Deer harvest down 3 percent in Tidewater

Published 8:54 am Friday, July 29, 2011

RICHMOND—The whitetail deer harvest was down in the state and the Tidewater region for the 2010-11 season compared to the previous season, according preliminary numbers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Dustin Lance of Courtland killed this 10-point buck while hunting with his grandfather, Charles Holt, in Southampton County in 2010. Dustin is the son of Lisa Lance. -- SUBMITTED

Southampton County had the second highest harvest in Virginia with 7,140 deer, an increase from 6,281 taken in 2009. Southampton County had the fourth highest deer kills in 2009.

Bedford County had the highest harvest in 2010 with 7,500, down from 9,006 one year earlier. The county also led in deer kills in 2009.

For 2010, other leading counties were Loudoun 5,743, Fauquier 5,147, Pittsylvania 4,762, Franklin 4,706, Halifax 4,379, Caroline 3,967, Shenandoah 3,662 and Augusts 3,585.

The statewide decrease was not a surprise to wildlife biologists with the agency.

“Exceptional acorn crops across the state coupled with other environmental conditions both this year and last as well as management actions to meet population objectives all factored into fluctuations in populations and harvest trends,” said Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The harvest figures continue to indicate that good hunting is available across the state for these game species.


During the past deer season 219,797 deer were reported killed by hunters in Virginia. This total included 95,543 bucks, 19,191 button bucks and 105,063 does.

The fall 2010 deer kill total was 15 percent lower than the 259,147 deer reported killed last year. It is 3 percent lower than the last 10-year average of 227,430.

Deer kill levels were down across all of Virginia and showed a significant declining trend from east to west. In Tidewater, the deer kill was down 3 percent.

Archers, not including crossbow hunters, killed 15,579 deer or 7 percent of the total deer kills. The 2010 archery deer kill was down 10 percent from 2009.

Crossbows resulted in a deer kill of 8,606 deer or 4 percent of the total deer kill. The 2010 crossbow deer kill was down 10 percent from 2009.

Muzzleloader hunters killed 53,048 deer. Muzzleloading comprised 24 percent of the total deer kill. The muzzleloader deer kill was also down 5 percent from 2009.

A decline in the total deer kill was predicted for fall 2010 based on two factors. First, the department’s deer management efforts over the past five to ten years to increase the female deer kill over most of the state, especially on private lands, have been successful. Nearly all of the increase in the deer kill over the past couple of years has been due to an increased kill of doe.

These high and sustained female deer kill levels were intended to eventually lead to a decrease in the statewide deer herd and a decline in total deer kill numbers.

The second factor was the winter of 2010, which may also have resulted in some winter mortality. After a poor mast crop in fall 2009 and more than a decade of very little snow fall, winter of 2010 saw much of the western half of Virginia covered in snow for up to two months. Snow in Virginia is not unusual, but snow that stays up to one foot deep on the ground for nearly two consecutive months is very unusual.

Winter starvation of deer in Virginia is uncommon. In winter 1993, following a near total mast failure in fall 1992 and a very big winter storm in mid-March, there was a winter starvation/mortality event in the Alleghany Highlands Region. During that starvation event, the deer were literally eating the bark off trees. In winter 2010, staff documented deer again eating the bark off of trees in Bath County.


During the 2010-11 bear seasons 2,221 bears were reported killed during the archery, muzzleloader and firearms seasons.

The 2010 harvest was a 3.6 percent decrease from last year’s kill of 2,304, but similar to the 2008 harvest of 2,204 bears. In 2010, bears were harvested in 69 counties with successful bear hunters coming from 18 states other than Virginia.

Equaling the average over the last five years, female bears, or sows, represented 39 percent of the 2010 harvest, which was less than the 42 percent of sows in the 2009 harvest.

Archery hunters accounted for 423 bears during 2010.