Fall in Kentucky brings crisp mornings and early sunsets that lead to explosions of fall colors that give way to bare branches. The movement of deer increases and increases the excitement among hunters.
The modern rifle deer season opens in less than a week, giving time to start with the peak of breeding activity known as the rut.
The 2022-23 deer season is off to a strong start. Archery and crossbow hunters had a record second harvest for September, and October’s numbers were up from last year.
Historically, most deer hunters are in the woods during the modern gun season, which this year opens Nov. 12 and runs through the 27th. Noelle Thompson, deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, notes that the modern Gun Only season accounted for 73 percent of the total state deer harvest of more than 132,000 deer last year.
“We’re not seeing an abundant acorn crop in most areas, so deer have to forage this fall to sustain them through the winter,” Thompson said. “This means good opportunities for hunters to see more deer this season and fill their freezers with healthy venison. I recommend hunting near oak trees or good oak groves this year, not just in feedlots or greenfields.”
Annual hard mast production, or the number of acorns and nuts produced by Kentucky hardwoods, affects whitetail behavior throughout the season as the deer’s primary food source. The In 2022, the statewide mast examined the average production of white oak and red oak trees.
Cody Rhoden, small game program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, coordinates the department’s annual state mast survey with Zach Danks, the department’s wild turkey and gopher program coordinator. Rhoden said the dry conditions seen in late spring and this fall will lead to early mast fall of all hardwood species, meaning the existing hardwood mast will be depleted more quickly.
In autumn, in addition to being driven by natural instincts, deer also become more active and travel longer distances as food sources dwindle.
“In Kentucky forests, more hardwood stands lead to fewer encounters with animals, including deer,” Rhoden said. “The opposite is true for lean mast periods, which can result in higher harvests of game animals like squirrels and deer because those animals have to move more to find food.”
Kentucky offers more than 1 million acres of public land open to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. Hunters can find hunting spots using Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s online Searching for Public Lands hour fw.ky.gov. using ArcGIS app, hunters can see their GPS locations directly on boundary maps for public lands in Kentucky.
Preseason scouting is always recommended, and this year it may be even more important.
“Many regions have experienced canopy changes after natural disasters across the state,” Thompson said. “What used to be a perfect place can now look different. To be more prepared, hunters should visit hunting grounds and evaluate equipment before going into the field.”
Hunters may use firearms, crossbows, bows, pistols, muzzleloaders, or certain high-caliber airguns to take deer during certain seasons. Check out the rules and seasons by going online to watch Fall Hunting and Trapping Guide.
Unless otherwise exempt, all deer hunters must possess valid Kentucky hunting license, deer permit and hunter education certificate.
Licensed hunters born on or after January 1, 1975 must have a hunter education certificate.
Rachel Crume, manager who oversees Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) programs, said hunters still have time to get their certifications. Training includes online or in-person classroom work, plus live fire at a range.
“The hunter education offered online has a free classroom component,” he said. “Eligible first-time hunters can expedite the process through the option of a temporary hunter education exemption permit with a qualified mentor to accompany them out.”
Visit the department’s “Hunter Education” webpage to see more information about obtaining certification, licensing requirements and one-time exemptions for new hunters.
As a safety reminder, all hunters must wear an orange hat and vest or jacket during firearm seasons. Additionally, hunters should always be sure of their target and what is beyond before firing.
Special deer hunting rules exist In western Kentucky to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) to the state. No UAS detected in Kentucky.
In Calloway, Marshall, Graves, Hickman, and Fulton counties, special rules of the PRC Observation Zone prohibit bait, limit the importation and transportation of carcasses, and establish requirements for inspection stations.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will operate 13 mandatory PWD Check Stations in the PWD Observation Area during the Nov. 12-14, Nov. 19-21 and Nov. 26-27 modern gun weekends. All deer collected in those five counties on the dates listed must be taken to the checkpoint.
In addition, three departments will operate Volunteer PWD Check Stations for deer or elk in Bell and Harlan counties. They will operate on November 12-13, November 19-20 and November 26-27. Hunters will receive a free animal aging and ODI test for deer or elk brought to the checkpoints.
Deer hunters outside of the CMP Observation Area can assist Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s monitoring efforts by voluntarily donating legally harvested and tele-inspected deer heads for testing and aging. Deer Sampling Station program. There is no cost to hunters.
Go online for current information on CWD fw.ky.gov/cwd.
Suspected illegal fishing, wildlife or boating activity can be reported anonymously using the KFWLaw smartphone app. Tips can also be submitted from non-text capable smartphones by texting the keyword “KFWLaw” and text to 847411 (type 411) or by calling 800-25-ALERT. Callers are asked for the county they are calling from and directed to the nearest Kentucky State Police post that dispatches a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Officer.