Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) have compiled the preliminary figures for the 2018-19 fall/winter hunting season. The deer harvests reflected a slight increase, and according to Dr. Gray Anderson, a Virginia Wildlife Division Chief, the annual variation in harvest is normal and most populations are healthy and on-track with long-range management plan objectives.
During the 2018-19 deer hunting season that ended January 5, hunters harvested 190,636 deer in Virginia. This total included 96,239 antlered bucks, 12,342 button bucks, and 82,055 does (43%).
The youth and apprentice deer hunting weekend resulted in a harvest of 2,778 deer. The archery season harvest was 26,676 deer while hunters took 43,749 deer during the muzzleloader season.
For the first time since crossbows became legal for all deer hunters in fall 2005, the number of deer taken with crossbows exceeded the number taken with traditional bows. Firearms deer season (rifles and shotguns) resulted in a deer harvest of 120,074 deer or 63% of the total.
In the 59 eastern counties where dogs may be used to hunt deer, deer hunting with dogs accounted for approximately 51% of the total firearms deer harvest and ranged from just a few percent in northern Virginia up to 80-90% in some Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Virginia’s southeastern counties. Approximately 161,800 deer (85%) were checked using the Department’s electronic telephone and online checking through the Go Outdoors Virginia portal.
According to Deer Project Coordinator, Matt Knox, he expected the fall 2018 deer harvest total might be down for two reasons.
First, much of the Commonwealth experienced heavy rain and/or high winds on several of the big deer hunting weekends.
Second, the continued steady decline in the number of licensed deer hunters in Virginia could result in fewer deer being harvested. A portion of this decline appears to be related to the “baby boomers” get older and retiring from hunting.
But here in the New River Valley, the number of deer taken this season is down. Montgomery County recorded 2,516, a decrease of 2,653 in 2017. Giles deceased from 2,090 to 1,895. Floyd fell from 2,555 in 2017 to 2,321, and Pulaski was down from 2,383 to 1,898.
–Department of Game and Inland Fisheries