A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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: 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....

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...

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: Wet springs cause many issues across Kentucky, nuisance chiggers are one

Wet springs cause all sorts of issues in rural and suburban Kentucky — delays in the plantings of farm crops and vegetable gardens, and the muddying up of creeks and rivers, that frustrates anglers. Heavy rains and warming temperatures cause the grass to grow insanely fast, making it a real chore just keeping up all that string trimming, and the mowing of grass in yards and fields. But the cruelest...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Spring wild turkey season tips and strategies for a successful hunt

Kentucky’s 23-day spring wild turkey general season opens tomorrow and continues through Sunday, May 5. At our farm, the afternoon before the opening morning is filled with ritual — listening for gobbling at dusk, as birds fly up to roost, a celebratory meal, and then getting gear organized. Turkey hunters have a lot of gear to keep track of, so make sure everything you need is in one place....

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Early spring chores important part of preparation for wild turkey, deer hunters

It’s that time of the year. Early spring is prime time to complete a number of important, annual chores on your farm, or hunting property, for the benefit of wild turkey and white-tailed deer. There are several reasons why now is the time to be out there, finishing wildlife management and habitat projects, scouting and getting re-familiarized with areas not visited that often. It’s a sure sign...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Longear sunfish, the most abundant in Ky. streams, adapts well to reservoirs

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and last article in a series about Kentucky’s native sunfish species. The longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis ) is Kentucky’s most abundant stream sunfish, that adapts well to reservoirs impounded from major rivers. A beautifully-colored sunfish that is very familiar to anglers who fish rocky creeks, the longear is called a sun granny, or referred to simply...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Rock bass, at home in rocky, cool waters, are a favorite with stream fishermen

Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a series about Kentucky’s native sunfish species. The rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) is most often caught from rocky, cool water streams in Central and Eastern Kentucky. A favorite with stream fishermen, the rock bass in known by the common names of red eye or goggle-eye. Statewide, there’s no daily creel limit, with no minimum size limit. The...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The Dark-eyed Junco — It’s a sure sign of cold weather when this snowbird arrives

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about small songbirds most often seen around bird feeders in rural and suburban areas of Kentucky during the late fall and winter. The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is the very definition of the term “snowbird,” living most of the year at high elevations in northern latitudes, then heading south as cold weather sets in and the snow...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Holiday gift ideas for the anglers, hunters and target shooters on your list

Is there an angler, hunter or target shooter on your holiday shopping list? New gear is always an appreciated gift. Below are some items they would like to find under the tree on Christmas morning: The Z Man Turbo Crawz(Photo provided) • For the bass angler, advanced plastic baits from Z Man Fishing. Their proprietary manufacturing process created ElaZtech® material, which is soft and pliable, yet...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: A regional migrant, the American black duck is prized by Kentucky hunters

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final article in a series about the ducks taken by hunters in Kentucky during waterfowl season. The American black duck (Aix rubripes) is a regional migrant prized by hunters because of its scarcity. They are most often taken in the eastern third of Kentucky while hunting the Ohio River, its backwaters and tributaries, from Cincinnati to Ashland. This large...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The wood duck ranks third among waterfowl harvested across the state

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about the ducks most often taken by hunters in Kentucky during waterfowl season. The wood duck (Aix sponsa) is Kentucky’s homegrown duck, nesting throughout the state in trees along creeks, rivers, and wetlands, and in reservoirs where flooded timber is present. Last season hunters in Kentucky bagged 9,721 “woodies,” ranked third...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: For deer hunters across Kentucky ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’

The lyrics are from a Christmas song made famous by Andy Williams in 1963. But, for Kentucky deer hunters, November is “the most wonderful time of the year.” When the calendar flips, the interaction between does and bucks begins to heat up as the days get shorter, and the nights cooler. The timing of the rut, the white-tailed deer’s annual mating season, is the question every deer hunter wants...

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...