- Published on Wednesday, 03 March 2010 05:00
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My contact, Deer Project Coordinator for VDGIF, Matt Knox, was kind enough to pass along the big game harvest figures for the 2009-2010 season. They were really no surprise to me, and I suspect any serious hunter/reader of this column will not be surprised either. Basically the harvest figures were stable with very little change.
While our region has a very limited bear season, much of the rest of the state does have a more liberal season. There was no word on whether a bear was taken in King George although at least one apparently lives in the area.
Last season 2,304 black bears were taken statewide. This is up 4.5 percent. The increase is no surprise as VDGIF has fielded many complaints from residents about bears recently, and evidently the cultural carrying capacity (the number of bears citizens can deal with) has been met or exceeded in some areas west of us. That led to a more liberalized season to help cope with the situation. I can attest to the fact that wildlife biologists are often on the go in the areas west of us come springtime. I speak to them on a regular basis for various stories I am working on and found that trying to actually speak to one during the spring was like trying to stop ice from melting on the pavement in July. They are that busy chasing bear calls.
Bears have been increasing in population at a rate of 9 percent per year. The harvest previously came from 64 counties. Last season 74 counties had bears taken. Of course most were taken in the mountain regions. Like all big game animals, bears rely heavily on mast (acorns and other nuts for food). When the mast crop is low, there is much wandering done to find dinner. As a result more hunters see more animals and the harvest goes up during poor mast crops. Conversely, when the mast crop is good or great, the harvest tends to go down for all three big game animals. This is especially true for the firearms portion of the bear season, which is later in the year. By then if bears have not found much food they simply hibernate and that is it. Hunters are less likely to see them. Keep in mind the big snows we had the last few weeks of the season too.
Last season the total harvest of 256,512 deer was up less than 200 animals from the previous season. The total included 108,443 antlered bucks, 23,592 button bucks, and 124,477 does. The doe harvest was at 49 percent.
In summary, our area saw an increase in harvest. King George hunters took 1,710 deer in 2008 but took 1,944 last season. Of those, 568 were with a muzzleloader, 119 with a bow, and 40 with crossbow. Caroline hunters took 4,069 in 2008 and 5,164 in 2009 —1,030 were with a muzzleloader, 216 with bow, and 104 with crossbow. Stafford hunters took 1,533 in 2008 and 1,437 in 2009 — 251 were taken with muzzleloader, and 125 with bow and 103 with a crossbow. Spotsylvania had a harvest of 1,878 in 2008 and 2,150 in 2009 respectively — 367 were with muzzleloader, 120 with bow and 71 with crossbow. Finally, Westmoreland culled 2,343 in 2008 and 2,249 in 2009. Of those, 506 were with muzzleloader, 76 with bow and 42 were taken with crossbow.
Statewide, the summary is as follows: Archery hunters statewide took 16,947 deer. This was down noticeably from the previous season. Crossbow hunters took 9,456 deer statewide. Smokepole hunters took 55,900 deer or 22 percent of the total, which was down slightly.
At present time I do not have county-by-county stats on turkey but hope to have them by next month so I can do a rundown of the local harvest before the spring season.
Statewide, turkey hunters took 3,538 birds home this fall. This is nearly the same harvest as last year. Although biologists report very poor recruitment the past several years, many local hunters report seeing more birds this past season. The poor mast crop has certainly had the birds out looking for more to eat and therefore more susceptible to hunters. The poor mast crop was statewide with only pockets of average or good crops. I did not find any full acorn trees to hunt near this year in King George or Caroline, but I did see more turkey than usual. I opted to let them pass knowing we needed more birds for breeding.
Virginia’s White-tailed Deer Management Plan can be viewed at