Accessible Trails Provide Quality Hunting Opportunities

powhatan-trailThe Phelps Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Fauquier County has long featured a trail with hunting stands that are available to mobility-impaired hunters on a reservations-based system. Building on the success of this program, in 2013 the Department launched an effort to improve accessible hunting at WMA’s all across the Commonwealth.

Each of the Department’s four regions has now installed an accessible hunting trail. The locations were selected to facilitate quality hunting and to provide barrier-free access to all hunters, including those who have limited mobility. All the new trails are available on a first-come first-serve basis.

The first trail was developed in 2013 in Region I at Chickahominy WMA in Charles City County. The main access trail is 3591 feet long with six spur trails into quality hunting locations.

The second trail was developed in 2014 in Region IV at Powhatan WMA in Powhatan County. The main trail is 2710 feet long with six spur trails to hunting locations.

Region II developed its Accessible Trail at White Oak Mountain WMA in Pittsylvania County in 2015. The main trail is 941 feet in length with three spur trails. The White Oak trails provide accessible hunting shelters on the spur trails.

Region III finished a trail this year at Clinch Mountain WMA in Smyth County. The main trail is 1530 feet long with three hunting locations with shelters and one side spur for hunting. The Department added a 300 foot spur down to Tumbling Creek to provide accessible Trout fishing to the WMA.

The Department is investing the sportsmen’s fees to improve services and access to the natural resources of the Commonwealth for all hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts.

  • December 9th, 2016

Hog Island WMA – A Shoreline Success Story

Hog Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is one of Virginia’s coastal wildlife treasures.  Located in in Surry County, Hog Island WMA is well known to hunters, birders and fishermen because of its unique location on the James River which attracts a variety of waterfowl and other wildlife.

Hog Island is actually a peninsula jutting out into the James—which made it ideal for the early colonial settlers to raise hogs, and is how the “island” it got its name.  But the narrow western shoreline– including the main access road–had been battered repeatedly by high waves from hurricanes and tropical storms, severely eroding the bank and causing a hazard to drivers.  The freshwater impoundments were also in danger of being breeched by brackish water from the James. The access road was washing away!

In October, 2010 the Department took action.  In cooperation with Hurt and Proffitt, the Center for Coastal Resources Management from Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Beach Consultants, Inc., a plan was developed.

hog-island01The Department would develop a “living shoreline,” a strategic placement of plants, stone and sand fill that serve the natural processes and connections between upland and aquatic areas.

Concerns were raised by the US Fish and Wildlife Services as to the effect that the removal of a narrow band of trees on would affect the eagle population from using the shoreline for forging.  In January, 2012, work began after all concerns were addressed and all permits were in hand.

Now five years after the completion of the project, the ‘living shoreline’ is undoubtedly a success.  The Department has a new living and growing shoreline that attracts wildlife–including the eagles–and has established a protective barrier for the main access road and the freshwater ponds.   The investment of the sportsmen’s funds entrusted to the Department will continue to protect and provide quality public access to the WMA!

  • November 30th, 2016

Virginia Wildlife eStore Grant Program 2016

Connecting Youth to the Outdoors

turtle-guideThe Virginia Wildlife eStore Grant Program, launched in 2014, provides a funding source to non-profits, schools, and government agencies with a focus to connect youth to the outdoors and is a partnership effort between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.  Support of the Grant Program is generated through the sale of gear and other merchandise from ShopDGIF. com.   This effort is an effective way to partner with organizations that are doing great things in their communities and have built successful relationships.  Our support provides just a bit more horsepower to make them greater.

In 2016, the Grant Program total award amount grew from $40,000 to $55,000.  This year, we received 141 applications totaling $292,161 and 60 projects were selected totaling $54,633.  The estimated number of youth impacted by these programs is about 20,300.  Nine of the programs focused on high risk youth and we continued to focus on teaching visually impaired kids.

