The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) released harvest data for the 2013-14 fall/winter hunting seasons on Wednesday, and the numbers show a significant boost from the same period in 2012. According to the DGIF, preliminary data suggests bear and turkey hunters have had the most success and stopped just short of the state’s all-time records.

That is not to say that Virginia’s deer hunters had a bad season. Hunters reported 242,734 whitetail deer harvested last year, including 106,230 antlered bucks, 20,082 button bucks, 116,304 does and 118 “unknown” deer. Overall, the count for the fall season was up 13 percent from 2012 and four percent from the 10-year average. Wildlife officials report finding signs of chronic wasting disease in two harvested deer, although experts said that it did not come as a surprise. Even so, the DGIF is expected to make changes to the current containment program for the 2014 hunting season.

The number of bears harvested in the 2013-14 season stopped just shy of the state record, which is held by the 2009-10 season with 2,325 bears. Hunters reported 2,312 bears bagged last season, marking an eight percent increase from 2012.

“Due to its efficacy, tradition, effectiveness, and recreational value, regulated hunting is the primary bear population management option in Virginia,” stated the DGIF.

Turkey hunters in the state also had runaway success last season. Sportsmen took 5,351 wild turkeys in what the DGIF called the highest fall harvest in the past nine years. The number of birds bagged in the 2013-14 season measured 21 percent above the count for the 2012-13 fall season. The cause for the abundant harvest may be due to above-average reproduction despite poor food production. The scarcity of food also led turkeys to visit open fields where they are more vulnerable to hunters.

Lawmakers in the state are currently considering legislation to lift the long-standing ban on Sunday hunting. Two similar bills have passed initial approval by both the state Senate and House of Delegates. Supporters of the bill say it is the closest the state has ever come to overturning the ban.

Image from Nick Harris 1 on the flickr Creative Commons

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