Below average success by Virginia fall turkey hunters may actually be a sign of improving conditions for wild turkeys. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, exceptional mast (acorn) crops and below-average reproduction likely contributed to the harvest decline.
Turkey harvest rates are often reduced when acorns are available. Bountiful acorn crops allow wild turkeys to spend most of their time in forested habitats instead of openings or fields. Abundant acorn resources make traveling less necessary as birds feed consistently on these nutritious foods. As a result their home ranges shrink and they are less noticeable. Collectively, these factors limit fall turkey hunting success.
For 2011, it appears that wild turkey reproduction was below-average. Turkey reproduction is variable and can be influenced by a variety of factors.
Inclement weather during the two weeks following hatching is thought to be hard on young birds. Juvenile birds typically make up a majority of the fall harvest, so low harvests could be related to a poor hatch in the spring.