This year we had additional revenue to the grant program through a public/private partnership with Richmond Ford that strengthened our engagement with youth.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of any initiative that provides the opportunity for fellow Virginians to enjoy and appreciate our outdoor resources.” -Ron Kody, Owner, Richmond Ford

vdgif-ford-wfv-logosThe following organizations received awards and program activity dollar amounts included:

  • Archery – $5,292 (5)
  • Boating – $4,564 (3)
  • Education – $17,905 (25)
  • Fishing – $16,774 (18)
  • Hunting – $4,980 (4)
  • Shooting Sports – $4,000 (3)
  • Watchable Wildlife – $1,120 (2)

hipstamaticphoto-500059957-413914Archery

  • Botetourt County 4-H Shooting Education Club
  • Northampton County 4H
  • Powhatan 4-H Shooting Club
  • USA Collegiate Archery Team at College of William and Mary
  • Lonesome Pine Soil and Water Conservation District

Boating

  • Boy Scouts of America, Sea Scout Ship 1935
  • Callaway Elementary School
  • Waynesboro Family YMCA

Education

snake-skin
  • Appomattox County High School
  • Friends of Belle Isle State Park
  • Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River
  • York High School
  • Broadway High
  • Cumberland County Public Schools
  • Burnley Moran Elementary School PTA
  • Chesterfield Innovative Academy for Girls
  • Linwood Holton Elementary School
  • Matoaca Middle School
  • VA Association for Parents and Children with Visual Impairments
  • Walton Middle School
  • SWVA Sportsmen
  • Lake Fleming Ecology Club
  • Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Washington County Public Schools
  • Floyd County High School
  • Belvedere Elementary School
  • Keister Elementary School
  • Dan River Basin Association
  • Tazewell Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Daniel Boone Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Gloucester County Public Schools
  • Virginia Trappers Association
  • Holiday Lake 4-H Education Center

odd-fellow-youth-fishing-event-7Fishing

  • Active Hands Ministry
  • Blue Ridge Discovery Center
  • Craig County Hooked on Fishing
  • Douthat State Park Environmental Education
  • Floyd County Sheriff Office
  • Montgomery County Parks and Recreation
  • Northampton Middle School
  • Nottoway/Cumberland 4-H
  • Pulaski County Kids Fishing Day
  • Michael’s Episcopal School
  • Staunton Augusta Chapter Izaak Walton League
  • Town of Narrows
  • Virginia Tech Chapter American Fisheries Society
  • Botetourt County Parks and Recreation
  • The Virginia Outdoors Foundation
  • Westover Hills Elementary School (City of Richmond)
  • Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School Fishing Club
  • Cub Scout Pack 239

spring-air-6bHunting/Shooting Sports

  • Botetourt Longbeards Chapter – NWTF
  • New River Valley Chapter of Hunters Helping Kids
  • Lee County Strutters
  • Virginia Highlands Chapter – NWTF
  • Page County 4-H.
  • Scott County Outdoor Team
  • Goochland 4H Shooting Education Club

Watchable Wildlife

  • Madison Primary School
  • Thomas Hunter Middle School

 

  • November 22nd, 2016

Virginia’s Locavore Deer Hunters

locavore-deerBy Matt Knox, Deer Project Leader, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

If you are a deer hunter in Virginia, there is a greater than 99% chance that you are a locavore deer hunter.  I am guessing at this point that many, maybe a majority, of Virginia deer hunters are asking themselves “What is a locavore deer hunter?”

The Internet defines a locavore as a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.  This definition is too restrictive in my opinion.  I would define a locavore as a person who makes a conscious decision to go out of their way to include locally grown or produced food in their or their family’s diet.  At a minimum this would include those persons who shop at the local farmers market, who grow a vegetable garden, and deer hunters.

In addition to being local, venison is also generally considered to be healthier than beef because it is a chemical-free (contains no additives, preservatives, or antibiotics), leaner and lower in fat, and, therefore, lower in calories source of protein, minerals, and vitamins.  Lastly, it is more environmentally friendly because it comes from native, natural, and free ranging wild animals.

