General Game Lands Regulations
Some 2,000,000 acres of public and private lands in North Carolina are managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission for public hunting, trapping and inland fishing. They are designated collectively as “game lands.” Hunting on the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission through a joint venture. Additional regulations apply to the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge. Individual maps are available online at ncpaws.org/ncwrcmaps/gamelands.
Game Lands License
The use of game lands is now included with most annual and lifetime hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses. Please see the list of license privileges beginning on Privilege Licenses, Stamps & Certifications for more information.
Training dogs using wildlife on any game land or participating in field trials using wildlife on any game land either requires the Game Lands License or a valid license that authorizes the use of the game lands. The Game Lands License is required to horseback ride on certain game lands (please see Regulations for Specific Game Lands for rules specific to each game land).
For commission-sanctioned field trials using wildlife scheduled on game lands by the Wildlife Resources Commission, judges are exempt and active participants (defined as anyone who handles a dog or uses a firearm) in possession of hunting licenses from their own states may participate without the license. For any other game land field trial using wildlife, both judges and active participants must possess a game lands license or other North Carolina license which conveys the game land use privilege. Persons who are only observing at field trials do not need any license.
Game Lands Hunting Seasons
Unless otherwise indicated for a particular game land, game animal and game bird seasons are the same as the private land surrounding the game land. Unless otherwise provided by permit, hunting is allowed on game lands only during the open seasons for game animals and game birds and is restricted to weapons lawful for open game animal or game bird seasons.
Game Lands Restrictions
- On waterfowl impoundments with a posted perimeter boundary, it is unlawful on the legal hunting days for hunters to be within the posted impoundment area before 4 a.m., and hunting is prohibited after 1 p.m.; decoys may not be set out prior to 4 a.m. and must be removed by 3 p.m. each day. On designated youth waterfowl days occurring after the end of the regular waterfowl seasons, youth under age 18 may hunt in these game lands impoundments until sunset (all other restrictions still apply). At all other times, youth are individuals under 18 years of age when hunting on game lands.
- Waterfowl blinds may be constructed on most game lands; however, they become public property and can be used by anyone on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Blinds on areas not owned by the state must be removed after the hunting season; and on some game lands, the property owners may prohibit construction of permanent hunting blinds by posting a sign at the entrances stating such restrictions.
- It is unlawful to hunt in or within 100 yards of a designated Disabled Sportsman’s Waterfowl Blind during the waterfowl season, except by a disabled access permit holder and his or her permitted companion or holders of applicable disabled waterfowl hunt permits.
- It is unlawful to hunt with or have in possession any shotgun shell containing lead or toxic shot while hunting on any posted waterfowl impoundment on any game land, except shotgun shells containing lead buckshot may be used while deer hunting.
- It is unlawful to operate internal combustion engine-powered vessels or vehicles on posted waterfowl impoundments.
- If a waterfowl impoundment has a posted scouting-only zone, all activities except hunting and trapping are restricted to that zone from November 1 to March 15.
- When open days for waterfowl include Christmas and New Year’s Day and those days fall on Sundays, the open waterfowl hunting day is the following Monday.
Prohibited on Sundays
- Hunting with a firearm between 9:30 AM and 12:30 PM.
- The use of a firearm to take deer that are run or chased by dogs.
- Hunting with a firearm within 500 yards of a place of religious worship, as defined by G.S. 14-54.1(b), or any accessory structure thereof.
- Hunting migratory game birds.
- Driving a motorized vehicle licensed for highway use is allowed only on those roads constructed, maintained and open for vehicular travel and those trails posted for vehicular use. This does not apply to participants in scheduled bird dog field trials held on the Sandhills Game Land.
- Operation of any motorized land vehicle, including ATVs, not licensed for highway use is prohibited, except as otherwise expressly allowed. This does not apply to those areas specifically designated in national forests for unlicensed vehicle use.
- On those game lands or parts thereof specifically listed under the Disabled Access Program (page 94), persons holding a Disabled Veteran or Totally Disabled License, a Disabled Sportsman Hunt Certification, or a Disabled Access Permit may operate vehicles, including ATVs and all-terrain wheelchairs on:
- any Wildlife Resources Commission-maintained road open for vehicular travel;
- those trails posted for vehicular travel;
- ungated and open-gated roads otherwise closed to vehicular traffic.
