The Bulletin

Virginia bags biggest spring turkey harvest ever

By: - May 30, 2023 12:01 am

Wild turkey in a grassy area. The restoration of the Wild Turkey is considered one of the great successes of modern wildlife management. (Matt Poole / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

This spring was a good one for Virginia hunters but less so for Virginia turkeys, as the state saw its highest ever spring harvest of the bird beloved by Benjamin Franklin. 

On Friday, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources announced that 24,447 turkeys were killed during the 2023 spring turkey season, breaking the previous record of 20,580 turkeys set in 2015 by almost 19%.

“Turkey populations remain healthy and abundant across most of Virginia, enabling hunters to enjoy a record-setting spring turkey season,” said DWR Executive Director Ryan Brown in a statement. 

(Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)

According to agency data, about two-thirds of the turkeys were hunted east of the Blue Ridge. The counties that bagged the most were: 

  • Bedford County (691 turkeys)
  • Southampton County (679 turkeys)
  • Franklin County (602 turkeys)

Counties that saw the biggest bumps in harvest since the 2021-22 year were: 

  • Frederick County (69% increase; 474 turkeys)
  • Shenandoah County (65% increase; 452 turkeys)
  • Buckingham County (63% increase; 287 turkeys)

(Technically, the largest jumps were seen in a handful of cities, with Newport News experiencing a 500% increase. However, all of those municipalities’ harvest numbers were in the single digits both this year and last, making the comparison less meaningful.)

After nearly becoming extinct, wild turkeys are managed in the commonwealth through the Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan. The current 10-year plan was crafted in 2013 and is currently undergoing revision.

“Although many states within the region are reporting declining spring turkey harvests and populations, Virginia seems to be a bright spot regionally,” noted a Friday release from DWR. “Four of the top 5 turkey harvests have occurred since 2020, indicating that populations appear to be robust.” 


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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.