Modern gun deer hunting season coming up in Kentucky
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) - Autumn in Kentucky brings earlier sunsets that lead to crisp mornings and an explosion of fall colors that gives way to bare branches.
Deer movement increases and builds excitement among hunters.
The modern gun deer season opens in less than two weeks and is timed to start with the peak of breeding activity, known as the rut.
The 2022-2023 deer season is off to a strong start.
Archery and crossbow hunters posted the second-highest harvest total on record for September, and October’s numbers were up over last year.
Historically, most deer hunters are in the woods during the modern gun season, which this year opens Nov. 12 and continues through Nov. 27.
Noelle Thompson, deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, points out that the modern gun season alone accounted for 73 percent of the total statewide deer harvest of more than 132,000 deer last year.
“We aren’t seeing a bumper crop of acorns in most areas, so deer should be on the move in search of food this fall to sustain them through the winter,” Thompson said. “This will mean good opportunities for hunters to see more deer and fill their freezers with healthy venison this season. I recommend hunting near oak trees or groves with good acorn crops this year, and not solely on food plots or green fields.”
Annual hard mast production, or the number of acorns and nuts produced by Kentucky’s hardwood trees, influences whitetail behavior throughout the season as a deer’s primary food source.
The 2022 statewide mast survey rated white oak and red oak acorn production as average.
Cody Rhoden, small game program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, coordinates the department’s annual statewide mast survey with Zak Danks, the department’s wild turkey and ruffed grouse program coordinator. Rhoden said dry conditions observed during the late summer and this fall will likely lead to an early mast drop of all hardwood species, meaning available hard mast could be exhausted sooner.
Beyond being driven by natural instincts in the fall, deer also become more active and travel farther distances as food sources grow scarcer.
“Higher amounts of hardwood mast in Kentucky’s forests leads to fewer encounters with animals, including deer,” Rhoden said. “The opposite is true for times of lean mast, which may result in higher harvest rates of game animals, such as squirrels and deer as these animals must move more to find food.”
Kentucky offers more than 1 million acres of public land open to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation. Hunters can find places to hunt by using Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s online Public Lands Search at fw.ky.gov. Using the ArcGIS app, hunters can view GPS locations directly on boundary maps for public lands in Kentucky.
Scouting before a season is always recommended and it could be even more important this year.
“Following the natural disasters that have occurred throughout the state, many areas have experienced changes in cover,” Thompson noted. “What used to be a perfect spot may look differently now. To be more prepared, hunters should visit hunting locations and assess equipment before heading into the field.”
Hunters may use firearms, crossbows, bows, pistols, muzzleloaders, or certain high-caliber air guns to take deer during specific seasons. Familiarize yourself with regulations and seasons by going online to view the Fall Hunting and Trapping Guide.
Unless otherwise exempt, all deer hunters must possess a valid Kentucky hunting license, deer permit, and proof of hunter education certification.
Licensed hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, must have hunter education certification.
Rachel Crume, manager who oversees Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) programs, said there’s still time for hunters to get their certification. Training includes online or in-person classwork, plus live-firing at a range.
“There’s a free classroom portion of hunter education offered online,” she said. “First-time eligible hunters can also speed up the process through the temporary hunter education exemption permit option with a qualified mentor to accompany them afield.”
Visit the department’s “Hunter Education” web page to view more information on obtaining certification, license requirements, and one-time exemption permits for new hunters.
As a safety reminder, all hunters must wear a blaze orange hat plus a vest or jacket during firearms deer seasons. Also, hunters should always be certain of their target and what is beyond it before ever taking a shot.
Special deer hunting regulations are in place in western Kentucky to help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) into the state. CWD has not been detected in Kentucky.
Special CWD Surveillance Zone regulations in Calloway, Marshall, Graves, Hickman, and Fulton counties prohibit baiting, restrict carcass importation and transportation, and set requirements for check stations.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will operate 13 mandatory CWD Check Station locations in the CWD Surveillance Zone during the modern gun weekends of Nov. 12-14, Nov. 19-21, and Nov. 26-27. All deer harvested in those five counties during the listed dates must be taken to a check station.
In addition, the department will operate three voluntary CWD Check Stations for deer or elk in Bell and Harlan counties. These will operate on Nov. 12-13, Nov. 19-20, and Nov. 26-27. Hunters will receive free animal aging and CWD testing for the deer or elk brought to the check stations.
Deer hunters outside the CWD Surveillance Zone can aid Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s monitoring efforts by donating the heads of legally harvested and telechecked deer for testing and aging through the voluntary Deer Sample Collection Station program. There is no cost to hunters.
For current information about CWD, go online to fw.ky.gov/cwd.
Suspected illegal activity related to fish, wildlife or boating may be anonymously reported using the KFWLaw smartphone app.
Tips can also be submitted from non-smartphones with texting capabilities by texting the keyword “KFWLaw” along with a message to 847411 (tip 411) or by calling 800-25-ALERT.
Callers are asked for the county that they are calling about and forwarded to the nearest Kentucky State Police post, which dispatches a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officer.
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