Western Tidewater turkey population increases

Published 10:59 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

FRANKLIN—Turkey hunters in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties can expect plenty of birds when the five-week season opens Saturday, April 14.

“Turkey numbers have been on the rise the last couple of years,” said Aaron Proctor, district wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for the southeastern part of the state. “The harvest has been strong the last few years, which means production is high.”

During the 2011 fall season, 16 turkeys were taken in Isle of Wight County, an increase of 167 percent over the six taken one year earlier, according to the Virginia Department of Game. Hunters during the last five years have harvested an average of 11 turkeys in the fall in Isle of Wight.

In Southampton County, 34 turkeys were taken last fall, an increase of 10 percent over the 31 harvested in 2010. The county over the last five years has seen an average fall harvest of 26 annually.

Proctor attributes the turkey population growth to mild weather conditions in May and June, which is when turkeys are born.

“With ground-nesting birds like grouse, quail and turkey, their population can really get hammered in cold, damp weather,” he said. “Right after they hatch, they have to live on the ground. Damp spells in May and June can really cause exposure death, but the good news is the past few years, May and June have been pretty favorable for turkey.”

Food sources also have been favorable for turkey, bear and deer, Proctor said.

“We’ve had some pretty good acorn production from oak trees, a primary food source for turkeys,” he said. “Turkey, bear and deer will take advantage of a lucrative foraging opportunities.”

Traveling with the region, Proctor said he has seen turkeys everywhere.

“The activity seems to be earlier this year,” he said. “We didn’t even have a winter.”

The season runs through Saturday, May 19. Hunters are permitted to take one gobbler per day and up to three a year.

Through Saturday, May 5, hunting runs one-half hour before sunrise until noon daily, except Sundays. From Monday, May 7, through the close of the season, hunting takes place one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Decoys and blinds may be used, however, it’s unlawful to use electronic calls or dogs during spring turkey season. When using a shotgun it is unlawful to use or have in possession any shot larger than number two fine shot during spring turkey season.

Wild turkeys killed in the spring gobbler season must be checked with the Virginia Department of Game using the telephone or Internet Reporting Systems. Feather samples are no longer being collected at game check stations.