If there were to be a singular red-letter day on Kentucky’s hunting calendar, it would be coming next Saturday with the opening day of the modern motorcycles deer hunting season.
There are deer hunting opportunities aplenty in Kentucky, with seasons based on specific weapons and special occasions for juvenile hunters. For less efficient weaponry like archery and crossbow gear, whitetail hunters can be active from the first Saturday in September until deep into January.
The gold standard of deer hunting seasons, that by far draws the most participation, is the “gun season,” during which hunters can use modern, breechloading rifles. This begins annually in Kentucky on the second Saturday of November and runs for 16 days. That is Nov. 12-27 this year.
No event in the outdoors sporting schedule of Kentuckians measures up to opening day of the modern firearms deer season. It puts more hunters afield than any other occasion. Unless weather conditions are just prohibitive, it easily results in the highest deer harvest of any day on the hunting calendar.
There are a couple of factors that go into this. First, the ability to use modern rifles makes it easier for non-specialists, those less than experts, to harvest deer under routine conditions. Everyone interested in trying to take a deer doesn’t have a bow, crossbow or muzzleloading firearm nor the experience and skills needed to claim venison with these alternative methods. A very occasional hunter and shooter, however, could have reasonable chances for success with a modern firearm.
Secondly, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources managers schedule the modern gun season to put participating hunters out there at the optimum time. The second November Saturday start is a best-estimation schedule to overlap the gun season with the white-tailed deer’s reproductive period peak, the “rut.”
Managers schedule the 16-day season the way it is to put hunters afield during what should be the time when deer are the most active, engaging in the most movement, because of rut-related behaviour. Managers set the season to open to provide maximum opportunities for hunters.
Firearms deer hunters who aren’t brand new to the pursuit should find familiar regulations awaiting them during the season beginning next Saturday: Rules are essentially unchanged from last year.
One of the most vital of regulations is Kentucky harvest limit for deer hunting. It remains, with one qualification, exceedingly generous.
Kentucky deer harvest is limited in terms of the entire hunting year. That is, it doesn’t matter during which weapon-specific season one hunts. A hunter can take part in any one, some or all of the applicable seasons with modern firearm, muzzleloader, crossbow and/or archery gear. The limit is the same for all.
The hard and fast part of that harvest limit is that each hunter is restricted to taking a single antlered buck during the entire hunting year by any/all methods and in any/all seasons.
Meanwhile, in all Zone 1 counties so designated for high deer density, there is no cap on the number of antlerless deer that can be taken. In Zone 1 counties, including all those of far western Kentucky, a licensed deer hunter can take an unlimited number of antlerless deer.
The regular deer permit and the youth deer permit (available for those younger than 16) both allow the taking of four deer. This can include four antlerless deer or one antlered buck and three antlerless. However, any hunter filling the quota of four deer can continue to hunt, allowed to take two more deer under authorization of an additional antlerless deer permit.
The additional deer permit costs $15, and if two deer are taken under that permit, more additional deer permits can be purchased as needed to keep raising the maximum harvest limit, ad infinitum.
A deer hunting reality that’s familiar from last year is the CWD Surveillance Zone in the Kentucky counties of Calloway, Graves, Marshall, Fulton and Hickman. That’s all about monitoring for chronic wasting disease and hedging again the spread of the deer-killing ailment should it be found in Kentucky.
The five-county surveillance zone was established last year after a deer infected with CWD was found in northwest Tennessee just a few miles south of the Kentucky line and adjacent Calloway County.
Restrictions within the zone include the prohibition of baiting for deer during hunting seasons as well as the prohibition of feeding wildlife with grain or any goodies such as salt or mineral blocks.
Within the zone, deer taken during parts of the modern differents season must be brought for sampling at CWD check stations. There will be 13 check stations in the zone that will be open Saturday-Monday, Nov. 12-14 and again Nov. 19-21, then finally Nov. 26-27 during the final gun season weekend. Check stations hours will be 9 am-7 pm
Extensive sampling done last year revealed no CWD in deer taken in Kentucky.
Another regulation facing hunters is that no entire deer carcass can be removed from the five-county zone. A whole deer harvested in any of the five counties can be transported only within the zone.
Because CWD is caused by abnormal proteins known as prions that are associated with deer brains, spinal cord material and lymph glands, any deer taken from the surveillance zone must be reduced to meat that has been boned out from the carcass. Antlers can be brought out on cleaned skull caps, but no brain material and no whole heads are allowed.
Any deer taken in the surveillance zone, including archery and crossbow deer outside of gun seasons, must be tagged before being removed from the field. Hunter-made tags should list the hunter’s name, address and phone number, sex of the deer, date and county in which taken, and the Telecheck confirmation number. Thus, Telechecking should be done before moving the carcass.
The KDFWR website, www.fw.ky.gov, has full details about CWD, check station locations and related regulations for deer hunters.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to email@example.com or phone 270-575-8650.