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Art Lander’s Outdoors: 2017-18 deer harvest update; 38 eastern counties impacted by EHD outbreak

With a month of hunting left in the 2017-18 deer season let’s take a look at the harvest, impacted somewhat by weather, and a severe outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in eastern Kentucky.

The 16-day modern gun season, which ended on November 26, is deer season’s main event, and constitutes the bulk of the harvest.

During the 16-day modern gun season, which ended on November 26, hunters bagged 98,199 deer, seven percent above the 10-year average (Photo provided)

“Overall the season harvest numbers were pretty good,” said elk and deer program coordinator Gabe Jenkins, of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). “We had the fifth highest harvest on record over the last 19 seasons. The 10-year average modern gun harvest is 92,153, and we were seven percent above that average at 98,199.”

As of December 12, the total number of deer reported taken was 126,575, with a sex ratio in the harvest of 56.4 percent male, to 43.6 female. Archers had bagged 16,399 deer, muzzleloader hunters, 7,555, and firearms hunters 98,860.

Take a long look at the top 10 counties in deer harvest as of December 12: Crittenden, 3,226; Hardin, 3,197; Pendleton, 3,135; Christian, 3,054; Owen, 2,987; Breckinridge, 2,662; Hopkins, 2,648; Graves, 2,539; Grayson, 2,520, and Ohio, 2,491.

The numbers are a bit surprising.

In 38 counties in eastern and south-central Kentucky, the deer harvest declined compared to the five year average during the modern gun season. Hardest hit were the counties in far eastern Kentucky, the epicenter of the EHD outbreak. (Click for larger image)

For decades Owen County led the state in deer harvest. Now’s it’s in the middle of the pack. Last season Pendleton county was the harvest leader, right now it’s third in the top 10 list, with a month of archery hunting to go.

“Deer populations are exploding in the west-central part of the state, and the western coalfield counties,” said Jenkins. “And in a lot of these counties the zone status was increased (to allow longer seasons and more liberal harvest).”

Jenkins said if the current harvest trend continues, by season’s end the total should be somewhere around 135,000.

Last season the total number of deer reported taken by hunters was 139,450.

EHD Outbreak Impacts Deer Harvest in 38 Counties

Jenkins said he expected to see low harvest numbers in the counties affected by the EHD outbreak but there are a lot of unanswered questions. The harvest numbers per se don’t tell the entire story.

“It’s not easy to determine how many people decided to hunt outside their home county because of the EHD outbreak,” said Jenkins. “Or how many hunters passed on a deer that they would normally harvest, because the deer population in their county was down.”

In 38 counties in eastern and southcentral Kentucky, harvest reports declined compared to the five year average in deer harvest during the modern gun season.

As of November 21, the total number of dead or dying deer reported to KDFWR had climbed to 4,625. Reports were received from 91 Kentucky counties. (Click for larger image)

Hardest hit were the counties in far eastern Kentucky, the epicenter of the EHD outbreak. The percentage declines in harvest were: Floyd, 72 percent; Morgan, 69 percent; Wolfe, 68 percent; Lawrence, 63 percent; Johnson, 63 percent; Magoffin, 61 percent; Letcher, 59 percent; Owsley, 58 percent; Breathitt, 57 percent, Pike, 56 percent and Martin, 55 percent.

As of November 21, the total number of dead or dying deer reported to KDFWR had climbed to 4,625. Reports were received from 91 Kentucky counties.

The nine-day late muzzleloader season, which ends Sunday, December 17, will give the deer program another opportunity to further assess the impact of the EHD outbreak on specific counties.

Many of the counties affected by the EHD outbreak are Zone 4 counties, where antlerless deer (does) can’t be taken with firearms until the last three days of the late muzzleloader season, December 15-17.

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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