The 2022 spring turkey season resulted in the fourth-highest spring turkey harvest on record as the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) announced a harvest of 19,711 turkeys during the season. The three highest harvests occurred in 2015, 2021, and 2020.
Ryan Brown, DWR Executive Director, said, “Virginia’s spring turkey season continues to provide exciting opportunities for individuals to connect with nature, family, and friends while helping to conserve the state’s wildlife resources.”
Montgomery County saw its harvest rise from 201 in 2021 to 262 this past year. Floyd County saw a jump from 264 to 304 while Giles County’s harvest went from 261 to 291.
The 2022 harvest was well within DWR staff expectations, and the slightly lower harvest this season appears to be driven by lower participation on opening weekend caused by poor weather. Much of the western portion of the state experienced cold and wind with several counties reporting snow on opening day. The opening weekend harvest was down approximately 28% from the 2021 spring turkey harvest. This difference was minimized through the remaining 5 weeks of the season as the harvest totals finished only 4% lower than last year.
As in previous years, more birds were harvested east of the Blue Ridge (66%) than west of the Blue Ridge (34%). The eastern harvest was down approximately 7% from 2021 while the western harvest increased by approximately 3%.
Adult gobblers (those with a beard at least 7” in length) made up 86% of the total harvest while juvenile gobblers known as “jakes” (those with a beard less than 7” in length) accounted for 14% of the harvest. Turkey harvests occurred overwhelmingly in the morning (91%) versus the afternoon (8%).
The majority of the spring turkey harvest took place on private lands (94%). Public land hunters (both federal and state) accounted for 6% of the total spring harvest, which was nearly identical to 2021. A majority of the federal land harvest occurred on the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest where a total of 639 birds were taken, 13% lower than 2021 (737 birds).
Although some states within the region are reporting declining spring turkey harvests and populations, Virginia seems to be a bright spot regionally. Considering that three of the top 4 season harvests have occurred since 2020, there is considerable room for optimism within Virginia’s turkey woods. However, that optimism is somewhat tempered with the realization that DWR’s Wild Turkey Management Plan calls for increasing populations in several areas of the commonwealth where DWR biologists are monitoring these areas for potential management solutions.