Virginia Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries estimates the state deer population at between 850,000 and 1 million deer. The summer was very warm, but there wasn't much drought here, and deer forage was abundant and high quality.

Over the last five years, the Department's been managing the deer hunt here with the goal of boosting the antlerless harvest in much of the state where deer populations were over goal. It's worked. The antlerless kill has been at record levels for the past five consecutive deer seasons.

State deer coordinator Matt Knox says the western-third of Virginia, essentially west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has seen a dramatic drop in deer numbers and harvests the last decade-plus, especially in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Older forests, with little understory, appear to be the main cause of the deer decline. But Knox also notes that this part of the state has also seen a huge growth in coyote numbers. A three-year study to determine what impacts the predator may be having on deer numbers is now in its second year.

Health issues? Chronic wasting disease was found in the very northwestern corner of Virginia in 2009, but only a handful of deer have since tested positive for the disease.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been an issue in the past, especially in Eastern Virginia and the Piedmont Region. But by the middle of August, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries reported no known or suspected cases of EHD.

If you want to hunt the rut in Virginia, aim for the 15th of November.

The Northeastern Regional Report
_A very mild winter (which followed a generally mild winter in 2010-2011) and average-or-better amounts of spring and summer rain this year have the Northeast region looking good this fall. States like Vermont and Maine are expecting improved harvests, as the easy winters have allowed deer herds to rebound. Except for a small pocket of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Hampshire County, West Virginia, and a limited outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in west-central New Jersey, deer here have no real health issues.

While there are still many good-size deer in the Northeast, trophy antler production has eased away from here and moved into the Midwest region. The Boone and Crockett Club's "Trophy Whitetail Production, 2005 to 2010," for example, doesn't list a single Northeastern state in the top 10. Pennsylvania, at number 20 (with 26 entries), is the highest-ranked state from this region.

That said, Northern states still grow big-bodied deer. "During the 2011 season, we had 124 bucks registered that, on the hoof, would have tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds," says Vermont deer biologist Adam Murkowski._

Top Trophy Zones
NY: Monroe, Wayne, and Suffolk counties. Comprising the eastern two-thirds of Long Island, Suffolk County produces approximately half the state's Pope and Young records--including a 2006 buck that netted 196 2⁄8 non-typical.
NJ: Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Salem counties.
PA: Alleghany, Chester, Washington, and Beaver counties.
WV: McDowell and Wyoming counties.