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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky’s hunters readying for deer season’s main event — modern gun season

Modern gun season is the main event of Kentucky’s annual white-tailed deer season.

It’s when the most hunters are afield, and the most deer are taken, in part because the season is timed to coincide with the rut, the whitetail’s annual mating season. Some bucks are in search of does going into heat (estrus), while other are already paired up and breeding. Typically, deer are active throughout the day, not just at dawn and dusk.

White-tailed deer

White-tailed Deer (Photo from Flickr Commons)

The deer harvest during the 16-day, statewide season has been trending in a range during the past 10 years, from a low of 92,727 in 2012, to a high of 107,035 in 2019. The total deer harvest for modern gun season last season was 95,161.

The 2021-22 Kentucky White-tailed Deer Harvest and Population Report stated that “73 percent of the overall (deer season) harvest occurred during modern gun season.”

Last year on opening day of gun season (November 13), hunters bagged 20,254 deer, which represented 21 percent of the modern gun season total, and 15 percent of the overall deer season harvest, according to the report.

During the month of November last year hunters harvested 102,730 deer. The total ranks as the seventh highest November harvest on record.

Season Outlook from a Weather Perspective

As the weather is always a major factor in how many hunters are afield, especially on weekends, and ultimately the number of deer harvested, deer hunters become weather watchers in early November, as deer action heats up.

At this point, the outlook for gun season looks good, weather-wise, with seasonal weather forecast for the first week of the season.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. 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.

Biologists are predicting that deer will be on the move in some areas during gun season, roaming farther than normal in search of food because of mast production and weather issues.

The beech nut production was less than last year and the acorn crop was moderate. In some areas dry conditions caused an early drop of acorns, which benefitted squirrels, meaning there’s less food on the ground for deer.

2022 Modern Gun Season Dates and Regulations

Modern gun season for deer opens tomorrow, Saturday, November 12 and continues for 16 days, through Sunday, November 27, statewide.

Hunter orange laws apply. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

All harvested deer must be reported to KDFWR. There are two ways to Telecheck (check-in) your harvest:

• Online Telecheck through MyProfile application

• Telecheck by phone by calling 800-245-4263 — 800-CHK-GAME. When telechecking by phone, use the County Codes Chart.

Bag limits and harvest restrictions apply to all hunters.

Hunters may take no more than one (1) deer with visible antlers, excluding male fawns (button bucks), regardless of zone, method or season.

In the Zone 1 counties, hunters may harvest an unlimited number of antlerless deer using the statewide deer permit and additional deer permits.

In the Zone 2 counties, hunters may harvest no more than four deer.

In the Zone 3 counties, hunters may harvest no more than four deer. No more than one of these four deer may be taken with a firearm.

In the Zone 4 counties, hunters may harvest no more than two deer. Only one of the two deer can be antlerless, and antlerless deer can’t be harvested during modern gun season.

(Graphic from KDFWR; click for larger graphic)

Public Land Deer Hunting Opportunities and Harvest

Public land hunting opportunities abound.

There are about 125 areas open to public hunting, including Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), Hunting Access Areas (HAA), and Outdoor Recreation Areas (ORC) across the state.

Exceptions exist on some properties, but the majority of Kentucky’s public areas are open to hunting through quota hunts or under statewide regulations.

Over the last decade, the number of deer harvested on public land has been stable to increasing in most of the state.

The state is divided into five wildlife regions. In the Bluegrass and Northeast Regions, which includes most of the counties in central and northern Kentucky, there are 384,445 acres open to public hunting.

The top five counties in central and northeastern Kentucky in terms of deer harvested per square mile on public land are:

• Boone 19.2
• Mason 18.9
• Kenton 17.4
• Madison 12.8
• Pendleton 10.7

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Zone

New this season is a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Zone in five counties in the Jackson Purchase: Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall, and special regulations have been established.

Buck and doe (Photo from Flickr Commons)

CWD is a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids, members of the deer family, including deer, elk, and moose.

Since its discovery in 1967, CWD has spread geographically and increased in prevalence locally. CWD is contagious and transmitted freely within and among cervid populations. No treatments or vaccines are currently available.

Of great concern to wildlife managers and the hunting community, CWD has been detected in at least 23 states, and two Canadian provinces, but does not infect livestock or humans. CWD is transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact, and indirectly through contact with objects or environments contaminated with infectious material, including saliva, urine, feces, and carcasses of CWD-infected animals.

CWD has not been found in Kentucky, but has been detected nearby in western Tennessee.

Special regulations in Kentucky’s CWD Surveillance Zone include:

• 13 Mandatory CWD check stations open during the three weekends of modern gun season.

• No feeding or baiting of deer at any time in the CWD Surveillance Zone.

• No transportation of harvested deer out of the CWD Surveillance Zone. Whole deer carcasses and high-risk parts, including intact heads containing brain material, cannot be moved out of the zone.

For the complete CWD Surveillance Zone regulations consult page 13 of 2022-23 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Deer Season Regulations

The complete regulations for the 2022-23 Kentucky deer season are available online at fw.ky.gov.

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