One of the most essential benefits of deer hunting for food from a locavore perspective is its inherent sustainability.  To put this in perspective, over the last decade deer hunters in Virginia have averaged killing approximately 230,000 deer each fall across the Commonwealth.  This results in over 9 million pounds of healthy lean venison for Virginia’s deer hunters, their families, and friends annually.  If one considers that, since the Department began keeping records, there have been a minimum of 7.6 million deer checked by deer hunters in Virginia.  This means that the forest and fields in Virginia have resulted in a bountiful harvest of greater than 327 million pounds of venison over the past 70 years.  In Virginia for over 10,000 years venison has been and will continue to be a bountiful harvest!

Read the full article in an upcoming issue of Virginia WildlifeSubscribe today!

Virginia Wildlife is your ticket to learning more about Virginia’s spectacular wildlife, fisheries, and breathtaking habitats. Whether you hunt, fish, boat, camp, or take in the wildlife from your easy chair, Virginia Wildlife offers you stories and insight on the natural world, supplied by the state’s leading wildlife and outdoor experts.

Photo by Meghan Marchetti, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

  • November 21st, 2016

103 Year-Old Hunter Clyde Roberts Takes Nice Buck

Clyde RobertsLast December, we spent a day afield with Clyde Roberts, who, at then-102 years-old, was the oldest known active hunter in the country.

Christin Elliott, Clyde Roberts’ granddaughter, shared with us this story of a recent muzzleloader deer hunt with her now-103 year-old grandfather.

“We got in the stand about 3 PM; it was overcast and a good wind for the stand.

Papa can’t turn his head very far to the left after surgery years ago so he told me to watch the upper end of the food plot to his left. We watched some turkeys feed out behind us early on, which is always exciting since I love to hunt spring gobblers!

Around 4:15, I saw a doe at the far end of the field, easing through the pines with her fawn. Papa got a quick glimpse of the doe but they were feeding out of the field. Papa is one of those hunters that never moves, which is totally different from hunting with my two boys. Around 4:30, I saw the doe and fawn coming up the edge of the field into the food plot.  Papa saw them and, after watching a few minutes, he said he thought the doe would be a good one to take. I whispered in his ear that we should wait since we still had time and good light left. They fed into the food plot but kept looking up the hill to the top of the field. I saw a doe slip out of the pines into the top of the food plot and held up 3 fingers so Papa would know there was another deer in the field.

Clyde RobertsI had been texting back and forth with Dad just to keep him apprised of our hunt while he was enjoying his afternoon of mule deer hunting in Montana. We had just joked about trying to keep Papa from shooting the doe! At this point, something in the woods caught my eye and I realized it was a limb moving—and then I saw his antlers. I held my hands out in front of me to describe antlers and he just smiled. I knew things were going to happen quickly, so he got the gun up and ready. Papa was so calm when the buck walked out broadside. I knew he was a great buck and time literally stood still for me. I never heard the gun go off, never saw the smoke, just watched the buck fall with one well-placed just shy of 100 yards.

Clyde RobertsPapa likes to tell everyone that I got so excited after that. Of course I did! Not only had I been able to hunt with my 103-year-old grandfather but I had witnessed him take the biggest buck of his life. Most importantly, I had the hunt of my lifetime with him! I immediately called Dad and my oldest, who is a freshman at Montana Tech. I could not contain my excitement. It was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my hunting career. I will never forget it. Papa is still on cloud nine and I have relived the hunt every night since.

The Good Lord was definitely with us Tuesday for many reasons.  We had a safe hunt, we had time together and he connected on a great big ‘ole Bedford County buck!”

A great story and inspiration for all of us who share the passion for hunting and the wonders of the great outdoors.

Clyde is a fantastic example and role model for all hunters, with his respect for the game he pursues and the many young hunters he has mentored over the years passing the treasured hunting heritage and traditions to a new generation—in Clyde’s case, several generations!

gov-lifetime-license-ad-01
  • November 15th, 2016

Virginia Hunters Needed for Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance and Management

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) wildlife officials would like to ask for your continued support in the surveillance and management of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  Chronic wasting disease has been detected in twelve deer in Frederick County and one deer in Shenandoah County, Virginia.

