A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Richard Taylor’s new book explores history, inhabitants of Elkhorn Creek

Richard Taylor, a professor of English and Kenan Visiting Writer at Transylvania University, explores the natural history, early inhabitants, and commerce along an eight-mile stretch of the main stem of the Bluegrass Region’s most esteemed waterway in his new book Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, published by University Press of Kentucky. Paul Sawyier (1865-1917) was an American impressionist...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: A bowhunter’s gear wish list as Kentucky’s archery season for deer approaches

With Kentucky’s 143-day archery season for deer opening in about two weeks, bow hunters are getting their gear ready and honing their shooting skills. The season dates are September 1, through January 21, 2019. The archery industry cranks out improved, high-quality gear every year, but some products stand the test of time. Do you have an archery gear wish list? Here’s some new products, and one...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The Eastern Kingbird, a snappy dresser, aerial artist and migratory traveler

The Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) is a snappy dresser, an aerial artist that catches its prey on the wing, and spends the winter in tropical climes. Its demeanor and distinctive plumage are all business — upright posture, white shirt (breast), and dark suit — gray head, back, wings and white-tipped square tail. Coloration is similar to the Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), but...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Looking back on spring turkey season; harvest downturn raised questions

Kentucky’s 2018 spring wild turkey season was a head scratcher — certainly not what most hunters have experienced in recent years. From county to county, the harvest varied, but overall, the turkey harvest was down statewide. Post-season, hunters are pondering a few puzzling questions. In some counties, hunters reported observing fewer turkeys and hearing less gobbling than in recent years....

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is a tiny gravity-defying wonder of nature

When wildflowers and trees bloom in the Spring, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) returns to Kentucky to nest. Its distant wintering grounds, hundreds of miles south, are mostly open, or dry tropical scrub, rather than rain forests. The winter is spent in South Florida, Mexico and Central America, as far south as Panama. The hummingbirds that winter in Mexico or Central America,...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The distinctive Five-lined skink, a harmless, beneficial lizard found statewide

They are reptiles, with long tails, distinctive coloration as juveniles, and a carnivorous appetite. Hint: it’s not a snake. The Five-Lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) is a lizard, one of five species of skinks found in Kentucky. Secretive, like most reptiles, the Fine-Lined Skink spends most of its time crawling under rocks, leaf debris or woodpiles, but on a warm spring day, the distinctively-marked...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Spring fishing is underway, but anglers should monitor weather trends

The calendar says yes, but the weather forecast can be iffy. Spring fishing is underway and now is the time for anglers to pay close attention to weather trends — temperature fluctuations, outlooks for precipitation, and storm fronts, to pick the best times to wet a line. Springtime in Kentucky means unsettled weather, and sometimes snow, as we experienced this week. Make the most of your time...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The American Robin, migratory songbird and harbinger of spring

In folklore, the American Robin is symbolic of impending warmer weather and is believed to be a harbinger of Spring. The sight of “robin redbreast” on suburban lawns after the retreat of a snow or cold snap in February or early March, is happy news in the waning days of winter. With the advance of cold weather robins begin to feed heavily on fruits, mainly wild berries such as the berries on holly...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Motorists, dog owner’s beware, skunk mating season a stinky proposition

Driving rural backroads or busy highways through wooded suburbs, motorists are likely to see skunk carcasses in the road this time of year. The reason is simple — it’s mating season, and skunks, particularly males, are roaming around in search of mates. The nocturnal mammals aren’t that fast or agile and have predominately black fur, so they get run over unintentionally on dark roadways....

Art Lander’s Outdoors: January’s unseasonably cold weather created hunting and fishing opportunities

The calendar says we have turned the corner on Winter as today is day 50 of the 89-day season. But the big question is, “How much longer will the cold weather last?” Temperatures in January were below normal across Kentucky. When there was a snow cover, wind chills dipped below zero on several mornings. The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that it was the coldest January 1-7 on record...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Good weather forecast predicted for Kentucky’s late fall turkey season

A warming trend will create good hunting conditions for the opening weekend of Kentucky’s late fall wild turkey season. The second of two fall seasons open to hunting with shotguns, the seven-day season opens tomorrow, Saturday, December 2 and continues through Friday, December 8. The forecast is calling for above normal temperatures in Central Kentucky Saturday and Sunday, then a chance of rain...

