Rockingham - Harrisonburg Chapter
By Gary Norman – Forest Game Bird Program
Historical records indicate that turkeys were numerous throughout Virginia when the first settlers arrived in Jamestown. By the turn of the 20th Century turkeys had been virtually eliminated in most areas of the state due to unregulated hunting and habitat losses resulting from extensive logging and farming. By 1910 turkey had disappeared from most of their original range and populations in Virginia were at their lowest level.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries initiated a Wild Turkey Restoration Program in the 1950’s to restore wild turkey populations. Restoration was achieved by trapping and transferring wild birds to areas, primarily in eastern and southwest Virginia, where turkey populations had been extirpated. Almost 900 birds have been trapped and relocated by Department personnel and today turkeys can be found throughout Virginia.
Turkey populations are now generally increasing across Virginia at an annual rate of about 3%. While some regions are doing better than others, the prospects for continued population growth are very good. The popularity of spring hunting turkey is increasing in Virginia while the number of fall hunters has been declining. Our future challenge will be to meet the growing demand for quality hunting opportunities in both spring and fall seasons.
The Department’s Wild Turkey Program now involves projects in population and habitat management. Population management involves an ongoing assessment of turkey population status, research, and hunting regulations. Our turkey population goals are achieved primarily by managing the length and timing of hunting seasons to reach desired levels of fall and spring harvest. The Department may also be available to offer technical assistance to landowners interested in improving their lands through habitat management and forestry recommendations. Landowners should call the Department at 804 / 367-1000 to learn the name of their District Biologist for assistance.
Hunters can also help with Department’s annual evaluation of wild turkey population by participating in the Spring Gobbler Survey. Avid spring gobbler hunters are provided forms to provide information on their hunts. A report of gobbling patterns and other summary data is provided to cooperating hunters. Anyone interested in participating in this survey should contact Gary Norman, Forest Game Bird Program, VDGIF, P.O. Box 996, Verona, Virginia 24482 or via e-mail.