2013 Spring Gobbler Harvest Summary

Record Spring Gobbler Harvest For 2013

Spring turkey hunters reported harvesting a record 19,265 birds during the 2013 season, according to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The 2013 spring harvest exceeded the previous record harvest of 18,345 birds set in 2002. The 2013 harvest was 26% above last year's harvest of 15,326 gobblers. The harvest east of the Blue Ridge Mountains was 23% higher than last year's harvest (12,994 vs. 10,527). In counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains the harvest increased 31% (6,271 vs. 4,799). Eighty-seven percent of the birds harvested were adult birds. Seventy-four bearded hens were reported. Fifteen percent of the harvest took place on opening day. By week, the highest harvest took place during the first week of the season (31%). The weekly harvest was similar through the balance of the season. Most of the birds were harvested by hunters using shotguns (92%). Hunters using rifles accounted for 7% of the harvest. The vast majority of birds were harvested on private lands (92%). The balance was reported from hunters hunting on federal (6%) or state (2%) lands.

Because the spring harvest is believed to be the best index to turkey populations, the record 2013 suggests a robust turkey population. However, population levels were not uniform across the state. Populations in the South Piedmont and Tidewater Regions are believed to be the highest in the state. Assuming other regions of the state have similar habitats, population growth can be expected in years to come.

Strong reproduction over the past 2 years has helped bolster the turkey population. Particularly mild spring weather in 2011 appeared to stimulate recruitment. Birds hatched in 2011 were 2 years old during the 2013 season. These birds tend to gobble frequently and represent an important part of the harvest.

Weather is also an important factor impacting hunter success rates. Good gobbling requires good weather. More birds were killed on Saturdays than any other day of the week. Fortunately, Saturday weather during the 2013 season was generally mild, conditions that likely contributed to the record setting season.

Recruitment and retention of hunters is a critical aspect to the future of hunting. The Special Youth Season offered a special day for young hunters to enjoy the sport at a time when competition is low. The season also offered the potential to retain adult hunters to mentor younger hunters. It was encouraging to announce that nearly 3% of the harvest (522 birds) came during the Special Youth Season. Harvest in the 2013 Spring Youth Season was comparable to 2012 (4%).

In summary, the 2013 spring season represents a new landmark for spring turkey harvest and population levels. This robust population status offers Virginia hunters extensive opportunities for high quality turkey hunting.

Top 10 Counties for Spring Gobbler Harvest:

Bedford 631
Halifax 516
Pittsylvania 510
Franklin 425
Southampton 411
Scott 346
Caroline 327
Sussex 326
Campbell 318
Westmoreland 304

Top 5 Season Harvests:

2013 19,265
2002 18,345
2003 17,988
2006 17,195
2009 16,661