Rappahannock fall hunting preview: Deer, bear, wild turkey, and ‘hot pink’

‘Sunday hunting for crows has been changed to Monday’

It’s almost time to dust off the blaze orange — and new to Virginia this autumn “hot pink” — hunting gear.

That’s right, lady hunters — and men if they choose — have the option of sporting fluorescent pink instead of traditional Day-Glo orange this 2017-18 hunting season, all thanks to a bill that cleared Virginia’s General Assembly this year.

Fall fashions aside, state game officials tell us this fall’s deer hunting outlook in Virginia, where an estimated 900,000 Whitetails are presently foraging through forests and flowerbeds, is “average.” Which isn’t such a bad thing.

As W. Matt Knox, of Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, explains it: Virginia’s deer hunters have one of the highest success rates in the United States — better than 60 percent.

Still, the 2016-17 deer harvest statewide was below normal. And here in Rappahannock County it was the lowest in almost 20 years — and the second lowest in more than 30 years. There was a total harvest of 1,584 deer, the smallest number since 1998, when 1,476 deer were bagged. Before that, the fewest deer harvested in Rappahannock County was 1,347 in 1986.

By comparison, 1,823 deer were harvested in Rappahannock during the 2015-16 hunting season; 1,636 in 2014-15; and 2,024 in 2013-14.

Meanwhile, one of the few new state hunting regulations in 2017-18 deals specifically with this jurisdiction: “It shall be unlawful to take a second antlered deer on private lands in Rappahannock County prior to taking at least one antlerless deer on private lands . . . and it shall be unlawful to take a third antlered deer . . . prior to taking at least two antlerless deer on private lands in Rappahannock County.”

Statewide, the bag limit for deer is two a day, and six during a license year. Of the six-deer limit, no more than three may be antlered deer and at least three must be antlerless deer.

The deer hunting season with firearms this year in Rappahannock County begins on Saturday, Nov. 18, and lasts until Saturday, Jan. 6. Early archery deer season in Rappahannock is Saturday, Oct. 7 through Friday, Nov. 17.

The Youth and Apprentice Deer Hunting Weekend this year is Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1. Youth ages 15 and under can hunt deer of either sex when accompanied and supervised by an adult over 18 with a valid Virginia hunting license (adults are not allowed to carry or discharge a weapon).

Rappahannock County will have a three-day early bear season with firearms from Monday, Oct. 2 through Wednesday the 4th. Ditto in neighboring Madison, Page, Culpeper, Warren and Fauquier counties.

The regular firearms bear season in Rappahannock is Monday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Jan. 6. Archery bear season is Saturday, Oct. 7 through Friday, Nov. 17.

A total of 21 bears were taken by hunters in Rappahannock County during the 2016-17 season, although in 2016, prior to the opening of bear hunting season, an additional 18 bears were shot by Rappahannock County farmers with so-called “kill permits.”

In 2013, 57 bears were shot and killed by Rappahannock farmers before the hunting season — 28 of them on one property alone — a figure that “stood out” as “not near ideal” to Jaime Sajecki, bear project leader with the Virginia Department of Game, who said too often “no value is placed on these animals.”

Game officials warn hunters this fall that it is unlawful to use dogs when hunting bear, although dogs may be used to track wounded or dead bear. In addition, no hunter “shall kill or cripple and knowingly allow any game animal to be wasted without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal and retain it in their possession.”

Hunters must purchase a bear license in addition to all other applicable licenses, permits or stamps.

Bear bag limits: One per license year, at least 100 pound live weight or 75 pounds dressed weight. Females with cubs may not be harvested. All bears must be checked at an official bear check station.

Youth or apprentice bear hunting will take place on the weekend of Oct. 14 and 15. The regulations for young bear hunters are the same as for deer hunting.

Turning to turkeys, no more than two can be taken in the fall season — only one per day, either sex. Wild turkeys killed in the fall also must be checked at a game check station.

The fall firearms turkey season is Saturday, Oct. 28 through Friday, Nov. 10, as well as Nov. 23, Dec. 4 through 30, and Jan. 13 through 27. (Madison and Page counties have a much shorter firearms turkey season, Oct. 28 through Nov. 10, and Nov. 23).

Archery turkey season is Saturday, Oct. 7 through Friday, Nov. 10 in Rappahannock, while the Youth and Apprentice Fall Turkey Hunting Weekend is Oct. 21 and 22.

Finally, new this fall in Virginia, raccoons have been added to the list of species that can be hunted with electronic calls. And then this from state game officials: “Sunday hunting for crows has been changed to Monday. The days are now Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.”

About John McCaslin 135 Articles

John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.