The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recently published its hunting regulations digest for the 2019–2020 seasons. Several changes are worth a spotlight and occasional comment. To see the full digest, go to dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations.
First, if you’re a successful bear hunter, you can now check in the animal via the department’s electronic checking system. You still have to pull a tooth from the bruin and send it to the agency’s biologists. You’ll get instructions about how to do that when you buy a license and when you check in a bear.
Albemarle, Amherst, Bedford, Frederick and Nelson counties have been added to the three-day, early open season for bear. And firearms bear hunting season has been lengthened in all areas that had fewer than six weeks of open season.
Personally, I think Virginia’s bear hunting policies are a bit convoluted. Why shouldn’t bear hunting be allowed throughout the entire general firearms season for deer east of the Blue Ridge?
Bears can be hunted Nov. 25 through Jan. 4 in all northern Virginia counties and those counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yet, counties from the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula down through Tidewater and the southern tier are restricted to Dec. 2–21.
Yet, again, those same counties have a “Bear Hound Training/Chase Season” from Nov. 16 –30, where you can chase bears with dogs but not shoot them. Too confusing.
In case anyone mistakenly wants to believe there is a “Virginia deer herd,” there are no fewer than 11 different color-coded, sometimes fragmented regions of the state with different regulations and varied days when you can take antlerless deer.
The daily bag limit for deer on private lands west of the Blue Ridge is now two. Only one deer per day may be taken on national forest lands, DGIF-owned lands, and DGIF-managed lands west of the Blue Ridge and on national forest lands in Amherst, Bedford, and Nelson counties.
The Earn-A-Buck program now applies to private lands in Albemarle, Culpeper, Floyd, Franklin, Grayson, Hanover, Henrico, James City, Pulaski, Shenandoah and York counties. This means that a hunter in these counties must kill at least one antlerless deer on private lands in that county before taking a second antlered deer on private lands in that county. On private lands in Clarke, Frederick and Warren counties, hunters must now kill two antlerless deer necessary to meet EAB requirements.
Apprentice license holders are now included in the Youth Antlerless Deer Regulation.
Firearms deer season on private lands in western Amherst, Bedford and western Nelson counties has been extended from two to four weeks long.
In the counties (including cities and towns within) of Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Caroline, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Essex, Gloucester, Greensville, King & Queen, King William, Lunenburg, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, Nottoway, and Prince Edward, either-sex deer hunting days will be Nov. 23 and 30 and Dec. 30 through Jan. 4.
In Amelia, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Halifax, King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond and Westmoreland counties, either-sex days are Nov. 23 and 30 and Dec. 23 through Jan. 4.
Chronic Wasting Disease
A new Chronic Wasting Disease management area includes Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties, following discovery of a deer killed with CWD in Culpeper last year. Feeding of deer is now prohibited year-round in Albemarle, Buchanan, Clarke, Culpeper, Dickenson, Fauquier, Frederick, Greene, Loudoun, Louisa, Madison, Orange, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and Wise counties.
Virginia’s early fall season will begin one week earlier than previous years and, to meet DGIF’s wild turkey management plan goals to increase populations, the fall season was reduced from eight to six weeks in 27 counties. Four counties with declining turkey numbers (Amelia, Dinwiddie, Greensville and Powhatan) had their fall seasons reduced to four weeks. The fall Youth and Apprentice Hunter Weekend now starts on the second Saturday of October.
It is now illegal to use drones, often called unmanned aerial vehicles, to hunt, take or kill a wild animal and to attempt to locate, surveil, aid or assist in hunting a wild animal.
Cavalier, Mattaponi, and White Oak Wildlife Management Areas have been added to the list of DGIF-owned lands where bird dogs may be trained on wild quail from Sept. 1 to the day prior to opening day of the quail hunting season.
Trapper Id Number
Trappers may now use their Customer Identification Number to mark traps instead of their name and address.
In an interesting development, the decades-long quota deer hunt at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant will not be conducted this year. The reason given is that changes to Army safety regulations are forcing a review of plans for that area. Until those plans are completed, hunting is curtailed.
A DGIF statement also says that other Army installations may be reviewing policies. I asked Fort A.P. Hill for information and was told it was, basically, business as usual at the 76,000-acre Caroline County, post.
If the Radford program resumes, DGIF said applicants would not lose their accrued points (it usually takes several years to be drawn). Hunt protocols and locations may also need to be adjusted. It’s a bit of “wait and see” at this point. The final evaluation is expected by next spring.
Elsewhere, multispecies and spring turkey quota hunts have been added on Mattaponi Bluffs WMA.
The 2,911-acre Oakley Forest WMA in western Spotsylvania County will no longer be managed through the quota hunt system. Hunting is open to the public.