A total of 1,621 wild turkeys were harvested in Virginia during the 2022–23 fall turkey hunting season, a slight decrease over the 2021-22 harvest of 1,644.
While Virginia’s turkey population appears to remain robust, fall harvests will fluctuate due to a number of other factors beyond the population size. These factors, which vary across the state, include the length and timing of the fall season, annual variation in reproductive success, acorn abundance, hunting pressure, and weather.
Reproductive success can vary widely; inclement weather in May and June can lead to nest losses or death of the young turkey poults. In 2022, the productivity estimate (1.9 poults/hen) was below the long-term average (2.6 poults/hen) for Virginia. Since juvenile birds account for 40-60% of the fall harvest, reproductive success greatly influences turkey population size and subsequently fall harvest.
Acorn abundance also has a significant impact on fall harvest rates. In years with abundant acorns, like 2022, wild turkey home ranges are small, which makes them harder for hunters to find. They also tend to spend more time in the woods foraging rather than in open habitats where they would be susceptible to harvest. As a result, harvest rates often decline when mast is abundant. 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.
Like the 2021–22 season, the archery harvest (bows and crossbows combined) remained relatively high, making up approximately 22% of the overall harvest. Thanksgiving Day and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving continue to be popular fall turkey hunting days. This year a total of 368 birds were harvested during that two-day timeframe, accounting for nearly 23% of the total fall harvest. Thanksgiving Day accounted for the single highest day of harvest with 232 birds or 14% of the total fall harvest.
The decline in fall turkey hunting participation has been an ongoing issue for Virginia and many other eastern states. One of the goals of the DWR Wild Turkey Management Plan is to reverse the general decline in fall turkey hunting interest. The October youth and apprentice fall turkey hunting weekend and the late January fall season were designed to encourage interest in fall turkey hunting. Unfortunately, it appears the declining trend is continuing despite these efforts. Many hunters have shifted to hunting other species and many have decided to hold onto their turkey tags to utilize during the spring season. While fall turkey participation may be lagging, the excitement of those who do participate is not.
Virginia Fall Wild Turkey Harvest Data
|Season/Method||Number Harvested||% Total Harvest|
|Type of Turkey|
|East of Blue Ridge||903||55.7|
|West of Blue Ridge||718||44.3|
|First 2 Weeks||268||16.5|
|Wed. & Thanksgiving||368||22.7|
|2 (South Piedmont)||350||21.6|
|3 (SW Mtn)||487||30.0|
|4 (NW Mtn)||231||14.3|
|5 (North Piedmont)||247||15.2|