Kentucky Hunters and Trappers: Bone up on Regulations

Fall is nearly upon us, and the 2016-17 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide has shipped to license vendors across the state. The Guide can be downloaded from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ website at Season dates are listed and there are summarizations for regulations involving deer, elk, bear, turkey, small game, furbearers and other species. It also provides information about licensing and permit requirements, youth hunting, quota hunts, public land hunting and more. Changes from last season, such as new deer zone assignments for Hardin, Webster and Marion counties, are also highlighted in the free booklet.

The fall squirrel season leads off in a matter of weeks. This year, the split season opened in August and continues on through mid-November. It then runs through February 28, 2017. Squirrel hunting is a fantastic way to introduce new hunters to the sport, reconnect with the woods and obtain an excellent source of protein.

A .410 or 20-gauge shotgun with a modified choke is difficult to beat early in the fall squirrel season when trees bear an abundance of foliage. A .22-caliber gun outfitted with a scope is preferred later once the leaves start falling.

Good marksmanship starts with practice, and public shooting ranges offer a controlled setting to safely sight-in your rifle. Rifle tube ranges are available on Curtis Gates Lloyd WMA in Grant County, Higginson Henry WMA in Union County, John A. Kleber WMA in Owen and Franklin counties, Jones-Keeney WMA in Caldwell County, Miller Welch-Central Kentucky WMA in Madison County, Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area in Meade County, Peabody WMA in Ohio, Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties and Taylorsville Lake WMA in Spencer, Anderson and Nelson counties.

Interactive maps of these public shooting ranges are available on the department’s website through the “Wildlife Management Area & Public Lands Search” feature or by clicking the “Maps” tab on the department’s homepage and selecting “Other Maps.” Public shooting ranges are also available in Daniel Boone National Forest.

Licensed hunters born on or after January 1, 1975 must successfully complete a hunter education course. Hunter education courses are offered in person, online or on a CD-ROM. Each option concludes with a live-fire exercise at a range. Instructor-led courses will be in full swing now through October and preregistration through the department’s website is required. Hunters can receive a special one-year, one-time only exemption card if they cannot complete coursework by the start of a season.

The annual statewide mast survey is part of the lead-up to the fall hunting seasons. Many species rely on hard mast for sustenance through the fall and winter months, and the mast survey determines what percentage of hickory, red oak, white oak and American beech trees are bearing hard mast across the state. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and its agency partners will conduct the survey work.

“The few white oaks that I’ve looked at in the Bluegrass Region have looked good, but that’s a small sample size,” said Ben Robinson, assistant Wildlife Division director with the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “That’s why we do the mast survey. You might go out in your yard and have a white oak that’s loaded and think it’s going to be a great (mast) year, but when you pool all the trees together collectively across the state or at least region by region, you start to see the value of doing multiple routes.”

Last year was poor for white oak acorns, which are preferred by deer, but it was average for red oak and hickory and good for beechnuts. The spotty mast crop put deer on the move in search of food, aiding hunters’ efforts. Deer hunters in Kentucky enjoyed a banner 2015-16 season, setting records at nearly every turn, including a new overall harvest record of more than 155,000 deer.

The archery deer season opens this statewide this month. Before the opener, biologists with the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conducted herd health assessments on three wildlife management areas and also in Land Between the Lakes.

“I would expect another fine deer season,” said David Yancy, a deer biologist with the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “There’s nothing that portends a letdown.”

The kids are going back to school and the days are steadily growing shorter. Anticipation has been building for the fall hunting seasons in Kentucky—and they are finally here.


Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for “Kentucky Afield” magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire “Kentucky Afield” staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

Hunters can obtain a free copy of the new Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide to get season dates, changes from last year and other information. Copies are available wherever hunting licenses are sold or you may download a copy from the department’s website at