Virginia 2016–2017 Fall Wild Turkey Harvest Summary

A total of 3,120 wild turkeys were harvested in Virginia during the 2016-17 fall turkey hunting season. While data suggest Virginia’s turkey population is close to record levels for modern times, fall harvests will fluctuate due to a number of factors. These factors include annual variation in turkey productivity, mast conditions, and weather. Turkey productivity or “the hatch” can vary widely due to weather conditions in May and June. In 2016, productivity (2.4 poults/hen) was slightly below our long-term average (2.5 poults/hen). Acorn abundance, which varies by year and region, significantly impacts fall turkey hunter success rates.

In years with abundant acorns, wild turkey home ranges are small, making them harder for hunters to find. Conversely, without acorns, turkeys range further and hunter success rates increase. This year’s acorn production, varied by the species of oak trees with the red oak group producing average yields of acorns. In contrast, white oak acorns were below-average for most of the state; however, some areas had bumper crops. With these mast conditions hunter success rates were likely below long term averages (12%).

One of the goals of the Department’s Wild Turkey Management Plan is to promote fall turkey hunting. In 2015, the Youth and Apprentice Hunting day was expanded to include Sundays. Harvest during this special weekend totaled 50 birds in the 2016-17 season. Virginia’s Jefferson and George Washington National Forests offer significant opportunities for fall turkey hunting.

The turkey harvest on our National Forests increased from 116 birds in 2015-16 to 134 birds in 2016-17. Due to good distribution of red oak crops, turkeys may have shifted their home ranges to primarily forested National Forests lands.

Season/Method Number Harvested % Total Harvest
Total Harvest 3,120 100
Type of Turkey
Without Beard 1,186 38
Beard <6” 522 17
Beard >6” 1,412 45
Region
East of Blue Ridge 1,688 54
West of Blue Ridge 1,425 46
Time Frame
Early (Archery) 231 7
Oct-Nov (Firearms) 1,087 35
Thanksgiving 435 14
December 1,013 33
January 209 7
Weapon
Shotgun 1,103 35
Rifle 1,025 33
Muzzleloader 602 19
Top 10 Counties
1 Bedford 91
2 Pittsylvania 81
3 Scott 81
4 Franklin 74
5 Shenandoah 74
6 Tazewell 74
7 Augusta 70
8 Dickenson 67
9 Russell 63
10 Fauquier 62

Virginia Fall Wild Turkey Harvest 1951–2016