The continued existence of the disease in nearby states is also a concern; CWD has been detected in Hampshire and Hardy counties, West Virginia, and Allegany and Washington counties, Maryland.

Similarly to 2015, any deer killed in the CWD Containment Area (comprised of Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah, and Warren counties) on November 19th or 26th, 2016, must be brought to a CWD check station to be sampled for CWD. Any deer (or at minimum the head and at least 4 inches of neck) killed in the Containment Area on these two days must be brought to one of the designated sampling stations listed below:

  • Cather’s Market, 2765 Northwestern Pike, Winchester
  • Cline’s Store, 19004 Senedo Road, Edinburg
  • Crossroads Grocery, 119 Cedar Grove Road, Winchester
  • Gore Grocery, 305 Gore Road, Gore
  • Graden’s Supermarket, 6836 John Marshall Highway, Lebanon Church
  • Clarke County Fairgrounds, 890 W. Main St., Berryville
  • Town & Country Superette, 876 Conicville Rd, Mt. Jackson
  • Fort Valley Country Store, 7091 Fort Valley rd., Fort Valley
  • Rivermont Shell Gas, 10178 Winchester Rd, Front Royal
  • Foodway Supermarket, 2868 Stonewall Jackson Highway, Bentonville
  • T & R Processing, 691 Carpers Valley Road, Winchester

We strongly encourage hunters who are successful on days other than those listed above to volunteer the head and neck from their deer for sampling by bringing it to one of our self-service refrigerated drop stations:

  • Frederick-Winchester Conservation Club, 527 Siler Road, Winchester (north of Gainesboro)
  • Department of Forestry, 265 Lakeview Dr., Woodstock
  • North Mountain Fire and Rescue, 186 Rosenberger Lane, Winchester (off Rt. 600, behind Tom’s Market)
  • Enders Fire Department, 9 South Buckmarsh St., Berryville
  • Elk Lodge, 4088 Guard Hill Rd, Front Royal

In addition to mandatory checking, DGIF is continuing several management actions in the Containment Area in response to the continued presence of CWD in Frederick and Shenandoah counties.  Within the Containment Area, these measures include: prohibiting the movement of deer carcasses and parts out of the Containment Area (with exceptions), restricting the disposal of deer wastes from the Containment Area, and prohibiting the rehabilitation of deer.  In the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren, and in the City of Winchester, feeding of deer is prohibited year round and seasons and bag limits on private lands have been liberalized in an attempt to reduce the deer population.

CWD has been detected in 24 states and two Canadian provinces. The disease is a slow, progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk, and moose in North America. The disease ultimately results in death of the animal. Symptoms exhibited by CWD-infected deer include, staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss. There is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans, livestock, or pets; however, the DGIF strongly advises against consuming meat from any game animal that appears ill prior to death. Anyone who sees a sick deer that displays any of the signs described above should contact the nearest DGIF office immediately with accurate location information. Please do not attempt to disturb or kill the deer before contacting DGIF. More information on CWD can be found on the DGIF website.

  • November 15th, 2016

Big Woods WMA, New Parker’s Branch Tract Open to the Public

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) announced today that it has purchased 1,965 acres in Sussex County, Virginia, adjoining the existing Big Woods Wildlife Management Area and Big Woods State Forest.  This acquisition, approved by the DGIF Board for the price of $3.8 million, supports the DGIF’s efforts to restore pine-savannah habitat and provide additional public land in an underserved area of Virginia.

“Our goal here is to provide a diversity of opportunities, as expressly requested by hunters surveyed last fall at the Big Woods WMA,” said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Executive Director Bob Duncan.

Funding for the acquisition came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the form of a Wildlife Restoration Grant, administered through its Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, and from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.  The sale was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy through its purchase and temporary holding of the property.

