North Carolina is truly a sportsman’s paradise, and bird hunting is one of the most important aspects of our state’s rich heritage of hunting and wildlife conservation. Although most hunters use public lands for their bird hunting activities, many choose to enjoy hunting on one of our state’s several private preserves; although every state in the nation has at least one bird hunting preserve, many states – North Carolina included – are fortunate to have several high-quality and conveniently-located preserves that are within or very close to the Piedmont region of our state.
When, Where and What to Hunt in Central North
If you plan on bird hunting in North Carolina or anywhere nationwide, it’s important to keep in mind that each type of bird has its own season. Generally speaking, bird hunting season lasts from October through February, but whether you’re shooting on public or private lands, be sure to follow the guidelines of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (see link below) or be prepared to face some very hefty fines for hunting outside those dates. Take a look at a few of the hunting seasons for some of North Carolina’s most popular game birds.
Ruffed Grouse | October 14, 2019 – February 29, 2020
Quail | November 23, 2019 – February 29, 2020
Pheasant (male only) | November 23, 2019 – February 1, 2020
Interestingly, the season for hunting crow has one of the most detailed calendars of all – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each week between June 5, 2019 and February 29, 2020, as well as Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Independence Day, EXCEPT when any of those days falls on a Sunday.
Hunting for migratory birds – waterfowl, woodcock, doves, raptors (bird of prey), songbirds and woodpeckers – operates under a different set of guidelines. Federal laws concerning both the hunting and protection of migrating birds take precedence over any local state laws. During hunting’s closed season, before any migratory birds may be taken, a federal permit must be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once again, the killing of any birds without such a permit is eligible for substantial fines.
Licensed hunters of migratory birds must be able to show a certification of participation in the federal Harvest Information Program (HIP), which is free-of-charge. Every licensed waterfowl hunter 16 or older must also carry a valid Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or federal duck stamp as well as a license having the North Carolina Waterfowl Privilege. A host of rules regulating the hunting of migratory birds can be viewed here http://www.eregulations.com/northcarolina/hunting-fishing/migratory-game-bird-regulations/
Where you choose to hunt depends on the type of bird you’re interested in hunting, of course, as well as what kind of hunting experience you seek and your skill level. Are you an experienced hunter or more of a novice? Are you accustomed to bird hunting in areas with varying types of sometimes rough terrain, or do you prefer a more uniform, protected environment? Over 2,000,000 acres in our state are currently managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission and are designated as either public or private “game lands” that are designated for hunting, trapping and inland fishing. Public lands, including the Uwharrie National Forest in Montgomery, Randolph and Davidson Counties and the South Mountain Game Lands of Burke, Cleveland, McDowell and Rutherford counties are two of the largest public areas for bird hunting, but there are also several smaller private preserves that offer outstanding hunting options.
The Benefits of Preserve Hunting
The differences between hunting on a public piece of land vs. a private preserve are substantial. Although many bird hunters, preferring the wide-open adventure and psychological thrill of hunting in the true wild, will ONLY hunt on public lands, there are just as many who enjoy a mix of hunting in both public and private environments, as weather, time constraints and other situations permit, and still other hunters who prefer to hunt solely on private preserves. No matter what kind of hunter you are and what your skill level might be, there are some real benefits to hunting on a private preserve.
- Chances of success are higher in an environment that you know holds birds. If you or a companion are new to hunting, if you are not up to hiking long distances or are simply looking for an experience that will offer the greatest chance of success, then a private preserve hunt might be for you.
- Wild bird hunting on public lands often means shooting in an environment that might not be entirely friendly – over rocky, overgrown or uneven ground that is difficult to maneuver. Terrain on a private preserve, however, is often smoother and lets the hunter more easily find his footing and move about with his/her dog.
- With an increased likelihood of activity in areas on preserves that are known to hold birds, bird hunters will enjoy see their dogs getting a true workout.
- A private preserve offers a perfect, high-activity environment if you’re interested in teaching gun skills to youth or any new hunter. Hunting on public land may involve long periods of trekking and/or waiting, which can be frustrating to someone who is eager to experience the excitement of a hunt.
Conservation and Wildlife Management
Since the late 20th century, avid sportsmen have played an important role in the conservation of the nation’s – and North Carolina’s – natural resources and wildlife. Their passion for the great outdoors has helped to mold our country’s attitudes about conservation and the development of wildlife protection areas as they exist today. Each year, funds collected from state licenses and fees as well as taxes on guns, ammunition, bows and arrows go to support statewide conservation efforts. Hunters also help to manage the numbers of predators – cougars, bears, coyotes and wolves, for instance – that threaten other wildlife, and by following ethical hunting practices and utilizing hunting designated hunting lands only, they help to support and promote a healthy respect for nature.
Black River Shooting Preserve
One of the newest outfitters and private bird hunting preserves in North Carolina is in our own back yard – the 300-acre Black River Shooting Preserve, in the heart of Harnett County outside of Dunn. The preserve provides some of the best gamebird shooting available in the Triangle area, with fields and wooded areas that are ideal for quail, pheasant and chukar hunting in a natural, safe environment. Guides are experienced professionals, licensed and insured, and their dogs, well-trained and eager to hunt.
Black River hunts for the 2019/2020 season (October 1, 2019, through March 31, 2020) are currently being booked – contact (919) 522-1576 or [email protected]
Photos courtesy of Black River Shooting Preserve
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