A look back on the 2007 Virginia deer hunting season
Virginia Outdoors - A Resource for Virginia Anglers and Hunters
Virginia Outdoors - 2007 Deer Hunting Season
by J. Burkholder
Posted January 10, 2008
Most of our regular readers know that we first launched Virginia
Outdoors in the Spring of 2006, so this is our second annual deer
season year in review. It's hard to believe that another year and
another season have passed, but you know what they say (at least at
USNA) time, tide, and formations wait for no one! Feel free to send
your stories, pictures, and observations from the 2007 Virginia deer
hunting season to email@example.com.
I'm ashamed to admit...I went hunting twice in bow season. Work,
travel, Saturday college football games, fishing...it just didn't work out.
But, I saw deer both times. Unfortunately, they always saw me first. My
second outing in mid-October, I arrived well before first light in my
second-favorite stand. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, but the
woods were quiet...until around 9:15 when a neighbor started cutting
firewood just over the ridge from me. I assumed the hunting was over
and I had a football game to attend, so I lowered my bow and climbed
down the tree. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I heard deer moving
through the woods. I assumed that I had spooked deer across the
hollow - not knowing that they were present. Within a few moments,
however, I realized that the deer were moving towards me...not away
from me. I couldn't decide whether to try to pick up my bow and get in
position or scurry back up the tree. While I stood frozen (like the
proverbial deer in the headlights), two nice does emerged from the
nearby laurel headed straight for me. At around 10 yards away, the
lead doe spotted me, backpedaled, and turned and literally jumped
straight over the top of the second doe who looked up with an
expression like "What the heck is wrong with you?" and they both
bounded away. Had I stayed on stand for two more minutes, I would
have had a 10 yard, broadside shot at a nice doe. Oh well.
Steve Will, a longtime friend and a real bowhunter from the
Shenandoah Valley, had much better luck. He dropped the fine
8-pointer to the right on opening morning of bow season. What a way
to start the year!
Early Muzzleloader and "Early" Firearms Season:
The big story of the 2006 hunting season was the huge, maybe
unprecedented, acorn crop. I expected a big dropoff this year, but our
crop was just fine. Even better - it seemed late. It was raining acorns
during the first week of early muzzleloader east of the Blue Ridge in
Madison County. The result? The smaller, but well-timed, acorn crop
did a good job luring whitetails onto our property from the surrounding
agricultural areas. Like last year, we saw bigger bucks than we killed,
but we had a year's worth of venison in the freezer by the end of early
muzzleloader. Why do the big ones always seem to get away in hunting
and fishing? Rut activity was high during the first two weeks, but it was
mostly solo bucks out with their noses to the ground hunting like
beagles and moving quickly. Very exciting to watch at times - we
actually saw more bucks than does.
The first two weeks of general firearms season were fairly quiet until the
Saturday after Thanksgiving, which broke at a cool 16 degrees. I
watched several does move along the property borders before 8:30
when a doe burst from heavy cover behind my stand. I could hear a
buck grunting from the darkness behind her. She darted one way and
then the other and finally took off running for her life. Unfortunately,
the buck never showed itself.
"Late" Firearms Season:
Let me explain...Madison and Greene Counties share a unique rule
that hunting with dogs is not allowed for the first 12 days of the general
firearms season. Thus, Madison and Greene really have three "gun"
seasons: (1) muzzleloader, (2) general firearms without dogs, and (3)
general firearms with dogs. How did Madison and Greene end up with
their own rule? I have no idea, but I like it.
In fact, this leads into the headline story of 2007 for hunters in
Virginia...the opening of the "hunting with dogs" / "hunting with hounds"
debate and study by the VDGIF. Several committees have completed
their assessments and posted reports on the VDGIF site. It seems that
rule changes are inevitable, but I won't be so bold as to make
predictions. There are many sides to the issue - all of which have
passionate support and valid arguments (see some recent Richmond
Times-Dispatch columns and the subsequent comments to get an idea
of the high level of interest). On a hunting message board that I
frequent, a dog hunter posted a message to try to rally support for dog
hunters at an upcoming meeting. Much to my surprise, very little
support was forthcoming as most of the respondents, avid hunters mind
you, seemed adamantly anti-dog hunting. Hounds simply know no
property boundaries and I sympathize with large landowners who plant
feed plots and try to manage for quality deer only to have trespassing
dogs (and, unfortunately, hunters at times) drive deer off their property.
