Virginia Spring Turkey Hunters See overall Success, But Numbers Along I-95 Corridor Falling
Spring 2022 turkey hunters did well overall, registering 19,711 birds. According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, this is the fourth highest spring turkey harvest on record. The three highest years came in 2015, 2020 and 2021. Spring 2021 hunters took 20,541 turkeys.
Turkey populations can vary considerably by region based on several factors including habitat, predation, weather, hunting pressure and more.
The 2022 numbers were within DWR staff expectations, with the reduced harvest possibly caused by lower hunter participation on opening weekend. Much of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge saw cold, windy weather with snow in some counties. Opening weekend reports were off about 28 percent from 2021. This difference was minimized across the remaining five weeks as the harvest totals finished only 4 percent lower than last year.
Southampton County led the state with 524 turkeys killed, upending last year’s leader Bedford County, which recorded 476, down 14 percent from last year, but still enough for third position. Franklin County was second with 499 turkeys.
Like the numbers recorded during the most recent deer season, the turkey harvest around the greater Fredericksburg region were down, sometimes significantly. Caroline County’s turkey take fell from an exceptional 357 birds in 2021 to 288 this year. Spotsylvania County hunters took 100 turkeys, down from 144 in 2021, with King George recording 99 birds, down from 125 in 2021. Stafford County continues its slide, recording just 63 turkeys, down from the 74 in 2021. These counties are all down 12-23 percent from their three-year averages.
As in previous years, more turkeys were killed east of the Blue Ridge (66 percent) than west of the Blue Ridge (34 percent), although the overall eastern count was down about 7 percent. Statewide, most turkeys reported, 86 percent, were adult toms. Hunters recorded the most success in the morning, with 91 percent of the birds coming before noon.
In a repeat of last season, public land hunters only tagged 6 percent of the statewide total. Just 639 birds were taken on the 1.6 million-plus acres of the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest. This is 13 percent lower than last year and reflects persistent habitat issues associated with this vast tract of public land. The other 500 or so public land birds came from wildlife management areas, military installations, state forests and other public tracts open for hunting.
In announcing spring harvest numbers, the DWR stated that Virginia “seems to be a bright spot regionally,” with neighboring and nearby states reporting declining spring turkey harvests and populations.
“Considering that three of the top 4 season harvests have occurred since 2020, there is considerable room for optimism within Virginia’s turkey woods,” stated the report, authored by Upland Gamebird Biologist Mike Dye and Katie Martin, a deer-bear-turkey biologist. “However, that optimism is somewhat tempered with the realization that there are several areas of the commonwealth where DWR’s Wild Turkey Management Plan calls for increasing populations. DWR biologists are monitoring these areas for potential management solutions.”
Maryland also released its turkey harvest report this week. Hunters there took 4,208 wild turkeys during the spring regular and junior turkey seasons. That was 8% higher than the 2021 total and 2% below the record of 4,303 set in 2020. To see more details of the turkey harvest, including a county-by-county report, go to dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/turkey.