During the past deer season, 191,731 deer were reported killed by deer hunters in Virginia. This total included 95,665 antlered bucks, 12,219 button bucks, and 83,847 does (44% females).
Archery (including crossbows) accounted for 14% of the deer kill; muzzleloaders, 23%; and firearms, 63%. The numbers above do not include deer taken on out-of-season deer kill permits or those deer hit and killed by vehicles.
What’s New For Fall 2022
Deer regulations in Virginia are evaluated and amended on a biennial basis. This is an off-year, hence there are not a lot of new deer regulation changes for fall 2022. Some changes related to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) noted below have been made, however. Because CWD is a moving target, deer regulations related to CWD management are evaluated and amended annually. Related to the Department of Wildlife Resources’ (DWR) CWD management efforts, the following regulatory changes have been made that are now effective with the fall of 2022.
DMA3 (3) (Carroll, Floyd, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties)
Carroll County has been added to Disease Management Area 3, and the firearms deer season has been extended to four weeks on private lands. All four counties in DMA3 will have a late January through March antlerless only deer season on private lands. Mandatory CWD testing will be held in all four DMA3 counties on the first day of the firearms deer season on Nov. 19, 2022.
Virginia deer hunters should be advised that the CWD management changes enacted above and those adopted in the past will not get rid of or “solve” the CWD issue in Virginia. At best, they will hopefully slow the rate of increase in the prevalence rate in established areas (e.g., Frederick and northern Shenandoah counties) and also hopefully will slow the dispersal of CWD from established areas into new areas.
Much remains to be learned about CWD management in white-tailed deer. At this time, there appear to be two major emerging CWD deer population management approaches. First, to reduce deer herd densities by increasing the antlerless deer kill and, second, to increase the buck mortality rate in CWD affected areas.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
When the subject is CWD, there is no good news; but the semi-good news in Virginia is that we did not identify any new totally unexpected CWD counties or areas in 2021. Previously, we had identified big unexpected jumps in CWD in Culpeper County in fall 2018 and in Montgomery County in fall 2020. Only one new Virginia CWD positive county, Floyd, was identified/added in 2021.
When discussing CWD in Virginia, it is best to think of the state as two different areas. First are those areas where, or very close to where (<=10 miles), CWD has been found; i.e., the Disease Management Areas and, second, the rest of the state. As of May 1, 2022, 134 CWD-positive deer have been found in 10 counties in Virginia.
The Rest of the State
In addition to the three DMAs noted above which currently comprise about 14% of the land area of Virginia, the Department of Wildlife Resources continues to conduct annual statewide CWD surveillance in the 86% of Virginia located outside of the DMAs using a taxidermist-supported CWD surveillance strategy. Adult males are the sex and age class most likely to have CWD, so a taxidermist-supported approach is an efficient CWD surveillance method. In fall 2021, approximately 2,175 samples from hunter-harvested deer were submitted by participating taxidermists. The good news is that 2021 was the first year outside of the DMAs taxidermist CWD surveillance program did not detect a big jump in CWD.
West of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Deer management in western Virginia has been about the same for the past couple of decades and remains two very different deer management situations.
First, deer herds on private lands over most of western Virginia have been fairly stable over the past two-plus decades (with the exception of Alleghany, Bath, and Highland counties). The last major deer management event west of the Blue Ridge that affected both private and public land was a winter mortality event back in the winter of 2010 due to deep and persistent snow. Relatively stable deer herds are expected on private lands west of the Blue Ridge. If there is a change, hopefully it will be a slight decline.
Second, with the obvious exception of CWD in the northern Shenandoah Valley and now the New River Valley areas, the biggest challenge in deer management in western Virginia over the past 20 to 30 years has been, and continues to be, the public land deer management situation. Over the past 25 plus years there has been an approximately 40% decline in the number of deer hunters on western public lands and a corresponding 66% decline in the deer kill. To address this decline, the number of either-sex deer hunting days on western public lands has been reduced significantly over the past decade or more to conservative levels. These changes have been successful in reducing the female deer kill. The decline in the western public land deer kill has been halted, but the western public land deer population has not and is not expected to recover to past deer population levels unless a significant change/major improvement in deer habitat conditions occurs. HD does not traditionally play a major role in deer management west of the Blue Ridge.
–Matt Knox/DWR Deer Project Leader