17,582 turkeys harvested in spring season
Spring turkey hunters in Virginia reported harvesting 17,582 birds during the recently concluded season, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The 2014 spring harvest was 9 percent lower than the recent record harvest of 19,265 birds set in 2013, but ranks fifth overall among previous spring season harvests.
The harvest east of the Blue Ridge Mountains was 11 percent lower than last year’s harvest (12,994 vs. 11,582). In counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains the harvest decreased 4 percent (6,000 vs. 6,271). Most of the birds were harvested by hunters using shotguns (90 percent), while rifles accounted for 8 percent of the harvest. The vast majority of birds were harvested on private lands (92 percent). The balance was reported from hunters hunting on federal (6 percent) or state (2 percent) lands.
Because the spring harvest is believed to be the best index to turkey populations, the record 2013 harvest and high 2014 harvest suggests a robust turkey population. Over the last 10 years, the turkey population has increased 2.7 percent annually. However, population levels were not uniform across the state. Populations in the Tidewater region and the South Mountain region are believed to be the highest in the state. The lowest densities can be found in the North Mountain and North Piedmont regions. The South Piedmont region had a healthy, but moderate population density compared to the other regions.