Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have compiled preliminary figures for deer, bear, and turkey harvests for the 2013-14 fall/winter hunting seasons. The deer, bear, and turkey harvests all reflected an increase from last year. A poor acorn crop 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.
During the past deer season 242,734 deer were reported killed by deer hunters in Virginia. This total included 106,230 antlered bucks, 20,082 button bucks, 116,304 does (48%), and 118 “unknown” deer. The fall 2013 deer kill total was up 13% from the 215,241 deer reported killed last fall. It is also slightly above the last ten-year average of 232,600 (up 4%).
The Department’s primary deer management effort over the past five to 10 years has been to increase the female deer kill over much of the state, especially on private lands. Female deer kill numbers have been at record levels for the past eight consecutive deer seasons. These high and sustained female deer kill levels are intended to eventually lead to a decrease in the statewide deer herd and a decline in total deer kill numbers.
A total of 2,312 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2013-14 bear hunting seasons. Representing the combined kill from youth/apprentice, archery, muzzleloader, and firearms hunters, the 2013-14 harvest was an 8% increase over last year’s initial reported kill of 2,144 bears and approached the highest recorded bear harvest of 2,325 bears during the 2009-10 seasons. Although bears were harvested in 75 counties/cities throughout the Commonwealth, most of the harvest occurred west of the Blue Ridge (73%).
During the 2013-14 fall turkey season, 5,351 turkeys were harvested. The 2013-14 season total was the highest fall harvest reported over the past 9 years. This harvest was 21% above last year’s reported kill (4,432). The harvest increased 8% in counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains (WBR) (1,734 vs 1,869). Counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains (EBR) increased 29% percent (2,698 vs. 3,482).
Mast crops (primarily acorns) were sparse during the fall season. Birds tend to travel farther with poor mast crops in search of food which oftentimes takes them near or in openings or fields. As a result, their home ranges increase; therefore, birds become more visible and easier to locate. Under these circumstances, hunting harvest rates increase. Taken together, record- level populations and below-average mast crops contributed to the harvest increase.