Updates Related to COVID-19 »

2020 Spring Turkey Season Forecast

In summertime, a wild turkey hen without poults can be a sign of a poor hatch.

By Bruce Ingram

Photos by Bruce Ingram

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) Wild Turkey Biologist Gary Norman believes Virginia spring turkey hunters could be in for a challenging spring gobbler season this year, especially in certain areas of the state. The reason why is that in any given year, 2-year-old toms typically make up the majority of the harvest, making poult production in 2018 the most relevant predictor for success this spring.

And poult-to-hen ratio (which is the best indicator of turkey populations) that year set a record low at 1.6, due mostly to unfavorable weather, such as cool, rainy conditions when birds were hatching. As a frame of reference, the long-term average ratio is 2.6. Statewide, the number of broods seen per 1,000 miles of driving was 1.5, also a low percentage.

Regions (with the poult-per-hen ratio in parentheses) that were particularly hard hit and where hunting is likely to be tough this spring include the South Piedmont (1.6), Southwest (1.6), and North Piedmont (1.3). Observers recorded only 11 turkeys per 1,000 miles of driving in the former two regions and a dismal 6 birds in the North Piedmont.

Fortunately, sportsmen in other regions should have more turkeys available.

“None of the regions did well,” Norman said. “But some did better than others, specifically the North Mountain and Tidewater regions. This is certainly encouraging for the North Mountain region because reproduction there has lagged behind the rest of the state since 2013. Tidewater had a poult-per-hen ratio of 2.2, which is down some. But the region typically has the greatest density of birds which usually results in hunting being good there.”

Many Old Dominion hunters don’t like to kill jakes, but for those who do (and for anyone looking toward the 2021 spring season), some encouraging news exists. In 2019, the poult/hen ratio was 2.5, with the North Mountain (3.6) leading the way and with the Tidewater (2.9), South Piedmont (2.6), and Southwest Mountain (2.5) regions following with percentages better or equal to the state average. Unfortunately, the North Piedmont region recorded only 1.6 poults per hen.

Virginia’s season begins on Saturday, April 11 and runs through May 16.

More info on regulations, where to hunt, how to be successful on public lands, and wild turkey recipes.

Hunting During the COVID-19 Outbreak

  • If you choose to hunt during the pandemic it is essential that you follow CDC guidelines.
  • Purchase your hunting license online instead of in-person.
  • Hunt alone or with family members or others that you live with and are isolating with during the Governor’s “stay at home” order.
  • Do not hunt if you feel sick or think you might be sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or using alcohol-based sanitizer even while afield or afloat.
  • Do not share equipment with anyone, and wash your equipment when you’re done.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other hunters you encounter and try to avoid crowded access points.
  • Try to hunt near home as much as possible and avoid traveling long distances.
  • April 7, 2020