Department of Game and Inland Fisheries releases fall/winter harvest data
Muzzleloader hunting opportunities were expanded in 2011 and were available for the first time in southwest Virginia. The statewide 1- week muzzleloader harvest accounted for 265 bears (13% of the total harvest). The new season in Southwest Virginia resulted in the harvest of 55 bears. The total muzzleloader harvest was less than both the 2010 (342 bears) and 2009 (356 bears) seasons. The top three muzzleloading counties were Rockingham (22), Page (20), and Augusta (14). The harvest from the muzzleloader season was composed of 42% females compared to 41% females in 2010 and 51% in 2009.
Representing 52% of the total kill, the 2011 firearms season yielded 1,039 bears, a decrease from the 2010 harvest (1,428 bears, 66% of harvest) and an increase from the 2009 firearms harvest of 931. Hound hunters accounted for 64% of the firearms kill in 2011 (33% of harvest), which was an increase over 2010 (57%), 2009 (48%), and 2008 (47%). The top three general firearms counties were Augusta (109), Rockingham (96), and Rockbridge (67). General firearms hunters who did not use hounds harvested 45% females (40% in 2010, 42% in 2009), while hound hunters harvested 39% females (36% in 2010, 30% in 2009).
The 2011-2012 Virginia bear harvest is similar to other Mid-Appalachian states including West Virginia that saw a slight decrease in the number of bears harvested over last season. This slight decrease was within the expected harvest levels for a year with a poor and spotty fall mast crop. Black bears are managed through population objectives in the Black Bear Management Plan. The bear population objectives are currently being revised for the Revised Black Bear Management Plan and subsequent bear harvest seasons will be structured according to the new bear population objectives.
Fall Wild Turkey
During the 2011-2012 fall turkey season, 3,470 turkeys were harvested. This harvest was 29% above last year’s reported kill (2,687). The harvest increased 15% in counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains (1,267 vs. 1,102). Counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains increased 39% (2,203 vs. 1,585). Botetourt led all counties with a harvest of 119 birds. Most of the harvest was reported on private lands. Thirty-seven birds were harvested on the Youth Fall Turkey Hunt Day.
The 2011-2012 season was the first year a separate January season was offered. Virtually all of the comments received on the January season were positive. The harvest in the thirteen day January season was 273 birds.
This year also marked the first time fall turkey kills could be checked using the phone or on the internet. Hunters reported 57% of their harvest using either method.
The increase in the harvest was expected given good reproduction and spotty mast crops. Turkey harvest rates typically increase when acorns are scattered. Birds tend to travel further with low mast crops in search of food which oftentimes takes them near or in openings or fields. As a result, their home ranges increase and birds become more visible, easy to locate, and easier to hunt.
Additionally, it appears reproduction was higher than average, although the increase was not uniform across all regions. Turkey reproduction is typically highly variable and may be influenced by many factors; the greatest is believed to be inclement weather during the 2 weeks following hatching. Juvenile birds typically make up a majority of the fall harvest, so a good hatch can add to the fall take. Taken together, average mast crops and above-average reproduction likely contributed to the harvest increase.
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Virginia’s Black Bear Management Plan can be viewed at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear/blackbearmanagementplan.pdf
Information about black bears in Virginia can be found at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear/
Virginia’s White-tailed Deer Management Plan can be viewed at
Information about white-tailed deer in Virginia can be found at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/deer/
Information about wild turkeys in Virginia can be found at