- It is unlawful to block traffic or gates or otherwise prevent vehicles from using any roadway.
- On roads posted as “limited access” motorized vehicles are prohibited from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the months of June, July and August.
- It is unlawful to discharge any weapon:
- from a vehicle,
- within 150 yards of any residence located on or adjacent to game lands,
- within 150 yards of any game lands building or game lands camping area (unless otherwise posted).
The 150-yard provision of this rule does not apply to the use of archery equipment on Butner-Falls of Neuse and Jordan game lands.
- Firearms may be carried openly, or concealed with a valid concealed handgun permit, at any time on game lands, except for the game lands noted in this section. Hunting is allowed ONLY during the open seasons on game birds and game animals. On Buckhorn, Chatham, Harris, Hyco, Lee, Mayo, and Sutton Lake game lands, and Pee Dee River Game Land north of U.S. 74, and that portion of R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Land that is located north of U.S. 158 and east of N.C. 119 during closed seasons and closed hunting days on game birds (waterfowl, doves, woodcock, snipe, rails, gallinules, moorhens, coots, grouse, pheasant, quail, turkey) and game animals (deer, bear, fox, rabbits, squirrels, bobcats, opossum, raccoon), it is unlawful to possess any firearm readily available for use. During that time in which fox season is the only open season for a game animal, it is also unlawful to possess these weapons. However, persons may possess a firearm during the closed season on these game lands if:
- it is cased or not immediately available for use;
- it is used by persons participating in field trials on field trial areas;
- it is possessed in designated camping areas for defense of persons and property;
- or if it is a .22-caliber pistol with a barrel, not greater than 7.5 inches in length and shooting only short, long or long rifle ammunition, carried as a side arm.
In accordance with Code of Federal Regulations, the possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited on Butner-Falls of Neuse, Jordan, Kerr Scott, and Vance game lands unless:
- in the possession of a Federal, state or local law enforcement officer;
- being used for hunting or fishing, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites;
- being used at authorized shooting ranges; or
- written permission has been received from the District Commander.
- Where prohibited, target shooting is defined as the discharge of a firearm for purposes other than hunting, trapping or self-defense.
Training, Hunting, and Recreating with Dogs
- Except for authorized field trials, dogs may not be trained or allowed to run unleashed from April 1 through August 15 on any game land located west of I-95 and from March 15 through June 15 east of I-95.
- On game lands west of I-95, dogs also may not be trained or allowed to run unleashed during daylight hours on dates when special hunts are scheduled for the Disabled Sportsman Program. Additional restrictions apply to some designated bear management areas and game lands.
Designated Bear Management Areas
- It is unlawful to hunt bear on a designated bear management area, except by permit where allowed. (See page 62.)
- Dogs may not be used to pursue bear, except during permit hunts that allow hunting bear with dogs.
- It is unlawful to take feral swine on designated bear management areas except during the deer archery season, deer blackpowder season, deer gun season and any small game season using only weapons and manner of take prescribed for that hunting season.
- Dogs may not be used to take feral swine.
- Dogs shall not be trained or allowed to run unleashed between March 1 and the Monday on or nearest October 15 on designated bear management areas located in and west of the counties and parts of counties in Alamance County south of I-85, Orange County south of I-85, Chatham County, Lee County, Wake County south of N.C. 98; and in and west of Rockingham, Guilford, Randolph, and Montgomery Counties and that part of Anson County west of N.C. 742.
Posted Zones on Game Lands
- Safety Zone – unlawful to hunt or discharge a weapon. Falconry is allowed.
- Restricted Zone – no entry without a permit.
- Temporary Restricted Zone – no entry without a permit.
- Archery Zone – bow-and-arrow hunting and falconry only. On such areas, antlered or antlerless deer may be taken on all open days of any applicable open deer season. Hunting with dogs prohibited.
- Restricted Firearms Zones – unlawful to hunt with a centerfire rifle.
- Scouting-only Zone – unlawful to discharge firearms or bow and arrow.
- Restricted Deer Hunting Zone – use of dogs for taking deer prohibited without a permit.
- Day Use Only Zone – all public use prohibited between sunset and sunrise.
