One of the favorite times of the year for tens of thousands of Kentuckians will come to an end this weekend as the modern gun deer season opens statewide. The 16-day season closes on November 27.
The season sits right at the peak when male deer are most actively pursuing breeding.
“Our modern gun season this year starts very early in November,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The timing is perfect. During the 16 days of the season we should have pre-rut, rut peak and post-rut all. It should be a great modern gun season.”
About 300,000 people hunt deer in Kentucky each year.
The upcoming modern gun deer season didn’t look rosy a month ago as a debilitating drought gripped Kentucky. September was the state’s driest month on record, averaging less than a quarter of an inch of precipitation.
“It finally rained in October, which caused the plants to regrow and green up, which washed nutrients across the landscape,” Jenkins said. “This will help the deer survive the winter, especially in a year with a poor harvest.”
The dry and hot weather at the beginning of the season affected this year’s deer harvest. “We had a good opening weekend for the archery season and a banner youth hunting weekend,” Jenkins said. “However, we are still below the 10-year average for harvest at this time of the season, which is directly related to the heat and drought.”
Deer hunters reported harvesting more than 21,500 deer so far this season.
Kentucky’s spotted crop, primarily tree nuts favored by deer like peanuts and acorns, can help hunters by keeping deer moving for food during the modern gun season. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s annual mast survey shows low production of white oak acorns and hickory nuts.
Red oaks show better acorn yields with beech trees producing the most nuts. Red oaks contain more tannin than white oaks and are less palatable to deer.
“The red oak stands will be really good towards the end of the modern gun season and into the late muzzleloader season,” Jenkins said. “Tannins leach out of red oak acorns over time, making them more palatable to deer. “There’s not a lot of food in the landscape this year, and they’ll eat the red oak acorns as the season progresses.”
The lack of acorns should create more deer movement. “Don’t give up after the first weekend of the modern gun season,” Jenkins said. “There’s better chase activity with early young bucks, but the second weekend should be the best weekend.”
Jenkins said his favorite time to hunt in the modern gun season is when the deer breeding season ends. “I like to do hunt after hunt because it’s a last ditch effort by big bucks trying to find the last crappie,” he said.
Hunters should check current regulations to make sure they are following all legal requirements before heading out. Here are some general guidelines and tips for this season:
- Kentucky’s state limit is one dollar per season. Harvest limits vary across the state’s four deer hunting zones.
- Zone 1 districts have the highest concentrations of deer; concentrations are lowest in Zone 4. The zone system allows hunters to help manage the deer herd.
- A statewide deer permit allows the harvest of up to four deer.
- Hunters may take an unlimited number of deer in Zone 1 areas with the purchase of additional deer permits. Each additional deer permit allows you to take two deer.
- In Zone 4 counties, hunters may take only two deer. Only one can be hornless.
- Hunters must have the appropriate licenses, permits and hunter education certificate, if required. For more information, visit fw.ky.gov.
- Hunters may not bring deer, elk, moose or caribou carcasses into Kentucky from another state. Animal brain or spinal material is also prohibited. It was designed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease to Kentucky.
- Out-of-state hunters who want to mount their animal must have it covered and skulled before bringing it into Kentucky or have it done by a local processor or taxidermist in that state.
- Hunters pursuing any species during the modern gun deer season must wear unbroken orange clothing visible from all sides on the head, chest and back while in the field.
- Licenses or permits can be obtained at any time by calling 1-800-598-2401 or visiting the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov. Licenses are also available at hundreds of sporting goods outlets.
Finally, the recent cold snap has put an end to a minor hemorrhagic disease in deer this year. The disease, transmitted by midges, ends when a hard freeze kills the insect carriers.
Biologists have not found tuberculosis in Kentucky’s deer or chronic wasting disease in its deer and elk. “The Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the only place where TB can be detected in deer,” Jenkins said. “We don’t have TB in Kentucky.”
For more information on deer hunting, visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov or consult the Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available free of charge wherever you sell a hunting license.