During the 2017–18 deer hunting season, hunters harvested 189,730 deer in Virginia. This total included 95,474 antlered bucks, 12,822 button bucks, and 81,434 does.
The youth and apprentice deer hunting weekend resulted in a harvest of 2,954 deer. The archery season harvest was 27,630 deer while hunters took 48,811 deer during the muzzleloader season. Firearms deer season (rifles and shotguns) resulted in a deer harvest of 113,169 deer, while deer hunting with dogs accounted for approximately 54percent of the total firearms deer harvest in the 59 eastern counties where deer-dog hunting is legal.
In areas where hunting deer with dogs is legal, the percentage of deer harvested using dogs ranged from just a few percent in northern Virginia to nearly 90 percent on the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Virginia’s southeastern counties. Approximately 157,500 deer were checked using the Department’s electronic telephone and online checking through the Go Outdoors Virginia portal.
Annual deer harvest totals by county dating back to 1947, including the county-specific 2017 deer harvest totals, can be found online.
Turkey harvest declines
A total of 2,132 wild turkeys were harvested in Virginia during the 2017–18 fall turkey hunting season, a 24 percent decline compared to the previous year, and 31 percent below the recent 5-year average. The decline was nearly identical in counties east and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Wild Turkey Project Leader Gary Norman said he anticipated a decline in the fall harvest based on the very poor reproduction and spotty mast crops, but perhaps not as high as what was observed.
He went on to say that “despite efforts to promote interest in fall turkey hunting, the long-term decline of fall turkey hunters and turkey hunting effort may be having the biggest influence on total fall harvest. The October youth and apprentice fall turkey hunting weekend and the late January fall season were designed to encourage interest in fall turkey hunting.
Additional surveys of hunters will be necessary to fully understand how these opportunities may have enhanced participation in fall turkey hunting. For county by county data, visit here.
Black bear numbers increase
During bear hunting seasons, 2,861 bears were harvested by 32,687 licensed bear hunters.
With 1,474 bears harvested, the regular firearms season accounted for most of the harvest where hound hunters made up the majority (72 percent) of the firearms harvest.
Archery, muzzleloader and 3-day early firearms seasons resulted in the harvest of 497,395 and 395 bears, respectively. Another 100 bears were taken during the youth and apprentice bear hunting weekend on October 14-15 (91 percent by hound hunters).
With nonresidents throughout the United States purchasing 1,155 licenses to hunt bears in Virginia, successful out-of-state bear hunters came from 33 different states.
The 2017-18 bear harvest was 17 percent higher than the highest previous year. The new 3-day early firearms season occurred during the week prior to the archery season, increasing bear hunting mortality and in the overall statewide bear harvest.
As anticipated, the percent female composition of the early-season bear harvest (48 percent) was higher than during the remaining bear hunting seasons, with the exception of the youth apprentice weekend. Because a number of factors influence the annual bear harvest, it will take several years to determine the impact of the additional 3-day early firearms season.
One indication of an increased interest in bear hunting was the rise in bear hunting license sales, with nearly 900 more bear licenses sold in 2017 than 2016. Summing up the new early bear firearms season,
“One goal was to implement an inclusive season that would specifically generate interest in bear hunting by making it open to all types of hunting. The popularity of the season among hound and still hunters alike was proof that we accomplished this goal,” according to Bear Project Leader Jaime Sajecki.
To view black bear harvest data by county, click here.