Rockingham - Harrisonburg Chapter
Gary Norman - Wild Turkey Project Coordinator
Fall turkey hunters reported a harvest of 4,759 birds in the 2007-08 season. This harvest was 15% percent above last year's reported kill (4,143). The harvest increased 24 percent in counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains (2,077 vs. 1,673). Counties east of the Blue Ridge increased 9 percent (2,682 vs. 2,470). Scott led all counties with a harvest of 171 birds. Cumberland and Floyd were new to the top 10 county list of fall harvested birds while Dinwiddie and Alleghany dropped out of the top 10.
Gary Norman, Wild Turkey Project supervisor, was encouraged with the increased fall harvest. "Production has been poor in recent years, and our turkey population growth has slowed," noted Mr. Norman, "so this year's increase in fall harvest is good news for our turkey hunters.” The Department has been concerned with the declining trend in fall hunting as fewer hunters are choosing the challenging sport of fall turkey hunting. To partially address this issue, the Board of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recently passed a special fall youth hunt that will take place on October 18, 2008. The hunt will hopefully provide youth with an opportunity to experience the thrills and excitement that fall turkey hunting can provide.
Mr. Norman said that the higher harvest was due in part to below-average mast crops. Poor mast crops tend to increase harvest rates as birds spend more time in fields and clearings searching for food and are typically more vulnerable to hunting under these conditions. Compared to last year, mast crops were lower in all regions of the state except the North Piedmont, where conditions were similar to 2006.
Most birds were taken on private lands (90%) with the balance coming from federal (8%) or state-owned (2%) lands. Archers took 4% of the harvest in the early part of the archery season. During the firearms season, 52% of successful hunters took birds with a shotgun, 28% with a rifle, 14% with a muzzleloader and 2% used other weapons. Approximately 23% of the harvest was reported during the first week of the season. This was the highest weekly harvest reported in counties with the 6-week fall season. Following the first week, the harvest was generally uniform, ranging from 9 to 15% during the remaining five weeks of the season. Thirteen percent of the harvest came on Thanksgiving Day.