

Within the last couple of years, we have just completed one of the largest land acquisition projects in the agency’s history. In a deal brokered by The Nature Conservancy, we have added 66,000 acres of former International Paper Company lands to our game lands program in the Upper Tar, Roanoke and Chowan River Basins. Incidentally, this acquisition will be featured in the October 2009 issue of our Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.

As our state continues to develop and grow, the importance of public land will no doubt continue to increase. On behalf of all our state’s sportsmen and sportswomen, we will continue to explore every available avenue for providing additional public hunting opportunities in our state.


Do I need a fishing and hunting permit for a 10-year-old if he is with an adult who has a license? — Danielle, Chapel Hill

The answer to your question is no.

This is important for parents who want their children to participate in fishing and hunting. It is also an important component in the Wildlife Resources Commission’s programs to encourage and promote opportunities for youth fishing and hunting. Here are the details:

Fishing: Persons under the age of 16 are exempt from the requirement of a basic inland fishing and trout privilege license. Additionally, if fishing in coastal waters or in joint inland/coastal waters, persons under age 16 are exempt from the requirement of a Coastal Recreational Fishing License, which is administered by the Division of Marine Fisheries.

Hunting: Persons under the age of 16 who are accompanied by a properly licensed adult may enjoy those privileges conveyed by the licenses held by the accompanying adult. Persons under age 16 who have obtained a certificate of competency showing their completion of the hunter safety course may hunt on their own without a license but must carry the certificate while hunting.


Can I hunt the deer from my backyard that are decimating the plants, shrubs and trees in my neighborhood? And if so, what can I hunt with? — Paul Dlouhy, Wake Forest

The Wildlife Resources Commission sets hunting seasons which apply to all of the state, and these seasons, bag limits and manner of take are explained in our Regulations Digest. If your backyard is within an area under the jurisdiction of municipal ordinances, some of these ordinances may restrict the methods you may use to take deer during the hunting season. If this is the case, you would need to get a waiver from the governing body that enacted and enforces such ordinances to use a normally prohibited hunting method such as a firearm or bow and arrow. If the deer are destroying your property, you may shoot those deer at any time with any legal method and dispose of the dead deer on your property unless you first obtain a depredation permit to utilize the deer meat (though you can keep the first five for your own use without a permit). The same restrictions that may be placed on you by a municipal governing body for hunting would also apply for shooting deer in the act of depredating your property. The depredation law applies only to the individual property owner’s property and would not be something that could be addressed necessarily for your neighborhood as a whole.


Do you think using dogs to chase deer is right? I hunt the Sandhills gameland, and I see it all the time, dogs chasing deer to a hunter waiting with a shotgun. I still prefer hunting with no dogs. — Robert Malton, Fayetteville

One of the great things about hunting is that it appeals to a broad group of people, each with their own ideals of what makes a perfect hunting experience. Some like the solitude of deer hunting from a tree stand, while others prefer the camaraderie of dog deer hunting with friends and family.

Dog deer hunting is a hunting method that goes back generations and is a North Carolina hunting tradition. It takes large blocks of land to hunt in this manner, and it is becoming more of a challenge to find suitable places for this activity as North Carolina’s human population grows and large tracts of land continue to be broken up for development.

All types of hunting have similar challenges relative to the issue of where to hunt. It is one of the reasons I have been, and will continue to be, supportive of the agency’s land acquisition efforts. The challenges are just more apparent relative to dog deer hunting and it is more conducive to causing conflicts than most types of hunting.

Hunting is important to North Carolina. It is important as a recreational choice, as a wildlife management tool, as an economic force and as a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. It is also important to me. I support all forms of hunting as long as it is done responsibly with consideration of others and respect for the animal.


I'm a lifetime sportsman and have some concerns about our local fishing holes. Would it be possible to make more of an effort to catch those who catch and keep just about anything (regardless of size or species) that bites their fishing hook? Sneak down to Jordan, or some of the (walk to) access points for the local rivers and you'll see what I mean. While you're at it, how about ticketing people who leave trash all over the shores and banks? We don't need that stuff in our waterways. Get after these people! — Larry R., Chapel Hill

I’m sure you are aware that our wildlife enforcement officers cover vast areas, and sometimes it’s difficult for an individual officer to be at a particular spot when a wildlife violation occurs. That’s why it’s important for all sportsmen and women to practice ethical hunting and fishing in order to preserve opportunities for everyone and to protect our public trust resources that belong to every person. It is also important for you to assist us in protecting those resources.