The area is predominantly upland loblolly pine forests and mature forest swamps. The habitat supports a wide range of wildlife species including white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, bobwhite quail, brown-headed nuthatch, red-headed and pileated woodpeckers, summer tanager, and a variety of warblers.  The Parker’s Branch Tract provides additional opportunity to restore longleaf pine and to develop habitat that will benefit the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, currently found on nearby property. These woodpeckers are the northernmost population of this species in the U.S.  Excellent opportunities also exist to recover local populations of northern bobwhites.

Details on usage, public access, permit requirements, and land management strategies are currently being developed by the DGIF as part of its detailed management plan. Hunting will be permitted during the 2016-2017 hunting season.  The property is established for still-hunting only for deer and bear, with the nearby original Big Woods WMA remaining open to hunting with hounds  A few interior roads on Parker’s Branch provide opportunities for hunters to retrieve hounds from the area; firearms must be unloaded and cased when retrieving hounds. An antler point restriction is in place on this tract that requires that any antlered deer harvested have four (4) or more 1” or greater points on one side.  Youth or apprentice hunters may harvest one (1) buck per license year that does not meet the APR.  The use of slugs is prohibited during the general firearms season.  Muzzleloaders are allowed during the special muzzleloader season.

The DGIF currently owns 41 Wildlife Management Areas around the Commonwealth, encompassing over 200,000 acres.

  • November 10th, 2016

2016 Acorn Production Varies By Region

shutterstock_510076396Over 200,000 hunters will take to the woods this fall in search of deer, turkey, and bear as well as a host of smaller game species.  One thing all of these hunters need to know is the importance of acorns in the diets of the game they hunt.  Acorns are a nutritious food providing protein, fat, and energy in the diets of 90 species of game and non-game animals in Virginia.  As such, they are a staple food for Virginia’s wildlife, providing important resources to meet the physical challenges of winter weather and reproduction in the following spring.  Wild turkeys will concentrate in areas where acorns are available, making them hard to find and leaving some hunters to wonder if turkey populations are low.  Under these conditions hunter success rates decline.  Conversely, when acorn crops fail, turkeys search forests and fields for other food sources which makes them easier for hunters to find thereby increasing hunter odds of success.

Given the importance of acorns to wildlife and relevance to hunter success and satisfactions, the Department annually monitors acorn crops across the state.  In addition to Department staff, personnel from the Department of Forestry, Department of Conservation and Recreation-State Parks, Smithsonian Conservation Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service, several military bases, and US Army Corps of Engineers participate in the surveys.  In comparison to last year’s statewide mast failures, the 2016 acorn crop was generally improved with statewide red oak ratings significantly exceeding their long-term averages while white oak ratings were lower, but near their long-term average.  On a statewide basis red oak acorns were commonly rated average or bumper crops; however, the white oak acorn yield was more commonly rated as a failure.

Acorn production varied by region and by oak species within regions.  The Coastal Region stood out as having better combined white and red oak production than other Regions. Red oak acorns crops were generally plentiful and in good numbers while white oaks were scattered, but heavy when found in the Coastal Region.

In the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Regions, white oak ratings generally exceeded red oak.  Bumper yields of white oak were found at Ft. Belvoir and Quantico Marine Corps Base and good numbers were seen at the White Oak Mountain Wildlife Management Area.  A wide range of red oak crops were seen in this region.  The single best (bumper) red oak rating was reported on the Fairystone Wildlife Management Area.

img_2746cropped

In contrast to other Regions, white oak production In the Alleghany Mountain and Ridge and Valley Region was much lower than the red oaks.  White oak acorn production was commonly rated low or a failure throughout the Region while red oak production was commonly rated moderate to high.  Good to bumper yields of red oak acorns were found from the southern reaches (Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area) of the region to the northern (Lee Ranger District of George Washington –Jefferson National Forest).

Readers should know that mast abundance ratings are intended to reflect the region averages, however, mast crops are not uniform across a Region; acorn abundance can vary among local areas that are 10-15 miles apart.  Scouting is necessary for hunters to find local areas with good acorn production.  White oak acorns are the first acorns to be selected and therefore the first to disappear.  So it is not only important to know where acorns are abundant in September and October, but also what species of acorns are prevalent.  Scouting will be particularly important in the 2016-17 hunting seasons as many game species are enjoying some sort of acorns and their movements and home ranges are dictated by the abundance of these important foods.

