The Northern Piedmont region, about a dozen counties in the upper-central portion of the state along the North Carolina/Virginia border, is the most consistent area for turning out quality bucks. A good mixture of agriculture, fertile soils and hardwood forests produces healthy eight-point-plus, three-year-old whitetails that weigh between 150 and 170 pounds on average. Diverse habitat and less impact from the long drought in the Southeast haven't hurt the estimated 1 million deer in North Carolina. State officials expect another good season and a harvest somewhere in the range of 212,000, as in previous seasons. "When we talk about quality bucks, the Northern Piedmont is the region we look at," says deer project leader Evin Stanford. "If a hunter is looking for quantity, the Piedmont and Upper Coastal Plain have the most deer. The Upper Coastal Plain has high numbers and more accessibility to land. Our latest surveys showed about thirty-five deer per square mile in most of the region." The mountains of western North Carolina may turn out bigger bucks due to an older age-class, Stanford says, but hunters have to work much harder in the rugged terrain to bag one. Deer density also is significantly lower in that area along the eastern slope of the Appalachian Mountain range and its foothills. North Carolina has added about 27,000 acres to its state-managed Game Lands Program, including four new areas in Haywood, Beaufort, Washington and Brunswick counties. Eleven existing Game Lands Program areas have been expanded; the largest expansion was the addition of 5,943 acres to Gull Rock Game Lands.