When you see a wildlife violation, I urge you to report it on our toll-free phone line at 1-800-662-7137or 919-707-0040 in the Raleigh area. You may not see an immediate response from one of our enforcement officers, simply due to the size of the areas our officers cover, the number of officers available, location of other assignments, etc., but those reports are used to determine locations that might need enhanced patrolling or a specific detail at another time.

Concerning trash in our waterways, you should know that our officers enforce littering violations very strongly. Littering is more than just an unsightly blemish on the landscape. It can cause serious damage to aquatic and terrestrial resources and prevents others from enjoying the outdoors. You should also know that in order to enforce littering violations, our officers must witness the littering act occurring. You can also help by carrying a trash bag with you and encouraging others to help clean up areas that you frequent. This sets a good example, especially for youth, and helps preserve opportunities for continuing public access.


I have been hunting in N.C. for the past several years and find the state gameland regulations confusing when hunting different counties in the same area (Wake/Chatham). My biggest fear is not reading the right section of the book and hunting the wrong day or time frame. Is there anything in the works that would make the SGL rules more consistent? — Rob, Apex

Your question is very important to the Wildlife Resources Commission. Complexity of rules is one of the primary reasons people say they drop out of hunting or never start to begin with. The agency has undertaken an effort over the last few years to work toward reduced complexity in agency rules including those affecting game lands. We have even added a complexity justification section to our internal rules proposals to help us evaluate complexity issues against the need for a rule change. One of the biggest challenges is that wildlife regulations in North Carolina generally are enacted via three different mechanisms: statutes passed by the General Assembly, session Laws (also referred to as Local Laws) passed by the General Assembly at the request of the counties, and rules enacted by the Wildlife Resources Commission. The Wildlife Resources Commission is granted the authority to enact rules via statutes enacted by the General Assembly. In some cases, this is a very broad authority, and in others it is very limited. The challenge for Wildlife Commissioners and staff is to try and accomplish conservation, management and opportunity objectives within this framework while making it as simple as possible. We will keep working to reduce rules complexity as a barrier to hunting.


I have been an avid waterfowl hunter for most of my life. I have recently seen increased bag limits and more allowances for hunting Canada Geese in N.C. But, the majority of geese in the state reside in areas that do not allow hunter access, such as golf courses, subdivisions and city limits, to name a few. I want to know what N.C. Wildlife is doing to address the issue that overpopulation has been a result of a decline of huntable land and an increase in protected habitat. Regardless of bag limits and regulations, if the geese can not be hunted at the places they reside and feed, then the population will not decline. — Adam Parchman, Goldsboro

Most of the expanded hunting methods allowable for hunting early season resident Canada geese are designed to assist hunters in taking many of these geese that may frequently reside in the non-huntable areas you describe. Additional expanded hunting methods will take effect in 2009. Extending the shooting hours to a half-hour after sunset, allowing unplugged shotguns and allowing electronic calls (all only in September and only West of U.S. Highway 17) should assist hunters in taking these geese during times when they move away from those protected areas. Other steps to address the overpopulation issue outside of hunting season are implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. We hope that the combination of expanded hunting methods, seasons and bag limits, along with population reduction efforts applied by the Department of Agriculture directly in areas where hunting cannot occur, will result in a more balanced resident Canada goose population that will sustain hunting for years to come.


I grew up in the Adirondack Park where fishing, hunting and camping were a way of life. Land is abundant, and people are scarce up there. I am still learning about N.C., but since I have moved to the RTP area, I have tried to find public land that would be good for primitive camping and backwoods hunting, but to little success. Where in N.C. would one go truly experience primitive camping and backwoods hunting? I don't want to hear a car, siren, airplane or a phone ring for a good 3 to 5 days. Could you please recommend a couple of places where I could this hunting season to disappear for a couple of days? — Ray, Durham

No promise that you will not hear an airplane, but there certainly are opportunities to escape cars, sirens and telephones. We are very fortunate to have four national forests in North Carolina, totaling approximately 1 million acres, and by cooperative agreement with the USDA Forest Service, all of that property is included in the North Carolina Wildlife Game Lands Program. Many of these areas are extremely remote and offer ample opportunity for a true backwoods experience. Specifically, you may want to consider some of the designated wilderness areas, which are by design intended to provide precisely the experience you are seeking.

