The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) announced a harvest of 20,525 turkeys during the 2020 spring gobbler season (Table 1). This is the second highest harvest on record, with the highest occurring in 2015 when 20,580 birds were harvested. The 2020 harvest was 14.5% higher than the 2019 harvest. The 2020 Youth and Apprentice weekend harvest increased 40% from 2019 for a total of 890 birds. The opening weekend of the season was the highest two-day period of harvest throughout the season, totaling 3,993 birds or 19.5% of the total harvest.
Weather, annual reproduction, mast crops, and hunter effort all have impacts on annual fluctuations in turkey harvests. Several of these factors likely led to the increased harvest for the 2020 season including fair weather conditions throughout most of the season and increased hunter effort attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the hunting season and most hunting lands remained open, hunters may have taken advantage of the opportunity to spend more time afield this year. The 2020 Spring Turkey Hunter Cooperator Survey will provide insight on this aspect of the season once the results have been analyzed later this summer. While turkey reproduction was lower than average in 2017 and 2018, turkey populations across the state are still at or near record levels. Average to above average reproduction was recorded across the state in 2019 so hopes are high for continued stable turkey populations and hunter success!
The Eastern Shore’s turkey season harvest also grew.
Accomack County reported a 42% increase in turkeys harvested in 2020, up 69 from 2019 with 232 total turkeys harvested reported. Accomack County reported 124 turkeys harvested in 2018.
Northampton County also saw in increase in 2020, adding 31 additional gobblers harvested in 2020, for a total of 90, a 53% increase.
For harvest by county information visit the DGIF wild turkey webpage: dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/turkey. Final harvest numbers will be available in the coming weeks.