A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The Snowy Owl, a winter migrant rarely observed in Ky., but not unheard of

The spotting of Snowy Owls in northern parts of Kentucky is a rare occurance that only happens a few times each decade. (Photo from Wkipedia Commons) A glimpse of this winter migrant might be on the holiday wish list of birdwatchers in Kentucky, and bordering states to the north along the Ohio River. That’s because the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), a large raptor rarely observed in the region, spends...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: 20 years after first proposal Green River National Wildlife Refuge now a reality

(Photo from United States Fish and Wildlife Services) Almost 20 years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) first published a proposal for a national wildlife refuge at the confluence of the Green and Ohio Rivers in Henderson County, the Green River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was officially established. The announcement was made Friday, November 22 by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Despite a year of unusual weather, waterfowl season looks promising

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The shot of cold that greeted Kentucky earlier in November pushed many waterfowl into the state, which should portend a great opening to the waterfowl hunting season on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. “We have more birds early than we’ve had in a really long time,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources....

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky deer harvest strong heading into final weekend of modern gun season

The deer harvest is strong heading into the final weekend of modern gun season, the highlight of Kentucky’s 2019-20 hunting season for white-tailed deer. Here’s some news and observations: (Click for larger image) • The season opened with a bang, literally, as hunters checked in 35,165 deer bagged during the weekend of November 9-10. “Overall, modern gun season is shaping up to be great,”...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The Cooper’s Hawk is a winged hunter with awe-inspiring aerial skills

Hunters who spend a lot of time afield in the fall are likely to observe all sorts of amazing animal behavior, none more awe-inspiring than the aerial skills of the Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). Like all raptors in this genus, the Cooper’s Hawk hunts on the wing, while flying through timber and brush. Its hunting skills are the very definition of stealth and surprise. The Cooper’s Hawks’...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Cast iron cookware has been used for generations in traditional Kentucky cooking

Venerable cast iron cookware has a place in the hearts of generations of Kentucky cooks who love to prepare traditional meals for family and friends. On a campout, there’s nothing quite like a breakfast of thick-sliced hardwood smoked bacon or country sausage, fried up with eggs in a cast iron skillet over an open fire. A cast iron dutch oven (Photo from Lodge) At home on the weekend, coming in...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky Wild program supports endangered, threatened non-game wildlife

The Kentucky Wild program, launched during the summer of 2018 by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), directly supports non-game wildlife facing threats in our state. Many wildlife species that we take for granted like have experienced long term population declines in recent decades, most notably songbirds, bats and amphibians. Proceeds from membership in the program are...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: With striking looks and eerie sounds, the Great Horned Owl is a Halloween icon

A night hunter with a striking appearance and eerie vocalizations, this owl is a Halloween icon. The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is a large, powerful bird with bright yellow eyes, brown, tan and whitish/gray plumage that provides good camouflage in forests, and distinctive “horns,” tufts of feathers called plumicorns. The Great Horned Owl is one of five owl species that nests in Kentucky....

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: A fall fishing festival, the reservoir smallmouth bass season is in full swing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward Reservoir smallmouth anglers are a weird lot. They dangle tiny little hair jigs under bobbers in air so cold ice forms in the guides of their rods. They think the best late fall fishing days feature leaden, low skies, light rain and highs in the 40s. The record heatwave of early October is now a memory. The bracing morning air and cooler, longer nights signal to...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky is home to a rich diversity of native and non-native fish and wildlife

A wide variety of fish and wildlife species are found throughout Kentucky. While most are native species, several notable desirable non-native species have been introduced into our woods and waters. There are also a few undesirable, non-native species that have taken up residency here. Here’s some insight and details, based on information posted on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: This native shorebird has a name that brings a smile to the face of deer hunters

The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is easily identifiable by its distinctive plumage, preferred habitat, feeding behavior, shrill calls and the way adult nesting pairs lure predators away from their eggs or young. Everything about the Killdeer is unusual, for example: The Killdeer is common throughout Kentucky (Photo from Wikipedia Commons) • A rather large wading bird (plover), adults can be 11...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The American Alligator, an iconic native species, thrives in the South’s wetlands

The American Alligator is known throughout the world as an iconic North American wildlife species (Photo from Wikipedia Commons) The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is known throughout the world as an iconic native wildlife species of North America, immortalized in country music and popular culture. “Polk salad Annie, gators got your granny,” is a lyric from a 2006 song by Tony...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: During early to mid-fall spotted bass schooling makes for good fishing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward They were not even recognized as a distinctive fish species until 1927. People for many years believed these fish only existed in Kentucky. In 1956, the Kentucky legislature designated this species the “Kentucky bass” and made them the official state fish. Many anglers, especially in the south-central portion of the United States, still call the spotted bass...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: When using a treestand, deer hunters must focus on safety, pay attention to details

With bow season underway, hunters are making final preparations or may have already hunted a time or two on the few cool mornings we’ve had since the season started September 7. If you are planning on taking to the trees, stay focused on treestand safety. While it’s still too hot to hunt most days, now is a good time to check out your treestand, and re-familiarize yourself with its safe use. When...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The Belted Kingfisher is a sure sign of good fishing for stream anglers

The Belted Kinkfisher (Photo by Brian Kushner, Audubon Society) The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a good luck charm for anglers, most often observed along wooded streams. When you see one of these distinctive birds perched on a snag, or flying overhead, it’s a sure sign the fishing must be good. That’s because this water bird, easily identified by its slate blue and white plumage, and...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: News and observations as Kentucky’s white-tailed deer season set to begin

Kentucky’s 2019-20 hunting season for white-tailed deer opens tomorrow, with the beginning of archery hunting, a 136-day season that continues through Monday, January 20, 2020. Below are some news and observations about our most popular big game animal. • Deer numbers in the U.S. have grown since the 1930s when the population had dropped to an all-time low estimate of 300,000. • In the past...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The distinctive call of the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo foretells of summer storms

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is a weather forecaster, of sorts, in folklore. The secretive bird is heard, but seldom observed, calling from thick brush and woodlands during the summer. Its stuttering call: ka ka ka ka ka kow kow kow, kow-kowp, kowp, kowp, slows towards its end, and is audible at a great distance. The Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (Photo by Garth McElroy, courtesy of Audubon...

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...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: A look at Kentucky’s elk population; facts about elk seasons from 2017-2019

Editor’s note: This is the third article in an occasional series on elk in Kentucky. Elk (Cervus canadensis) in North America are divided into six subspecies by biologists, two which are extinct. According to a post on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (REMF) website, more than 10 million elk roamed nearly all of the U. S. and parts of Canada, prior to European settlement. The Rocky Mountain...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: A preview of Kentucky’s fall hunting seasons; update on tick activity across state

It’s summer, it’s hot, but Kentucky’s calendar of fall hunting seasons begins next week. Here are some details and observations: • Squirrel season, a 195-day split season opens August 17 and continues through February 29. The daily bag limit is six squirrels. Kentucky is heavily forested with hardwood trees and that means squirrels are abundant. Populations are stable but fluctuate slightly...