Virginia Deer, Bear and Turkey Harvests

Virginia Dept of Game & Inland FisheriesWildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) have compiled preliminary figures for deer, bear, and turkey harvests for the 2012-13 fall/winter hunting seasons. The white-tailed deer harvest was down from last year while the turkey and bear harvest increased. The turkey harvest was the highest fall turkey harvest reported over the past five years. A better acorn crop than last year, in the range of average to good, across the state coupled with management actions to meet population objectives all factored into fluctuations in populations and harvest trends. The harvest figures continue to indicate that good hunting is available across the Commonwealth for these popular game species. Data presented in these summaries are preliminary.

White-tailed Deer
During the past deer season 213,597 deer were reported killed by hunters in Virginia. This total included 96,712 antlered bucks, 18,061 button bucks, 98,781 does (46.3%), and 43 “unknown” deer. The fall 2012 deer kill total was down 8%from the 233,104 deer reported killed last year. It is also 9% below the last 10 year average of 232,573.
Total deer kill levels were down from last fall across most of Virginia including Tidewater (down 15%), the Southern Piedmont (down 8%), the Northern Piedmont (down 9%), and the Southern Mountains (down 3%). Deer kill levels were stable in the Northern Mountains. The female deer kill which was down 13% from 2011, while the antlered buck kill was only down 2% from 2011. The top 5 counties were Bedford, Loudoun, Southampton, Fauquier and Pittsylvania.

Archers, not including crossbow hunters, killed 15,791 deer. The bow kill comprised 7% of the total deer kill. Crossbows resulted in a deer kill of 10,596 deer or 5% of the total deer kill. Muzzleloader hunters killed 54,808 deer or 26% of the total deer kill. Nearly 160,000 deer (78%) were checked using the Department’s telephone and Internet checking systems. The youth deer hunting day in September resulted in a deer kill of 1,977 deer.

Black Bear
A total of 2144 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2012 – 2013 bear hunting seasons representing the combined kill from archery, muzzleloader, and firearms hunters. The 2012 harvest resulted in an approximate 7% increase over last year’s initial reported kill of 1997 bears. In 2012, bears were harvested in 73 counties/cities. Female bears represented 36% of the total 2012 harvest, which was a smaller proportion of females in the total harvest compared to the previous 3-year average female harvest of 42%.

Archery hunters accounted for 513 bears during 2012, representing 24% of the total harvest. The top three archery counties were Augusta (32), Rockingham (30) and Page (24). Crossbow hunters accounted for 44% of the total archery kill in 2012. The harvest from the archery season was 32% female, down from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 42%.

Muzzleloader hunting opportunities were expanded in 2011, and the second year of the statewide 1-week muzzleloader harvest accounted for 415 bears (19% of the total harvest). This is an increase over the previous 3-year average (15%) of the total harvest. The top three muzzleloading counties were Rockingham (22) Botetourt (18), and Bath (18).

Representing 57% of the total harvest, the 2012 firearms season yielded 1216 bears, an increase from the 2011 harvest (1039 bears, 52% of harvest) and greater than the previous 3-year average percent of the total harvest (52%). Hound hunters accounted for 59% of the firearms kill in 2012 (33% of the statewide harvest), which was an increase over the previous 3-year average of 56% of the firearms harvest and 29% of the total statewide harvest. The top three general firearms counties were Rockingham (89), Nelson (75) and Craig (63). General firearms hunters who did not use hounds harvested 40% females, a reduction from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 42%. Hound hunters harvested 34% females down from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 36%. The top 3 counties/cities for bear harvest without the use of dogs were Nelson (31), Rockingham (29), and Suffolk (25). The top 3 counties for bear harvest with the use of dogs were Rockingham (60), Craig (55), and Nelson (44).

Fall Wild Turkey
During the 2012-13 fall turkey season, 4,432 turkeys were harvested. The 2012-13 harvest was the highest fall harvest reported over the past 5 years and was 28% above last year’s reported kill (3,470). The harvest increased 37% in counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains (1,734 vs 1,267). Counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains increased 21% percent (2,673 vs. 2,203). Botetourt led all counties with a harvest of 151 birds. Most of the harvest was reported on private lands. On the Youth Fall Turkey Hunt Day 60 birds were harvested.

The 2012-13 was the second year for the January season. Virtually all of the comments received on the January season were positive. The harvest during the January season was 245 birds. The highest harvest during the January season was the last Saturday of the season. Hunters reported more birds (65%) by phone or internet.

The increase in the harvest was expected given good reproduction and acorn crops were better than last year. Turkey reproduction is typically highly variable and may be influenced by many variables; the greatest is believed to be inclement weather during the 2 weeks following hatching.

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