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Art Lander’s Outdoors: 2017 deer season update, opening weekend gun season harvest fifth highest

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Heading into the second week of Kentucky’s 16-day modern gun season for deer, now’s a good time to update the harvest reports for the 2017 season and take a look at recent trends.

Here’s an overview of how the season has progressed so far:

Since archery season opened on September 2, bow hunters in Kentucky have bagged 14,475 deer (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

• Since archery season opened 75 days ago, on September 2, bow hunters have bagged 14,475 deer (as of November 15).

Last season the total archery kill for the 4 1/2-month season was 19,571 deer. The five-year average for archery season is 20,161 deer, with a record harvest of 23,323 reported during the 2015 season.

During the opening month of archery season, in September, bow hunters checked in 6,117 deer, the second highest total on record for the month, surpassed only by 6,650 in 2015.

• A Facebook post by Kentucky Afield Magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), reported on Tuesday, November 14, that 68,358 deer have been checked in the state so far, with 47,367 taken with modern firearms.

The top 10 counties in total harvest numbers were: Pendleton (1,708), Owen (1,705), Hardin (1,610), Crittenden (1,579), Christian (1,523), Breckenridge (1,497), Hopkins (1,402), Ohio (1,343), Grayson (1,305), and Shelby (1.267).

• The timing of the onset of cool weather and killing frosts created ideal hunting conditions.

Deer were on their feet, especially during the week leading up to, and opening weekend, of gun season. Bucks were moving a lot during daylight hours, seeking out does coming into heat. The rut was on, as reflected in the sex ratio of the harvest.

As of November 15, there was 58.8 percent bucks in the harvest to 41.2 percent does, with hunters taking 39,734 bucks with visible antlers.

• In an e-mail to the outdoors media, Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for KDFWR, reported that hunting conditions across the state were nearly perfect on opening day of gun season for deer.

“Temperatures were in the mid-20’s in the morning and it was cool all day,” said Jenkins. “The temperatures warmed a bit on Sunday and rain moved across the state in the afternoon. That drove the harvest down a bit for Sunday.”

But Jenkins said overall the harvest has been excellent.

“A total of 37,810 deer were killed opening weekend. That’s the fifth highest opening weekend harvest on record.”

(Graphic courtesy of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources)

• Hunting conditions were not ideal in October, as reflected by below average deer harvests during the youth season and early muzzleloader season.

For the month, 13,212 deer were taken. “That was second lowest October harvest in the last decade. The 10-year average harvest for October is 15,332 deer,” said Jenkins.

Youth hunters bagged 3,173 deer, the third lowest total in the last decade. The 10-year average harvest is 3,781 deer.

The harvest for the early muzzleloader season, held the weekend after youth season, was also below average.

“Conditions were pretty favorable as the temperatures were fairly cool on Saturday and seasonal on Sunday, however 3,744 deer were harvested,” said Jenkins. “That was the second lowest harvest in the last decade. The 10-year harvest average is 6,227 deer.”

• The impact of this year’s severe outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) on eastern Kentucky’s deer herds is being reflected in the deer harvest.

Three counties in particular — Floyd, Morgan and Pike — are posting deer harvests well below last season’s totals.

As of November 15, there was 58.8 percent bucks in the harvest to 41.2 percent does, with hunters taking 39,734 bucks with visible antlers (Photo provided)

As of November 15:

In Floyd County, where 439 cases of dead or dying deer have been reported, 104 deer have been taken by hunters. Last season hunters bagged a total of 891 deer in the county.

In Morgan County, where 274 cases of dead or dying deer have been reported, 202 deer have been taken by hunters. Last season hunters bagged a total of 1,081 deer in the county.

In Pike County, where 576 cases of dead or dying deer have been reported, 286 have been taken by hunters. Last season hunters bagged a total of 1,508 deer in the county.

The infectious viral disease, that kills white-tailed deer and other wild ruminants periodically throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and southern Canada, is spread by several species of flying insects in the genus Culicoides.

A 1/10-inch midge, Culicoides sonorensis, is the only known vector in Kentucky.

Deer usually die in eight to 36 hours following the onset of observable signs, which include labored breathing, excessive salivation, no fear of humans, lameness, swelling of the head, neck or eyelids, or blue tissue coloration around their mouth and nose. Infected deer that survive for a longer period of time experience lameness, loss of appetite and greatly reduced activity.

High fever causes deer to seek out water. That’s why carcasses are usually found in or near ponds or streams.

Reports of dead or dying deer began increasing in September.

By November 2, KDFWR had received 4,586 reports from 86 Kentucky counties as far west as Marshall County. The epicenter of the outbreak was east of Interstate-75, where five counties reporting more than 200 cases. Twelve other counties in the region reported from 100 to 200 cases.

“We’ll continue to monitor the harvest and provide a detailed report of the overall estimate of severity after the season is completed,” said Jenkins.

1Art Lander Jr.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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