Deer and bear hunters in North Carolina will need to pay attention to their regulations guides this fall as the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, at its meeting in Raleigh this morning, voted to restructure deer hunting zones, move around either-sex days in the western third of the state, set a two-buck limit in the eastern half of the state — as well as establish an alligator season and protect trophy blue catfish in a handful of lakes.

The Commission voted to add to the current management regions a fifth, dividing the Eastern deer section into Northeastern and Southeastern sections, while moving a handful of counties from the Western deer section to the Northwestern section. 

The Northeastern section would range as far west as Vance, Franklin and Wake counties, south to Johnston and Wayne counties, east to Greene, Pitt, Martin and Bertie counties, and including all of the counties north of Albemarle Sound. The Southeastern section would range as far west as Harnett, Moore and Richmond counties. Rutherford, Polk and Cleveland counties were moved from the Western to the Northwest section. 

The Commission voted to lower the season limit on antlered deer from four to two in the three eastern zones to match regulations in the western half of the state that have been in place for more than 15 years. The statewide limit on antlerless deer would be four per season, with bonus tags allowed only during Urban Archery seasons.

In Western section counties, and in Polk, Rutherford and Cleveland counties, antlerless deer seasons of various lengths would move from the end of the gun seasons to the beginning.

The Commission set aside an earlier proposal to restructure season dates, dropping muzzleloading season from two weeks to one, because of public response at a series of meetings across the state in February.

“We listened to the sportsmen,” said John Coley of Holly Springs, chairman of the Commission.

The Commission voted to divide the Coastal Bear Management Unit into five hunting zones with different season placements and lengths beginning as early as the second Saturday in November.

Fishermen on Kerr (Buggs Island), Gaston and Roanoke Rapids reservoirs will be limited to one blue catfish per day larger that 32 inches.

And alligator harvests will be allowed from Sept. 1-Oct. 1 on a permit-only basis the Commission will set up.

All regulation changes will take effect on Aug. 1, and be in effect for the 2018-19 hunting seasons.