The Birkhead Mountain Wilderness Area, located on the Uwharrie National Forest in Randolph County, consists of 5,000 acres and is relatively short drive from you location in Durham. There are also wilderness areas on the Croatan National Forest in Carteret, Craven and Jones counties and a number of them on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in the western part of the state. The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in Burke County, in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest, encompasses 12,000 acres and is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East.

For maps of these areas and specific information on access points and camping opportunities, contact the USDA Forest Service in Asheville at (828) 257-4200. There is also a significant amount of information available at www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/index.htm.


With new housing developments popping up all over N.C., how can we preserve N.C.'s natural habit for wildlife? — Michelle Allen, Fayetteville

Thank you for your very important question. You identified one of the most challenging areas we face in preserving the future for wildlife in N.C. The Wildlife Resources Commission is very actively engaged in preserving and enhancing habitat for all wildlife species. Many of our programs are described on our Web site, www.ncwildlife.org, under the tab for Wildlife Species and Conservation.

One obvious solution is acquisition of land for wildlife habitat protection. With the help of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Natural Heritage Trust Fund, local land trusts and many other partner organizations, we have secured hundreds of thousands of acres of land on which we implement management practices to enhance wildlife and preserve ecological functions such as water quality protection, watershed function and vegetation management. We also promote landowner use of conservation easements to preserve habitat for a variety of species on private lands.

In urban areas, you should know about the Green Growth Toolbox, a program of resources to help urban planners and developers avoid or reduce impacts to wildlife from development activities. Another example is the Wildlife Friendly Development Certification program, which is designed to assist and recognize residential developments that incorporate essential wildlife habitat elements into development projects. These and other important programs are important components of a comprehensive approach to preserving wildlife habitat.

As you are probably aware, funds to support land acquisitions and other wildlife habitat protection programs are limited. You can help fund these programs by contributing a portion of your state income tax refund on line No. 27 of the state income tax return to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund. Tax check-off donations are used for projects that benefit nongame animals and their habitats. 

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  • HereswhatIthink Sep 10, 2009

    Just curious - if the deer need to be "culled" and people need the meat to eat then why all the rednecks out there that tie it on the hood of their truck and parade around like they have something to show off? I don't get it. If I had to kill for my dinner, I certainly wouldn't be doing this. I also wouldn't want my picture taken with the dead animal and me smiling like I just won the lottery while holding the dead animals head up. If I wasn't already a vegetarian I probably would quickly become one before I could shoot an animal. You are right - there are many people out there that don't treat their pets right and yes they should not have them but again the subject is deer hunting dogs that are made to flush the deer out of their hiding places so they can be shot. This isn't fair to the deer. Nor is baiting them by feeding them every year just to come back and shoot them later. Sorry but I will never agree with this, or that killing should ever be called a "sport".

  • Baseball dude Sep 9, 2009

    Chasing animals with dogs isn't natural.. wow, ever seen a bobcat go after a fawn? I bet the fawn doesn't just stand there! There are animals that are predators and there are prey. A deer is prey.
    Infection and bloodloss, I wonder, just wonder how many deer/rabbits/pet dogs/cats walk off after being hit by cars? I guess they need to be banned also?
    Hunting dogs being mistreated? I bet there are more average pets in the kennels that abandoned or stay hunting dogs.. I guess the average person having a pet needs to be banned also.
    Killing that poor rabbit by the dogs probobly wasn't the best thing for you to see. 100% agree you have to be ready and mature to see it, NO doubt! But hunting is one of the only ways to control populations that are about out of control already! Go get the meat from a store, Sorry some folks eat the venison they get and thats substance for their families,They are doig it for sport, but for need!

  • HereswhatIthink Sep 9, 2009

    Dear Froggytroat - I was sticking to the subject of hunting and killing animals. My feelings toward slaughter houses are just as negative but that is another issue altogether. I totally agree with your statement about the meat in the grocery store.

    You mention the deer and animals are shot in the natural habitat - baiting them or chasing them with dogs is not natural. What about those whose aim is poor and end up wounding an animal that dies from infection or blood loss days later. What about all the hunting dogs that are mistreated, get lost and their owners never come back looking for them?

    How do you know that I am not a vegan? People have been hunting deer forever but that doesn't stop people from hitting them with their cars and it never will unless the deer become extinct. My father took me hunting when I was a child, way too young to witness the rabbit being shot and the dogs that finished killing it right before my eyes.

  • froggytroat Sep 9, 2009


    That's the most absurd bunch of drivel I've seen in a long time.

    You think meat at the grocery store comes from healthy, happy, naturally raised animals? Yeah, right.

