Last year was a good year to be a deer hunter in Orange, Madison and Greene counties. If you were a deer? Maybe not so much.
Local hunters harvested more deer in 2018 than the year prior, according to data compiled by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). Data released recently reported bear, deer and wild turkey harvests across the state.
Virginia bear harvests reflected a slight decrease but still were the second highest harvest of bears ever in Virginia. Deer harvests reflected a slight increase, and the turkey harvests remained about the same. According to Dr. Gray Anderson, Wildlife Division Chief, “The annual variation in harvest is normal and most populations are healthy and on-track with long-range management plan objectives.” These harvest data are used to inform future regulatory decisions.
In Orange County, hunters harvested 2,359 deer, including 1,000 antlered male, 204 male fauns and 1,115 females. That number inched up from 2017 when 2,331 deer were harvested during hunting season.
Madison County hunters were far more successful in 2018 than the year prior, harvesting 2,152 deer, well up from 1,884 in 2017. The 2018 figures include 904 antlered male deer, 216 male fauns and 1,032 females.
In Greene County, hunters increased their harvest by more than 200 deer, with 388 antlered male, 44 male fauns and 329 females totaling 761. The year before, hunters killed 548 deer.
By law, each successful deer hunter is required to check every deer killed. Information regarding the animal’s sex, date of kill, weapon, and county of kill is recorded. Initiated in 1947, check stations are operated by local volunteers.
(Deer kill data for the current year is preliminary and does not include deer killed during the late urban archery or special late antlerless only deer seasons.)
Check stations in Orange include Baker’s Store on Route 522 near the Culpeper County line, The Market at Locust Grove on Route 20, Somerset Center Store in Somerset and D’s Market in Barboursville.
Check stations in Madison include Syria Mercantile in Syria, Wolftown Mercantile Store in Madison, Lacy’s Store in Oak Park and the Little Country Store in Etlan.
Greene County check stations are located at Payton’s Grocery outside Stanardsville and Rangeland in Ruckersville.
In Orange County, the high-water deer kill mark was 2009, when hunters bagged 3,729 deer. Hunters in Madison and Greene were most successful in 2009, when 2,444 and 793 deer were harvested, respectively.
Going back 25 years, Orange County hunters harvested 1,814 deer in 1994, while Madison hunters killed 1,342 and Greene hunters 491.
During the 2018-19 deer hunting season that ended Jan. 5, hunters statewide harvested 190,636 deer in Virginia. This total included 96,239 antlered bucks, 12,342 button bucks, and 82,055 does.
According to VDGIF Deer Project Coordinator, Matt Knox, heavy rain and/or high winds on several of the big deer hunting weekends may have affected harvest totals across the state. Second, the continued steady decline in the number of licensed deer hunters in Virginia could affect harvest numbers.
Bedford County hunters had the most deer killed (7,395) with Southampton County in the Tidewater area a distant second (4,853).
During the 2018-19 bear hunting season, 2,715 bears were hunted and killed in Virginia, which was a five percent decrease from last year’s record harvest, but still represents the second-highest total ever in the state. That figure is nearly 14 percent higher than the five-year average during 2012- 2016, just before significant season changes were made to help address human-bear conflicts and bring about measured population reductions in areas primarily west of the Blue Ridge.
Madison County hunters killed 102 bears this past year, with 38 harvested in Greene and seven in Orange.
Rockingham County had the most (177), followed by nearby Augusta (121) and Rockbridge (106). Madison was the only other county with more than 100 bears hunted and killed. Virginia Beach had one checked bear kill.
Wild turkey kills last year remained fairly steady, with 2,363 killed statewide, five fewer than the year before.
The harvest declined slightly in counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains while the harvest increased proportionately in counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While Virginia’s turkey population is close to record levels for modern times, fall harvests will fluctuate due to a number of other factors in addition to population size. These factors include annual variation in turkey productivity, mast conditions, hunting pressure, and weather.
Acorn abundance also has a significant impact on fall harvest rates. In years with abundant acorns, wild turkey home ranges are small, which makes them harder for hunters to find. As a result, harvest rates decline. On the other hand, during years of acorn scarcity, turkeys must range further to find food and this typically helps hunters find and harvest more birds.
Gary Norman, VDGIF Wild Turkey Project Leader, said fall turkey harvest patterns varied across the state according to the various patterns seen in turkey production and mast crops. A good acorn crop in the North Piedmont Region should have resulted in a decline in 2018 fall turkey harvest but moderate reproduction resulted in a 7 percent increase. Fair-to-poor acorn crops combined with very low production resulted in an 8 percent decline in fall turkey kill in the South Piedmont.
Orange and Madison county hunters harvested four turkeys each, with Greene hunters bagging three.
As with deer, Bedford County hunters were the most prolific with 71 turkeys killed. A total of 306 turkeys were killed Thanksgiving Day.
For information on specific hunting seasons, visit the VDGIF website at www.dgif.virginia.gov.