2018 Spring Gobbler Harvest Summary
Spring Turkey Hunters Tackle Challenging 2018 Season
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries announced a total of 16,186 turkeys were harvested in Virginia during the 2018 spring gobbler season. The top harvest counties were Bedford with 511 birds, followed by Pittsylvania and Franklin with 393 birds each. County harvest totals and harvest per square mile of suitable habitat are available on this website.
“The statewide wild turkey population is high and stable,” notes Gray Anderson, DGIF Chief of Wildlife, “and the 14% decrease in harvest is normal annual fluctuation we would expect in a healthy managed population.” DGIF Wild Turkey Biologist Gary Norman said a drop in the harvest was not unexpected and cited two reasons for the decline.
First, the recruitment of young turkeys in to the state’s turkey population was low in 2016. The low recruitment in 2016 resulted in a decrease in the number of 2-year-old gobblers available for hunters to harvest in 2018. Norman pointed out that 2-year-old gobblers normally gobble a lot; a characteristic of gobblers that Department surveys indicate is an important expectation of spring turkey hunters. In addition, younger gobblers are typically not with hens as much as the more dominant, older birds, and thus, they are more likely to respond to a hunters calls.
Norman noted “Virginia has experienced a long string of years with low recruitment of young turkeys into the turkey population; we’re over-due a good hatch like the one we had in 2011.” He also remarked “Unfortunately, turkey recruitment in 2017 was lower than 2016, so hunters may be facing another challenging year in 2019 as the number of 2-year-old gobblers will once again be lower than normal.”
Weather was the second reason Norman provided for the decline in the spring turkey harvest. Norman stated, “Hunters faced challenging conditions with extended stretches of very hot days, cold and windy days, or rainy days; all of these conditions typically result in poor hunting success rates.” Poor hunting conditions were especially prevalent during the Youth and Apprentice weekend of April 7–8. The weekend’s harvest (465) was 26% below the 2017 harvest of 627 birds.
Hunters participating in the Department’s 2018 Spring Gobbler Season Survey remarked that gobbling was poor during the first and second weeks of the season. The harvest during Week 1 and 2 of the 2018 season was about 20% lower than the same weeks of the 2017 season, seeming to confirm that observation. Better gobbling and harvests were seen in Weeks 3 and 4 of the season. However, rain was heavy over most of the state during the last week of the season when the harvest fell once again.
Management of wild turkeys in Virginia is guided the Department’s Wild Turkey Management Plan. That plan can be read online.