- Sensitive Habitat Zone – all public use prohibited within specified dates without prior written approval. ”Emergency Closures and Waivers” 15 NCAC 10A .1102.
Removal of Plants, Animals and Other Materials
Other materials includes: all metals, minerals, rocks, soil, organic debris, buildings, fences, archaeological resources as defined in G.S. 70-12, and water.
Only the following plants, animals and materials may be possessed on or removed from game lands:
- Wildlife, birds or fish legally taken under a valid hunting, trapping, fishing or falconry license
- Small amount of edible plants or plant parts for personal consumption, except any plants on a state or federal protected list.
- Insects, worms or other invertebrates collected as fish bait for personal use, except any on a state or federal protected list. Any fish bait collected may not be sold.
- Small amounts of animal parts, plant parts not removed from live plants, dirt, rocks and water. These items may not be collected for commercial purposes or sale.
- Firewood for use while camping on a game land.
- Litter and road kill animals, except when specifically prohibited.
- Bullfrogs may be taken from April 1 – August 31 with a valid license (Game Land, hunting, fishing, etc.) that allows access to and the use of Wildlife Resources Commission property.
- To possess or remove any other plants, animals and materials requires written permission that must be carried on their person at all times. This includes, but is not limited to, firewood to be taken off the game land, pine straw, ginseng, venus fly-trap, snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, salamanders, all metals, minerals, rocks, soil, organic debris, buildings, fences, archaeological resources as defined in G.S. 70-12, and water.
- Disabled sportsman blinds are for use by those individuals who possess a Disabled Veteran or Totally Disabled License or a Disabled Sportsman Hunt Certification, in addition to a valid hunting license and their companions on a first-come basis during nonpermit, open hunting days, except for the Restricted Area of R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Land. During permit hunts, the Commission will designate use of disabled sportsman blinds.
- Use of game lands for purposes other than hunting, trapping and fishing is subject to the control of the landowners.
- It is unlawful to release ANY bird or animal, except hunting dogs and raptors, on game lands without written authorization from the Wildlife Resources Commission.
- It is unlawful to hunt while under the influence of alcohol or any narcotic drug.
- It is unlawful to litter or dispose of refuse, except in receptacles provided for the purpose.
- Attempting to obscure the sex or age of any bird or animal taken by severing the head or any other part thereof, or possess any bird or animal that has been so mutilated is prohibited.
- Placing bait on game lands is prohibited without written authorization except when allowed for trapping.
- Game birds or game animals may not be taken with the aid of bait.
- It is unlawful to erect or to occupy for the purpose of hunting, any tree stand or platform attached by nails, screws, bolts or wire to a tree on any game land designated herein. This prohibition shall not apply to lag-screw steps or portable stands that are removed after use with no metal left remaining in or attached to the tree.
- It is unlawful to camp on game lands, except on an area posted by the landowner for camping, or to camp on those U.S. Forest Service lands that have been closed by posted order of the U.S. Forest Service. See the individual game lands listings beginning on Regulations for Specific Game Lands for further restrictions.
- On game lands where the Wildlife Resources Commission is the primary custodian, the maximum period of consecutive overnight camping at any designated campground is 14 days within any 30-day period. A game land license is required for all campers 16 years of age and older who do not hold a valid hunting, trapping or fishing license. After 14 consecutive days of camping during this period, all personal belongings must be removed from the game land.
- Raccoon and opossum hunting may continue until 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays on three-day-per-week game lands, until 7 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on four-day-per week game lands, and until 12 midnight on Saturdays on six-day-per-week game lands.
- U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Corps of Engineers regulations prohibit permanent structures (including permanent duck blinds and permanent deer stands) on all lands under their management.
- A permit is needed to enter Hunting Creek Swamp in Davie County.
- From one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset, properly licensed hunters may take feral swine on game lands during the open season for any game animal and game bird using any legal manner of take allowed during those open game seasons. Dogs may be used for hunting feral swine only on those game lands where the use of dogs is allowed for hunting deer or bear and only during the open applicable deer or bear season.
- Coyote hunting on game lands in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties is limited to permit hunts administered through the Permit Hunting Opportunities Program. Elsewhere on game lands, from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset, coyotes may be taken by properly licensed hunters during any open season for taking game animals and game birds using weapons that are lawful for the open game animal or game bird seasons.