Many ideas are floating around...minimum acreage requirements, a
special permit that can be revoked for "bad" behavior, etc. Trying to
administer and police extra permits seems like a tough way to go...not
to mention additional expense for hound hunters. Georgia has enacted
a minimum acreage requirement and claims to be happy with it, but a
herd of deer and a pack of dogs can exit even 500 or 1,000 acres in a
flash. And, how many standers would it take to cover the property lines
tightly enough to have any hope of catching the dogs as they head
next door? We hunt a very small tract and the neighbors hunt with
hounds. When their hounds drive deer onto our property and we're
lucky enough to be in position, we shoot the deer and call them on our
walkie-talkies and arrange to return the dogs. Unusual? Probably. We
allow them to use an ATV path on our property and we all seem to get
along. We're lucky, I admit. My suggestion as a first step...Enact the
Greene/Madison seasons statewide! That way we have two weeks
of muzzleloader and two weeks of firearms to hunt the rut and natural
deer movement. By the end of those four weeks, we usually aren't
seeing many deer anyway, so bring on the dogs!
Shenandoah County, VA and Pennsylvania "Quality Buck" rules:
I have an uncle-in-law who hunts annually in PA and let's just say that
he hasn't been impressed by their quality buck management rules.
Even though there shouldn't have been any small bucks killed for the
past few seasons, he continues to see almost exclusively small bucks
where he hunts. Where are the older bucks? Is his experience
isolated? Any initial reports on the new Shenandoah County rules that
impart point restrictions on a hunter's second buck? I'd like to hear
some feedback on these new rules and any positive or negative
impressions thus far.
See my 2006 hunting season recap and you'll see that turkey sightings
were few and far between last year. Oh my, how things have changed.
I could never have envisioned such a one-year turn around. We were
absolutely covered up with turkeys from day one. Even after the hound
hunters moved in, we still saw or heard turkeys most days. Our
property was torn up with turkey scratchings by the end of the season.
So what's the story? Has the population increased that much or was
something about my property especially attractive to turkeys this year?
I can't say for sure, but folks like Mike Puffenbarger of Maple Tree
Outdoors and David White of Fantomb Calls also reported an increase
in turkey sightings. We don't target turkeys in the fall, but a few times
late in the season I carried my box call and had long conversations with
turkeys. I'd yelp a few times and the turkey(s) would yelp back, but
they would never come in. Any ideas? What am I doing wrong?
I'm still addicted to the "sport" of game camera. I eventually gave up on
my Stealth Cam and upgraded to a Cuddeback that seems to be worth
the extra money (note, I don't have a sponsorship from
Cuddeback...but I wish I did!). We got some great pictures over the
summer and a few good ones during the season. See some examples
to the right and send me your best game camera pictures! The season
is open 24/7 all year long! Send your pictures (of deer or any other
game) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wild Boar near Culpeper
We take our deer to a great processing facility near Madison. Much to
my surprise, on most trips the cooler included wild boar! It turns out
there is a small, but obviously huntable, population of wild boar near
Culpeper. Rumor has it that a large landowner brought in a few wild
board for hunting on a fenced preserve in the area. One way or
another, the boar got out of the preserve and took up residence.
Apparently they are such a nuisance that local farmers have turned to
baiting and trapping them to get rid of them. Anyone have first hand
knowledge of this situation? Please contact me!
Thanks for reading the whitetail deer hunting page for 2007! It was the
best season ever for us...by any measure, really. How blessed we are
to live in this golden age of Virginia deer hunting!
|The author's favorite game
camera pictures from 2007
(click to enlarge)
|Copyright © 2007 Virginia Outdoors, LLC
|Steve Will with his beautiful Opening Day
2007 Shenandoah Valley bow kill
|The author's property...ransacked
by turkeys in the fall of 2007