Virginia 2014–2015 Fall Wild Turkey Harvest Summary
In Virginia, 2,988 turkeys were harvested during the 2014-15 fall turkey season. The 2014-15 season total was 44% below last year’s reported kill (5,351). The harvest decreased 36% in counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains (WBR) (1,205 vs. 1,869). Counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains (EBR) decreased 49% percent (1,783 vs. 3,482). EBR hunters harvested 11 birds per 100 square miles of forest range. That rate was nearly identical to counties WBR where 13 birds were killed per 100 square miles of forest range. Botetourt and Pittsylvania led all counties with a harvest of 85 birds each. Most (91%) of the harvest was reported on private lands. Approximately 6% of the harvest was on federal lands. A 35% decline was seen in both the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Twenty-nine birds were harvested on the Youth Fall Turkey Hunt Day, which is lower than last year (50).
The 2014-15 season was the first year hunters could hunt turkeys (and other game) on Sundays. Interest in Sunday hunting appeared light as only 5% of the harvest was reported on Sundays during the firearms seasons. In contrast, 27% of the harvest was reported on Saturdays in the firearms seasons.
The 2014-15 fall season was the fourth year where 2-weeks of turkey hunting was provided in January. The harvest during the January season was 179 birds, down from 265 birds during the 2013-14 season. Although the harvest was light, many enjoy hunting with less competition and oftentimes have the opportunity to track birds in the snow.
Twelve percent of the state harvest (358) was taken on Thanksgiving Day. Most turkeys were harvested during the second week of the firearm season; 18% in counties EBR and 25% in counties WBR.
In counties WBR, the harvest was nearly evenly split among rifle hunters (34%), shotgun hunters (28%), and muzzleloader hunters (25%). Archers and pistol hunters make up the balance. In contrast, turkey harvested EBR were taken by shotgun hunters (48%) followed by rifle (25%) and muzzleloader hunters (19%). A number of counties in eastern Virginia restrict use of rifles for hunting which is likely the reason a higher percentage of the EBR birds are taken by shotgun hunters. More hunters chose to check their bird using the Department’s telephone and internet checking systems (86%) compared to checking their bird at a Game Check Station (14%).
Gary Norman, Wild Turkey Project Leader, indicated a decline in the harvest was expected because mast crops were generally above average across the state. Good mast crops depress harvest rates as turkeys move less to find food and typically spend most of their time in forested areas, using smaller home ranges and remaining out of view. In years with poor mast conditions, like last year, birds travel longer distances and routinely spend time in fields and clearings, in view of the public which typically results in higher hunter success rates. The magnitude of change between years is significant and the wide contrast in mast crops between years is believed to be the primary cause. Despite the low fall harvest, we believe turkey populations are in good condition as cooperators in our August Brood Survey reported seeing near record numbers of broods and total numbers of turkeys. The widespread availability of acorns, the turkey’s favorite food, simply made for tough hunting conditions as birds were hard to locate.
For more information please contact Gary Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-248-9360.
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