- From one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise, hunting feral swine and coyotes on game lands is limited to permit hunts administered through the Permit Hunting Opportunities Program.
- Public nudity on any game land is prohibited.
- It is unlawful to use, enter, or remain on WRC property that is posted as closed.
Trapping on Game Lands
Trapping armadillo, beaver, bobcat, coyote, groundhog, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, otter, raccoon, skunk and weasel is permitted on game lands during the open season for that species (see Trapping Regulations). Foxes can be trapped on game lands during the regulated trapping season from November 1 to the end of February in counties with a local law authorizing fox trapping in that county. Additionally, fox trapping is allowed on game lands in Clay, Graham, Henderson, Macon and Tyrrell counties with a daily bag limit of 2 and season bag limit of 10 from the 1st to the 4th Saturday in January. Foxes may not be taken by trapping on game lands in counties with a closed fox trapping season or during any fox trapping season that occurs outside the dates of November 1 through the end of February. There is a closed trapping season on game lands from April 1 through September 30. Trapping must be in accordance with trapping regulations. Posted “Safety,” “Temporary Restricted” and “Restricted” zones and the regulated areas listed below are closed to trapping:
- Hunting Creek Swamp Waterfowl Refuge, Davie Co.
- J. Robert Gordon Sandhills Field Trial Area
A permit is required to trap on any game land designated as a permit-only area.
Bait may not be used on the national forest lands bounded by the Blue Ridge Parkway on the south, U.S. 276 on the north and east, and N.C. 215 on the west. At each trap, trappers may use a single bait site of grain, fruit, or other foods when trapping if the food is not a processed food product, is less than 3 cubic inches, and is completely covered to prevent it from being seen from above. Feathers (including those with attached skin or entire bird wings), hair (with or without skin or hide), and bones that include no attached meat, organs, or viscera do not need to be covered.
Processed food products are any food substance or flavoring that has been modified by the addition of ingredients or by treatment to modify its chemical composition or form or to enhance its aroma or taste. This includes: food products modified by sugar, honey, syrups, oils, salts, spices, peanut butter, grease, meat,bones, or blood; candies, pastries, gum, and sugar blocks; and extracts of such products.
Youth Waterfowl Days
No special permit will be required for youth to hunt waterfowl on any game land or game land impoundment, including permit-only areas on those days officially designated as “Youth Waterfowl Days,” unless specified for an individual game land that waterfowl hunting on Youth Waterfowl Days is by permit only.
Veterans/Military Waterfowl Days
On designated Veterans/Military Waterfowl Days, veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code) and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training), with valid credentials may hunt on game lands and impoundments not designated as permit-only areas from ½ hour before sunrise to sunset.
Waterfowl Management Areas
On those areas established by the Wildlife Resources Commission for either waterfowl restoration or waterfowl resting and feeding, and posted as waterfowl management areas, it is unlawful to hunt or harass waterfowl.
Field trials may be scheduled on the J. Robert Gordon Sandhills “Field Trial Area” by application in advance, accompanied by the appropriate facility use fee. No person or group shall use these facilities without having obtained specific written approval from an authorized agent of the Wildlife Resources Commission.
Commission-managed shooting ranges are available for the purpose of firearm marksmanship and development of shooting skills. Days and hours of operation may vary and are posted at the entrance to each range. Persons using a shooting range shall obey posted range safety rules. Those persons who violate range safety rules or create a public safety hazard may be directed by law enforcement officers or Commission employees to leave the range.
Currently the Commission manages the following shooting ranges:
- Wayne E. Smith Shooting Range on Cold Mountain Game Land.
- Flintlock Valley Shooting Range on Uwharrie Game Land.
- John F. Lentz Hunter Education Complex on Sandhills Game Land.
- Caswell Shooting Range on R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Land.
- Holly Shelter Shooting Range on Holly Shelter Game Land.
- Odom Shooting Range in Northampton County.
- Wake County Shooting Range.
Additional public and private shooting ranges can be found at ncwildlife.org/ShootingRanges.
Hunting On Federal Lands
State regulations and license requirements apply on federal lands. Some areas (including national forests/parks/wildlife refuges/seashores, as well as military bases) may be closed to hunting or have special restrictions. For specific property restrictions, contact the appropriate federal entity.