Art Lander’s Outdoors: Cooler temperatures make outlook for new deer season promising

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With Kentucky’s 2017-18 deer season set to open Saturday, with the start of archery hunting, the weather outlook for September looks promising.

Yes, rain showers are likely for opening weekend, but the AccuWeather forecast for the month ahead is projected to be cooler to normal in temperature, following a cooler than normal August and a warmer than normal July.

The season dates for Kentucky’s 136-day archery season are Sept. 2, 2017 through Jan. 15, 2018.

September Deer Harvest by Archers

The cooling trend is encouraging news for archers who like to hunt early in the season. During the past five seasons, the deer harvest in September has steadily climbed past 5,000, with a season average of 5,674.

Kentucky’s 136-day archery season for deer opens September 2, and runs through January 15, 2018. During the past five seasons, the deer harvest in September has averaged 5,674. Early season bow hunters take a high percentage of antlerless deer, which helps to slow herd growth, a priority in Kentucky’s Zone 1 counties. (Photo by Mike Hanback)

A decade ago, during the 2007 season, archers checked in just 4,179 deer in September.

Early season bow hunters are taking a higher percentage of antlerless deer, which helps to slow herd growth, a priority in Kentucky’s Zone 1 counties.

“The early season deer harvest is about 60 percent female,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Northcentral Kentucky’s Deer Herds

But the deer herds in many of the northcentral Kentucky counties, in the so-called Golden Triangle between Louisvile, Lexington and the Cincinnati suburbs, south of the Ohio River, remain above target densities.

Jenkins said two of the contributing factors to the high deer populations in the region are increases in agriculture and urbanization. Record acreages of land are being planted in corn and soy beans and ongoing suburban development benefits deer.

“Urbanization creates more edge (habitat),” said Jenkins.

Northcentral Kentucky has some of the state’s largest deer herds.

Pendleton County led the state in deer harvest last season, eclipsing Owen County’s 18-year reign. Hunters checked in 3,242 deer in Pendleton County, to 3,106 deer in Owen County.

Other top deer harvest counties in the region included: Grant, 2,344; Bracken, 2,167; Boone, 1,997; Henry, 1,921, and Harrison, 1,832.

Deer Harvest Stable Statewide

Last season’s overall harvest of 139,429 was the third highest harvest ever, and the deer harvest trend has stabilized in recent years.
The deer harvest during modern gun season in November continues to climb, in part because there are more hunters.

“We’ve seen an increase in resident license sales,” said Jenkins. “Non-resident license sales are stable.”

EHD Outbreak in Eastern Kentucky

It’s too early to assess the impact of the recent outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) on deer herds in eastern Kentucky.

It’s a stroke of bad luck for the region, since many of the Zone 4 counties in the mountain counties have experienced growth of their deer herds in recent years. The 25 counties in Zone 4 have the most conservative deer regulations, as herd growth is the management priority.

Jenkins said the epicenter of the outbreak was in Magoffin, Floyd and Pike counties, and expanded north and westward.

Additional reports of dead or dying deer could come in for another six to eight weeks, or until the first frost. “Weather conditions (going forward) will determine the severity of the outbreak,” said Jenkins.

Fawn Production

Statewide, anecdotal evidence suggests fawn reproduction was very good this spring.

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“We had a good acorn crop last fall, and a wet spring,” said Jenkins. “It’s late summer and it’s still green.”

Does were in good condition over the winter and into spring fawning. There was plenty of green forage available for does to feed on, and newborn fawns had plenty of greenery for hiding, to escape predators.

2017-18 Deer Season Regulations

For the first time in recent memory there were no changes in the zone status for the upcoming deer season. Kentucky’s 120 counties are divided into four deer management zones, which determine season lengths and bag limits.

One significant change in the regulations this season allows the use of air guns, specifically airguns of .35 caliber or larger, charged by an external tank, shooting single projectile ammunition designed to expand on impact.

“There are a handful of folks who want to use them,” said Jenkins. “In the hands of a skilled shooter airguns are very effective.”

For the complete regulations for deer season, go online to view the Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide 2017-18.

Scroll down to page 11 for the deer season information, including the zone status of counties, bag limits, permit types and season dates.

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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