RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Wildlife officials with the Commonwealth of Virginia released a report on the 2022-23 hunting season on Tuesday and said several factors led to a lower harvest this time around.

According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), Virginia’s 2022-23 black bear hunting season saw a 25% lower take than the previous year and was 29% lower than the average from 2017 to 2021. In total, hunters reported killing 2,232 bears across the Commonwealth.

Muzzleloader bear hunting decreased by over half and early firearms season kills dropped by over a third.

Whitetail deer season saw a smaller drop in harvests with a 3% lower yield than last year. Across the state, hunters reported killing 184,968 deer during the 22-23 deer hunting season. The drop didn’t concern state officials who are still working to reduce deer numbers.

“Over much of the state, the Department has continued its efforts to reduce deer populations,” the release said. “Which, when successful, would also result in reduced fall deer harvest numbers.”

Wildlife officials said acorns also may be to blame for the decreased harvest across all species.

“Acorn abundance during the fall of 2022 was above average across Virginia, and abundant acorn crops enable bears to move less in search of food, thus reducing their vulnerability to hunters,” the release said. “As the Department’s harvest data demonstrates through the past several decades, and again this past season, abundant acorn crops typically result in significant harvest declines during the archery and muzzleloader seasons.”

The DWR said acorn abundance has a significant impact on turkey harvests as well, but last season’s numbers only decreased by about 20 birds. State officials are concerned about the number of hunters who do track wild turkeys, calling it an “ongoing issue.”

“The October youth and apprentice fall turkey hunting weekend and the late January fall season were designed to encourage interest in fall turkey hunting,” the release said. “Unfortunately, it appears the declining trend is continuing despite these efforts. Many hunters have shifted to hunting other species and many have decided to hold onto their turkey tags to utilize during the spring season. While fall turkey participation may be lagging, the excitement of those who do participate is not.”

Above is the DWR’s full report on all three species.