Deer, Bear, and Turkey Harvest Figures Available

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The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) announced preliminary figures for bear, deer, and turkey harvests for the 2002-2003 Fall Seasons. Overall, there were no surprises. Bear and deer preliminary harvest figures are consistent with recent years. Preliminary fall harvest figures for wild turkey declined significantly from last year, however they remain only slightly below the average for the last five years.

The harvest of 928 black bears during the 2002-2003 season is the second highest on record. This is a 6.2 percent increase over the 2001-2002 harvest of 874, and only 7.2 percent less than the record harvest of 1,000 in 2000-2001. Harvest west of the Blue Ridge Mountains totaled 629 bears this past season compared with 617 the previous year, an increase of 1.9 percent. Harvest in eastern counties increased from 257 to 299, an increase of 16.3 percent. The total included 600 males (nearly 65 percent) and 328 females. Bow hunters accounted for slightly more than 25 percent of the bear total with a harvest of 244 animals.

During the 2002-2003 deer season, preliminary figures indicate 213,023 white-tailed deer were reported harvested by hunters in Virginia, a slight decline from the 2001-2002 season figure of 215,872. The majority of deer, 128,416 (60 percent), were taken east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, compared with 84,607 harvested west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This total included 102,360 antlered males, 22,071 button bucks, and 85,749 females (nearly 41 percent). Bow hunters harvested 18,479 deer, or 9 percent of the overall harvest, while muzzleloader hunters harvested 48,468 deer, or approximately 23 percent of the overall figures.

Fall turkey hunters reported a preliminary harvest of 8,084 wild turkeys in the 2002-2003 season. While this figure is 32 percent below last year’s unusually high harvest of 11,891 birds, it is only slightly below the average take for the last five fall seasons. Hunters harvested 3,959 birds west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and harvested 4,125 east of the Blue Ridge Mountain. VDGIF biologists attribute the decline in turkey harvest figures to at least two major factors: poor reproduction and the influence of the mast crop. Biologists also believe that the drought experienced by the state, the worst in decades, played a role in the poor turkey hatch. Similar declines in turkey harvest figures are being seen across the mid-Atlantic states where conditions have been similar.

Bear, deer, and turkey harvest objectives and regulations are evaluated and amended every other year on odd years. Currently, the Department is preparing recommendations for the upcoming regulation cycle. Staff will present recommendations for hunting and trapping seasons to the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries at their March 6 meeting to be held at VDGIF headquarters, 4010 W. Broad Street in Richmond, beginning at 9 a.m. with a closed session. The public is welcome to attend.