For more information, contact:

  • November 8th, 2016

Record High Wild Turkey Population Likely to Remain Stable

turkey-population

While Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ biologists believe that Virginia’s wild turkey population is at record high levels, wild turkey populations can fluctuate considerably from year-to-year.  As such, every August, many Department of Game and Inland Fisheries employees record observations of wild turkeys during their routine work travels.  Known as the annual “Brood Survey”, Department employees record the number of turkeys they see, paying attention to accurately count the number of young birds within broods.  By August, young, recently hatched turkeys, called poults, are likely to survive until the fall and their presence or absence in the turkey population at this time of year provides biologists with important insight into future population trends.

Overall, the 2016 wild turkey brood survey revealed wild turkey numbers slightly below the long-term average on a statewide basis.  However, production of young turkeys varied across the Commonwealth.  In the Northwest Mountain Region, observers reported very high numbers of broods and very high numbers of young birds within broods,  the best of any in the state.  This is encouraging news for the region because turkey densities are very low in many counties in Northwest Mountain Region.  Brood numbers were also high in the Tidewater region but the number of poults seen in broods was very low.  In the balance of the state (North Piedmont, South Piedmont, and South Mountain), the numbers of broods seen was below average, furthermore, the number of young birds within broods was down.

Poor weather conditions involving extended periods of cooler, wet weather were observed throughout much of the brood season in 2016.  The negative impacts of these conditions on poult survival appeared throughout most of the state this year.  The turkey population influences from reproduction seemed almost appropriate this year as the Region with the lowest turkey population experienced the greatest recruitment, while the Region with the highest turkey population (Tidewater) experienced the lowest recruitment.  Regardless, turkey enthusiasts will continue to enjoy turkey populations that are still at or near record levels for modern times in the Commonwealth.

brood-chart16

Figure 1. Turkey recruitment indices for Virginia, 2007-16.

For more information, contact:

See also:

  • November 7th, 2016

DGIF’s New Vision, Mission and Goal Statements

Agency Director Bob Duncan announced the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has updated its Agency Vision, Mission and Goal Statements.

The new Vision, Mission and Goal statements were developed by an internal Strategic Thinking Team through a comprehensive process that included input from DGIF staff, external partners, focus groups, and stakeholders.  The final review included public comment opportunities and approval by the DGIF Executive Board and Senior Leadership Team.

“Conserve, Connect, Protect—these are not simply words to us.  We are proud of the work we have accomplished over the last 100 years but we also realize the challenges ahead are significant, and even more daunting.  The new vision, mission and goal statements are the distillation of what our employees work for everyday at the Department,” said Bob Duncan, Executive Director, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Vision Statement 

  • Leading wildlife conservation and inspiring people to value the outdoors and their role in nature.

Mission Statement

  • Conserve and manage wildlife populations and habitat for the benefit of present and future generations.
  • Connect people to Virginia’s outdoors through boating, education, fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and other wildlife-related activities.
  • Protect people and property by promoting safe outdoor experiences and managing human-wildlife conflicts.

Goal Statements

 Conserve

  • Conserve sustainable and diverse native wildlife populations and ecosystems.
  • Manage wildlife populations and habitats to meet the balanced needs among diverse human communities.

Connect

  • Recruit, retain, and re-engage people who enjoy wildlife and boating activities.
  • Promote people’s awareness and appreciation of their role in wildlife conservation.

Protect

  • Minimize wildlife-related conflicts while balancing conservation goals and human benefits.
  • Promote public safety for all people enjoying Virginia’s wildlife and waterways.

 Organizational

  • Cultivate an effective and efficient organization that supports the agency vision and mission
  • Create an inclusive culture that fosters collaboration, diversity, innovation and transparency.

Learn more about DGIF»

  • November 7th, 2016