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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Ky’s 2019-2020 white-tailed deer season opens Sept. 7, here’s what to expect


(Graphic from KDFWR) (Click for larger image)

Kentucky’s 2019-20 hunting season for white-tailed deer opens in two weeks, with the beginning of archery hunting on Saturday, September 7.

The 136-day archery season continues through Monday, January 20, 2020.

Archers are keeping their fingers crossed for cooler weather in the early season.

It’s been a hot and dry July and August. According to the National Weather Service in Louisville there have been 52 days at or above 90 degrees this summer, which is well above the average of 37 days.

If the unseasonably hot summer continues into mid-September archers will have to adjust their strategies, hunting when it’s cooler, in the mornings. Use a climbing treestand to stay mobile, and hunt closer to water sources.

When the antlers of bucks harden and the the velvet covering is shed, bucks become more territorial and begin sparring with one another. (National Park Service photo)

Usually, late afternoon hunting is more productive early in the season, but the hot weather is causing deer to change their daily patterns and feeding habits, as natural vegetation dries up.

Where rural suburbs adjoin farmlands this may mean more deer will be drawn to watered lawns, vegetable gardens and ornamental plantings. Landowners in these areas may notice more damage to flowers and vegetable gardens. Deer will eat tomatoes and sweet corn, but what they really like this time of year are the young leaves of green bean plants.

Kentucky’s deer herd is large, and populations in some counties are at an all-time high. Deer harvest has climbed steadily, in an undulating, upward curve over the past 20 years. In 1999, the total deer harvest was 95,229, and 15 years ago hunters bagged 124,752 whitetails.

In the past decade the deer harvest has increased by 28.32 percent, from 113,584 in 2009 to 145,753 in 2018.

2018-19 Deer Harvest Second Highest

Last season’s deer harvest in Kentucky was the second highest on record.

This was in part because modern gun season for deer was lengthened in Zone 3 and Zone 4 to 16 days. It was the first year ever that all 120 Kentucky counties had a 16-day modern gun season. The longer gun season in the Zone 3 and Zone 4 counties increased hunter opportunity, giving hunters a third weekend to hunt, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Here’s some other noteworthy statistics from last deer season:

• More than 3,000 deer were taken in the top five counties, in terms of harvest.

• Hardin county led the state in deer harvest with 3,818, followed by: Crittenden, 3,302; Breckinridge, 3,209; Christian, 3,079, and Pendleton, 3,059.

Deer are spending more time in and around water because of our unseasonably hot and dry summer. (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

• Owen County, a leader in deer harvest for decades, fell to seventh, with hunters reporting taking 2,832 deer.

• Hardin County not only led the state in total deer harvest, but archery deer harvest as well, with hunters reported taking 487 deer.

• Archers bagged more than 300 deer in 10 Kentucky counties.

• The archery deer harvest was 18,120, or about 12.4 percent of the total deer deer harvest of 145,753.

• The sex ratio of last season’s deer harvest was 54.2 percent male, 45.8 percent female.

• Modern firearms hunters took 109,869 deer, and muzzleloader hunters, 13,059 deer.

• By wildlife region, last season’s deer harvest was: Green River Region, 42,530; Bluegrass Region, 41,330; Purchase Region, 22,535; Southeast Region, 22,297, and Northeast Region, 17,061.

Crossbow Season Extended for 2019-20 Deer Season

Crossbow season now opens the third Saturday in September (September 21) and closes the third Monday in January (January 20).

Youths under the age of 16 can now hunt with a crossbow during the entire archery season.

Deer harvest by crossbow hunters is statistically insignificant.

Last season the crossbow harvest was 4,705 deer, which is 3.22 percent of the total deer harvest, but the extension of the season is based on increasing hunter opportunity, especially in areas where firearms hunting is not possible for safety reasons.

85 Counties Are Zone 1 or Zone 2

Gabe Jenkins, Deer and Elk Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) has said in the past that the goal is “to get every county down to a Zone 2 or a Zone 3. If a county has a Zone 1 designation, the deer population is out of control.”

For the second year in a row 51 counties, mostly in central and western Kentucky, have a Zone 1 status. These counties have the most liberal bag limits. There are 34 Zone 2 counties, 13 Zone 3 counties and 22 Zone 4 counties.

The statewide deer permit ($35 for Kentucky residents) and youth deer permit ($10) allow for the harvest of up to four deer. Hunters may take up to one antlered deer and three antlerless deer, or four antlerless deer using the statewide deer permit.

The statewide season limit for antlered deer is one per hunter.

Other 2019-20 Deer Season Dates

Here are the dates of Kentucky’s other deer seasons:

• The youth-only modern gun season is the weekend of October 12-13.
• Early muzzleloader season is October 19-20.
• Modern gun season is November 9-24.
• Late muzzleloader season is December 14-22.
• Free youth weekend is December 28-29.

All the details on deer season and other fall and winter hunting and trapping season are available online at fw.ky.gov.

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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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