“The deer harvest to this point is up from last year,” said Tina Brunjes, big game program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “That’s partly due to good weather, but also indicative that we’ve got a lot of deer.”
The state’s total deer herd, estimated at one million animals, was not impacted by last year’s outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Kentucky Fish and Wildlife received more than 4,000 reports of deer killed by the disease, and many hunters were concerned about its impact on deer populations.
“We didn’t see anything in the harvest that would indicate that anybody got hit really hard at a county-wide level,” Brunjes said. She added that after a severe outbreak, deer herds are largely immune to the disease for a few years. Although some cases of the disease occur every year, department biologists are aware of only a handful of suspected cases this year.
Hunters may wonder if the state’s continued drought will impact their chances this gun season. “I don’t think it will have as much of an impact as the weather and mast (nut) crop,” Brunjes said. “Weather pretty much drives harvest. It affects how deer move and how hunters hunt. And whether or not we have rain, deer are going to stick close to mast.”
Hunters should focus on white oaks this year when looking for deer food sources. Red oak acorns will be scarce, due to the late freeze in the spring of 2007. Red oaks take two years to mature, so it will be another year before hunters will see them return as a key deer food source.
“The mast crop has been mixed, but most people are reporting a pretty good white oak crop,” Brunjes noted.
Hunters should take note of several county deer zone changes this year. Hart County is now Zone 1, while Marion and Taylor counties are Zone 2. Casey and Grayson counties have changed to Zone 3. Season dates, bag limits and other restrictions may be different based on a county’s zone assignment.
Before going afield for modern gun deer season, hunters should be sure to pack their hunter orange hat and vest. Kentucky law requires all hunters and persons accompanying them, hunting any species during a firearms deer season, to wear solid, unbroken hunter orange clothing visible from all sides on the head, back and chest. It’s one of the most important things hunters can do to keep themselves and others safe during the most popular deer season of the year.
Hunters should also review Kentucky’s hunter education requirement. Hunter education is required for all hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, except kids under 12 and hunters who are license exempt. However, a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit is available for $5 online, which allows hunting for one year from the date of purchase without a hunter education card while accompanied by a legal adult hunter who meets Kentucky’s hunter education requirement.
Adults who plan to take a youth hunter with them should be sure to stay close by. The law requires kids 15 and under who hunt deer with a firearm to be accompanied by an adult at all times. The adult must be able and in a position to take immediate control of the youth hunter’s firearm at all times.
Finally, hunters should make sure they have the appropriate hunting license and permits, if required. For complete deer hunting information, including county zone assignments, equipment restrictions and licensing requirements, pick up a copy of the 2008-09 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide. The guide is available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting licenses are sold.
Employees of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information Center will be available to assist hunters during special opening weekend hours, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Eastern time Nov. 8-9.