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Bird Hunting in Virginia, Pheasant, Quail, Grouse, Woodcock, and Small Game

Bird Hunting in Virginia, Pheasant, Quail, Grouse, Woodcock, and Small Game

A bird hunter going after Ruffed Grouse in Virginia

Virginia is for lovers of bird hunting.

Virginia is predominantly the forested mountains in the west, the Piedmont highlands in the middle of the state, and the coastal plain in the east. Sixty-two percent of the state is forested, much of which covers the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains.

Portions of the 1.8 million acre George Washington and Jefferson National Forests should be the places to look for ruffed grouse. There are a number of ways to access land for bird hunting in Virginia. One is through the PALS program, which opened 30,000 acres of private land in Wise and Dickenson counties. A permit to access this land costs $18. In addition, many of the state forests are open for hunting, though they require a valid State Forest Use Permit. 

You can find licensed Shooting Preserves scattered across the state. From September 1 to April 30, you may hunt pen-raised game birds on the hunting preserves. A license is required; the cost is $23 for residents and $111 for nonresidents. A 3-day license costs $60.  

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse depend and thrive on early successional forests. As a result of advocacy for the preservation of older forests, however, these necessary habitats have declined. Efforts are underway to reverse this process. On the Little North Mountain wildlife management area, for example, a recent initiative allowed lumbering in selected areas to allow for more young growth. If you want to find ruffed grouse in Virginia, you’ll want to find young forests. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

The season opens west of I-95 on October 28 and closes February 10 with a daily bag limit of 3. 

American Woodcock 

The migration of American woodcock in Virginia occurs when birds come South to winter from the North usually starting in November, though it’s possible that many American woodcock call the state home. The best place to look for American woodcock in Virginia is said to be the Mattaponi wildlife management area. You may also look on the Gathright and Chickahominy wildlife management areas. Since the American woodcock is a migratory bird, you will need to be HIP registered before hunting them. 

The season opens November 20 and goes until December 8. It picks up again December 21 and closes January 15. There is a daily bag limit of 3. 

Bobwhite Quail 

The peak harvest number for bobwhite quail was 1.2 million. That was back in 1973. A recent annual harvest was about 12,000 wild quail. The cause for such a decline is, of course, loss of habitat. Restoring good quail habitat across all the regions of Virginia depends in part on the participation of private land owners. 

The season opens November 20 and closes December 31 with a daily bag limit of 6. It is closed west of Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Other Species for Bird Hunting in Virginia 

There are plenty of other species for bird hunting in Virginia, many of which are migratory. As a result, you will need to be HIP certified before hunting them. That is not the case for hunting crow, however. You may hunt them statewide from August 19 to March 16 on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays. From September 2 to March 16, you may hunt crow on national forests and lands managed by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The season for dove is split into three parts: September 2 to October 29, November 22 to 29 and December 3 to January 15. Including mourning and white-winged doves singly or in combination, the daily bag limit is 15. You may find a list of wildlife management areas that provide access to dove hunting on the Department website. The season for Sora and Virginia rails opens September 9 and closes November 17 with a daily bag limit of 25. Snipe season is from October 6-9 and October 21 to January 31. There is a daily bag limit of 8. 

Ruffed Grouse Society

Quail Forever

North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA)

The Hunter Safety Course and Dog Training Regulations for Bird Hunting in Virginia 

Any first-time hunter or any hunter between the ages of 12 and 15 will need to complete a hunter education course. You can take the course online, which costs $29.50. The Apprentice Hunting License allows for first-time hunters to hunt without completing a hunter education course. They must be directly supervised by a mentor hunter. This license remains valid for two years. 

In order to train your dog for bird hunting in Virginia, you will need a hunting license. You can only train dogs on national forest or lands managed by the Department during authorized training seasons. On the Amelia, Dick Cross, and portions of Chester F. Phelps areas, you may train dogs from September 1 to the day before quail season. Only a starter pistol is allowed. Pen-raised quail may be released at any time on private land with landowner permission. However, birds can only be shot during the regular quail season. Since training a dog is considered hunting, regular bag limits apply. 

The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for the most up-to-date information on bird hunting in Virginia.

View Comments (3)
  • Wise, Scott, and Lee Counties were good places to hunt in the 80’s but that is not the case anymore. Bird huntingdogs became household pets and were not replaced due to poor grouse numbers. Quail, forget it. I hate it since bird hunting is by far my favorite outdoor activity. I miss the good ole days. Now it is turkey, bear, and deer which does not interest me much. My stories about bird hunting and my dogs have gotten overused.

  • What is the state of Virginia thinking? There haven’t been healthy populations of pheasant, quail or grouse for years, yet the daily bag limits would have us think the populations are doing fine. Close hunting for these three birds until we can get their populations back to sustainable levels. It doesn’t take a genius to see the idiocy of the state hunting guidelines for these birds. Ridiculous.

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