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Outdoors report: Deer season ends with plenty of big bucks checked in

Deer season closed on Jan. 1, statewide. Most hunters are glad to take a breather after four months of hitting the woods trying to bag a trophy buck or just a freezer filler.
Local check stations reported good numbers of deer brought in. Hill’s Minnow Farm in eastern Rowan County had the most checked in at more than 400. A quick view of pictures of successful hunters at many local sporting good stores confirms ó and most hunters agree ó that the quality of bucks seems to be increasing throughout the area.
The number of mature bucks with racks over 16 inches wide and with eight points or more seem to be more common than in years past. Most hunters agree that the two-buck limit is one of the more successful regulations that have directly impacted local deer herds.
Many hunters also enjoyed the opportunity to harvest additional antlerless deer by taking advantage of the bonus antlerless deer tags that were available in many portions of the state.
Public hearings for proposed regulation changes for the 2009-2010 season continue across the state. The one for District 6, which includes Rowan County, was held last week at South Stanly High School in Norwood.
Public comment is invited on all proposals. For those unable to attend a hearing, comments can be made online at www.ncwildlife.org. Click 2009-10 proposed regulations on the right side panel and follow the instructions.
Small game
Small game hunters generally are more active once big game season closes. Hunters are reminded to wear a blaze orange hat or vest and to obtain permission before entry onto private property.
– Rabbit season closes Feb. 28.
– Squirrel (red/gray) closes Jan. 31.
– Quail closes Feb. 28.
– Waterfowl (ducks, mergansers and coots) closes at sunset Jan. 24.
Youth Waterfowl Day, Jan. 31. Youth must be 15 or younger and accompanied by a properly licensed adult. The adult cannot duck hunt but may participate in other seasons that are open on the special youth day.
Boating information
A recent tragedy on High Rock Lake claimed the lives of two fishermen who both drowned less than 150 feet from the dock. The accident reinforces the need to wear an approved personal flotation device (life jacket) while boating.
Although the victims’ boat was well equipped with required safety items, life jackets were found stowed in a closed compartment with one lone PFD floating near the submerged vessel.
No matter how strong a swimmer you may be, cold water quickly saps the strength from your body. Hypothermia, the cooling of the body’s core, is a very real danger on or around water and often is the cause of a fatality even when a PFD is used.
With that in mind, boaters should follow these simple tips:
– Check all safety equipment before launching.
– Leave a float plan or tell someone where you are going and when you should return.
– Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
– Carry a marine VHF radio in addition to a cell phone.
– Have extra warm clothing in water proof bags stored on board.
– Check the weather forecast before launching.
– If operating in large inland lakes or coastal waters, an insulated survival type suit such as a “mustang suit” is a wise investment.
– Dress in layers and be aware that a heavy insulated cover-all type clothing items can become extremely heavy when wet, including winter boots. Always wear a PFD over your clothing.
Concealed carry rules
The announcement that concealed firearms will be allowed in some national parks and wildlife refuges has prompted questions about what is allowed at areas held by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, including game lands.
The Interior Department issued a rule on Dec. 5 that allows an individual to carry a concealed firearm if the person has a concealed carry permit, and if the state where the national park or federal wildlife refuge is located also allows it. This is a federal ruling for national parks and should not to be confused with state parks, state forests and state recreational properties, such as game lands.
Loaded firearms are prohibited at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s public access areas (boat ramps) and public fishing areas. This includes handguns, regardless of a concealed carry permit. It is also unlawful to possess a loaded firearm within a posted restricted zone on any state-owned fish hatchery.
In North Carolina, more than 2 million acres are maintained by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for hunting, trapping and fishing as game lands. Concealed firearms are allowed on game lands only when doing so coincides with a firearm hunting season and the concealed firearm is of a caliber allowed for hunting under game land rules. During closed hunting season for game animals and trapping seasons, only handguns limited to .22 caliber with a barrel length not greater than 71/2 inches, firing short, long or long-rifle ammunition, are allowed.
“The bottom line is, concealed carry permits do not supersede the other regulations that apply,” said Maj. Keith Templeton, supervising officer for field operations of the Enforcement Division, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “That includes game lands. It is up to the permit holder to know the law and obey it.”
If you have questions about concealed carry privileges, call a local wildlife officer or 919-707-0030.
In much of the state, it is illegal between a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before sunrise to intentionally shine a light on deer or in search of deer. Six counties had no local light laws as of Jan. 1, 2008. In those counties where shining a light at deer is not prohibited, it is always unlawful to be in possession of any firearm, including a concealed firearm with permit, while shining a light upon deer.
Hunter responsibility and ethics are taught as part of the free statewide hunter education program, required for first-time hunting license buyers.
Backyard bird count
Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of everyday bird watchers for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count from Feb. 13-16.
A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this is an opportunity to discover the wonders of nature while contributing to conservation. Participants count birds and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count benefits both birds and people. It’s a great example of citizen science: Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” said Audubon Education Vice President Judy Braus. “Families, teachers, children and all those who take part in GBBC get a chance to improve their observation skills, enjoy nature, and have a great time counting for fun, counting for the future.”
Anyone can take part by counting birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish). Online resources include tips to help identify birds and a photo gallery at www.birdsource.org.
For more information, contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at 800-843-2473 or e-mail Audubon at citizenscience@ audubon.org
You can e-mail Sgt. Anthony Sharum of the N.C. Wildlife Resources at huntfishguy66@aol.com.

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