The Office of the Duke Forest would like to announce that the 15th annual deer herd reduction program on the Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory will commence on Monday, September 26, 2022 and end on Friday, December 16, 2022. During this time, the Durham, Korstian, and Blackwood Divisions are closed to public access and for all recreation Monday through Friday. Saturdays and Sundays are open for normal use.
The program will be suspended and the Forest open for recreational use on Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday, November 24th and 25th.
Please refer to the 2022 Deer Management Notice and our Wildlife Management page for more information about why this annual program is so important.
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► Why can't you keep the Forest open for recreation?
The Forest is only closed Monday – Friday. It is open for recreation on Saturdays and Sundays. The goal of the weekday closure is to maximize the safety and effectiveness of the hunt program, which is a critically important management activity conducted to protect the health of the forest ecosystem.
We work with select groups of highly skilled hunters and for them to be effective, they need an environment that is minimally disturbed. Our hunters use either bow and arrow (Durham and Korstian) or gun (Blackwood), and so by separating hunting activity from recreational activity, we maximize everyone’s safety.
Recreation is a longstanding and important ancillary benefit of the Forest’s existence, but it’s only ever been allowed when it does not conflict with teaching, research, or management. Deer herd reduction is a critical stewardship activity that significantly contributes to our primary objective of ensuring that the Duke Forest remains a teaching, research, and natural asset well into the future.
► Could you just close the Forest for only a couple of days a week instead of Monday through Friday?
We have considered changes to the weekday closure, but it is not practical for our hunt partners. We work with a select group of hunters that travel from various and sometimes significant distances to partner with us in this work. Each hunter must deal with the vagaries of weather and their own work and home responsibilities in order to uphold their responsibilities to our hunt program; thus, we need to give them the flexibility of Monday – Friday. It would be significantly easier for them if we allowed weekend hunting, as is permissible in our state, but we have always avoided doing so because recreational use has always been (and remains) highest on the weekends.
► Why can’t you skip a year to keep the Forest open during the pandemic?
We recognize that 2020 and 2021 have been extraordinary years, and we wholeheartedly appreciate the reprieve that outdoor spaces like the Duke Forest have provided during this pandemic. In the Durham, Korstian, and Blackwood Divisions, the deer season closure will only be during the week, Monday – Friday; weekends remain open.
As the Office of the Duke Forest, our mission is to facilitate teaching and research uses and to steward the Forest’s resources that are foundational to its mission. Continuing to manage the deer herd is a high priority activity, and it must be accomplished on a consistent, annual basis in order to maintain negative pressure on the population and reduce its negative impacts on the Duke Forest ecosystem. 2022 will be our 15th consecutive year, and because of the reproductive cycle of White-tailed Deer, it must continue on an annual basis to remain effective and to prevent the loss of gains we have made.
Again this year, we consulted recent literature, the NC Wildlife Resource Commission’s district biologist, as well as faculty and administrators at Duke. The message is clear that consistent, annual pressure on the deer herd is critical, and that the deer management program remains recognized as a safe and effective way to achieve our stewardship goals.
► Don't coyotes hunt deer?
Coyote populations have been increasing in this area for some time, and while it is documented that they do take some deer, they do not replace the function that human hunters provide in controlling deer populations. This quick, easy -to-read blog post gives a great overview of why that is.
► Where are other places nearby where I can walk in the woods?
There are lots of places nearby to recreate. Check out opportunities offered by Triangle Land Conservancy, Orange and Durham Counties, and North Carolina State Parks. Please visit the website for each entity to understand current safety or closure notices, as well as to appreciate the mission, purpose, and management of each land base.