    You think that your car insurance wouldn't go up if the deer around here were not culled by hunters? Yeah, right.

    You are seriously ignorant, and should look into some wildlife management information. If you don't like killing animals, you should be a vegan, because commercially produced animals (note that I didn't say "raised") have just about the most miserable life you can imagine.

    Animals that are hunted live natural lives, in their natural habitat, eating their natural food, without getting shot up with hormones, and die almost as quick a death as commercially raised animals.

  • HereswhatIthink Sep 8, 2009

    I hate hunting of any kind. I think baiting animals should be banned. I also don't like that my family and I can't sleep in the morning for all the gun shots going off or play outside for fear of a stray bullet. It makes me sick to see dead animals displayed on walls and they think it is so beautiful. What is beautiful about the fact that you just killed something! Or better yet throw it on the hood of your truck and parade it around town. Hunting dogs are not always cared for properly - I saw a dog box fall off the back of a truck the other day and dogs were everywhere! Thank GOD none were hit and killed before the owner came back for them. Hunting or any part of it is never allowed in my home. I prefer to teach my children to love and respect nature. There is plenty of meat in the grocery store so I don't buy it that you eat the meat. Yeah, yeah. If you need to feel like a man go pee on a tree & scratch yourself in the woods but don't kill an animal for sport!

  • Baseball dude Sep 8, 2009

    This is a common response you get from the NC Wildlife agencies.. VERY conflicting and frustrating.

    "However, this law pertains only to Sunday hunting with firearms, and, therefore, hunting on Sunday with archery equipment is not prohibited by this law."

    Further on..

    "Therefore, for the 2009-2010 hunting season, hunting on Sunday with archery equipment will continue to be prohibited."

    Sunday hunting is broken into a 50-50 response, is pretty amazing. Last year there was a posting on the NC Wildlife of the findings and it was more like a 80-20 in favor of Sunday hunting. With in hours those findings were removed from the website. LOTS of hunters knew in the backs of their minds, HERE we go the political/religious/commision spin is on! And it happened! Everything on hold, with a snowballs chance passing. NC Blue laws are still in effect! You can fish, drink, watch NASCAR/FOOTBALL, anything except walk in the woods with a firearm.

  • singing4him09 Sep 3, 2009

    I'm a little confused...he says in his first answer that it is illegal to hunt on sunday with a firearm, so archery hunting is not illegal on sunday but then says later that archery hunting on sunday is still prohibited through the 2009-2010 season...did anyone else get confused on that one?

  • Made In USA Sep 1, 2009

    For my eyes, the absolute WORST place governed under the NCWR for littering is Bell's Church Fishing Access Area and Pier. Not only is this place the worse for trash, the litter they throw down AND where they throw it down is a danger to boaters and to the boats and motors as well. I'm talking about those small, fortified portable gas cylinders used by night fishermen for lighting. I've dodged many on Jordan, and some I missed only by luck. If a small aluminum boat were to hit one of those cylinders at a moderate speed, it could do some damage, up to tearing a hole in the hull if going fast enough. They float, and a rather still heavy when empty. Fishermen go out on the pier at night, and many of them will simply toss all their trash in the water or on the ground.

    I would be curious if a citizen were to video someone littering, would the NCWRC be able (and willing) to use that as evidence for a conviction?

  • ncguy Sep 1, 2009

    Why do 20% of the hunters take 80% of the game in NC?

    the 20% are retired or work for themselves!

    Sunday hunting would increase my chances by 100% since Saturday is typically the only day I can hunt. Especially since I lost my hunting land to builders building million dollar homes and then Cary annexing it to become city limits.

  • itsnotmeiswear Sep 1, 2009

    "And I believe the Hunting on Sunday issue was raised to hunters and it's those licensed hunters who were 50/50 divided on whether they wanted it or not. It wasn't just a survey offered to general population who are not sportsman."

    The NCWRC had a forum open for public comment and there was mixed opinions expressed on the site. Many of the commentors were not hunters but anti-hunter that didn't have a clue what the measures proposed.

    What stopped the measure was the idiot legislators responding to a seperate effort by the anti-hunters using gun hunting during Sunday School or children being shot along public hiking trails as their press releases. The rule change proposed was for bow hunting on private land. The legislators didn't have the backbone to tell the anti-hunting lobbyists that they had read the bill, and the hunters thought it was done business because the NCWRC approved it.

    If they surveyed hunters when they purchased their license, it would be about 90% for Sunday