Virginia 2017–2018 Fall Wild Turkey Harvest Summary

A total of 2,132 wild turkeys were harvested in Virginia during the 2017–18 fall turkey hunting season, which was a 24% decline compared to the 2016-17 fall seasons and 31% below the recent 5-year average. The decline was nearly identical in counties east (-24%) and west (-25%) of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

While Virginia’s turkey population is close to record levels for modern times, fall harvests will fluctuate due to a number of other factors in addition to population size. These factors include annual variation in turkey productivity, mast conditions, hunting pressure, and weather. Turkey productivity, or “the hatch”, can vary widely due to weather conditions in May and June. In 2017, productivity (2.3 poults/hen) was below our long-term average (2.5 poults/hen) and equaled the lowest previous production estimate from 2009.

Acorn abundance, which varies by year and region, significantly affects fall turkey hunter success rates. When food is readily available in years with abundant acorns, wild turkey home ranges are small which makes them harder for hunters to find. On the other hand, during years of acorn scarcity, turkeys must range further to find food and hunter success rates increase. The largest decreases in harvest (31%) came from the northern parts of the state where acorn production was generally better than in southern areas. The harvest was relatively stable (only down 8%) in counties near the North Carolina border.

Gary Norman, Wild Turkey Project Leader, said that he anticipated a decline in the fall 2017-18 harvest based on the very poor reproduction and spotty mast crops, but perhaps not as high as the 24% decline that was observed. He went on to say that “despite efforts to promote interest in fall turkey hunting, the long-term decline of fall turkey hunters and turkey hunting effort may be having the biggest influence on total fall harvest. Other states have seen similar decreases in fall turkey hunting interest by sportsmen.” One of the goals of the DGIF Wild Turkey Management Plan is to reverse the general decline in fall turkey hunting interest. The October youth and apprentice fall turkey hunting weekend and the late January fall season were designed to encourage interest in fall turkey hunting. Additional surveys of hunters will be necessary to fully understand how these opportunities may have enhanced participation in fall turkey hunting.

Season/Method Number Harvested % Total Harvest
Total Harvest 2,132 100
Type of Turkey    
     Without Beard 692 33
     Beard <6” 370 17
     Beard >6” 1,070 50
    East of Blue Ridge 1,177 55
    West of Blue Ridge 955 45
Time Frame    
     Early (Archery) 158 8
     Youth/Apprentice 34 2
     Oct-Nov 713 34
     Thanksgiving 262 12
     December 768 37
     January 162 8
     Shotgun 731 34
     Rifle 683 32
     Muzzleloader 432 20
     Archery 286 14
Top 10 Counties    
1 Bedford 74
2 Wythe 62
3 (tie) Montgomery 60
3 (tie) Floyd 60
3 (tie) Craig 60
6 Franklin 57
7 Pittsylvania 53
8 Fauquier 52
9 (tie) Washington 49
9 (tie) Botetourt 49

Virginia Fall Wild Turkey Harvest 1951–2017