Art Lander: Predators of the night, Kentucky’s most common owls; have incredible hearing, acute vision

They are predators of the night. Most active from twilight to dawn, they are able to locate prey in darkness because of their incredible sense of hearing and acute vision. Owls have large, forward-facing eyes and a facial disk that acts as a parabolic reflector, enabling them to precisely locate sounds. Some species have asymmetrical ears that aid in homing in on these sounds. Soft plumage makes them...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: From film to digital, remote cameras have been used by hunters for ages

This is part one of a two-part series on the evolution of remote cameras from the film era to today’s infrared digital scouting cameras, and how trail cameras are used by deer and wild turkey hunters. Using remote cameras to capture images of wildlife dates back much farther in the past than probably imagined. In the infancy of film photography in the late 19th century, innovative wildlife photographers...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Early Kentucky’s era of exploitation awakened conservation movement

This second article in a two-part series, in honor of Kentucky’s 225th anniversary of statehood, focuses on the 150 years from 1750 to 1900, with a timeline of human use of natural resources. The research for this article is courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Kentucky’s historical era began when Virginia physician and land speculator Thomas Walker passed through...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Once upon a time, American bison was free-ranging native Kentucky species

During Kentucky’s pioneer era, longhunters and early explorers feasted on buffalo steaks and roasts. Herds were vast and had a significant impact on the land, grazing down vegetation as they traveled, and creating an extensive network of wide trails throughout the state. Many of Kentucky’s buffalo trails served as primitive roads for early explorers, and eventually became state and federal highways...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: It’s a dangerous world out there, but wildlife finds a way to survive and thrive

A Cooper’s hawk snatches a young squirrel from the side of a tree, a red fox finds a nest of newborn rabbits in an overgrown field, and a largemouth bass ambushes an unsuspecting school of minnows. These are all examples of predation, the drama of predator versus prey, that plays out everyday in Kentucky’s woods, fields and waterways. Many species of wildlife prey on (eat) other animals to survive...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Of all the Asian exotic threats to woodlands, chestnut blight stands out as worst

Anglers bemoan the scourge of Asian carp — silver and bighead carp — fouling our rivers and lakes at the expense of bass, crappie, striped bass, walleye and other game fish. Land managers spend thousands of dollars and man hours eradicating Asian Bush Honeysuckle, which forms dense thickets in forest understories, shading out, and out-competing native vegetation, posing a threat not only...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Much more than a toy, the slingshot has come of age as legal hunting weapon

Charles Goodyear’s process of making vulcanized rubber was revolutionary, leading to the eventual creation of a wide range of products beneficial to society — from automobile tires to inflatable life jackets. But the development of the slingshot was likely an unintended consequence of the self-taught chemist and manufacturing engineer’s invention, which was patented on June 15, 1844. The...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky’s spring squirrel hunting season has deep historical roots

Hunting squirrels is a tradition that dates back to early Kentucky. During the settlement era, as other wild game became scarce, subsistence hunters turned their attention to squirrels to feed their families, taking them with small-caliber flintlock longrifles and smooth bore fowlers, loaded with shot. In Kentucky’s vast forests, squirrels are abundant, and active throughout most of the year. According...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Rising water temperatures result in best largemouth bass fishing of the year

When water temperatures in Kentucky’s small lakes, streams and major reservoirs rise into the mid-to-upper 60s largemouth bass begin feeding along the shoreline, in preparation for spawning. For fly fishermen it’s the start of some of the best largemouth bass fishing of the year. This “topwater” action continues post-spawn into May, when water temperatures warm into the mid-to-upper 70s, and...