A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: 2018 deer season update, early muzzleloader season opens this weekend

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Many deer hunters rejoiced this past weekend over a break in a weather pattern that had been alternating between stifling heat and soaking rains. A cool down coincided with the two-day gun season for youth deer hunters. It also excited archery and crossbow hunters getting into the woods, blinds and tree stands. Difficult hunting conditions defined the first month...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Time to scout and develop a game plan as spring turkey season approaches

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward The landscape awakens almost spontaneously from its winter slumber. Winter flocks break up into smaller groups. Innumerable turkey calls and lifelike decoys reappear at sporting goods retailers. Turkey hunters interpret these occurrences as signs that it will not be long before they are easing into their spots before dawn, filled with anticipation. In Kentucky, hunters...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Hunters post fifth-highest deer harvest on record; call for trophy deer entries

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Looking at the total number of deer harvested by hunters in Kentucky during the 2017-18 season, it would appear nothing was out of the ordinary. The season ended earlier this month. When it did, hunters had combined to take more than 136,000 deer across the state, making it the sixth consecutive season with a harvest total greater than 130,000 and the fifth highest...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Arrival of Ky. Hunting Guide an encouraging sign for anxious fall hunters

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Fall can seem like an eternity away when the heat index soars into the triple digits and air conditioners must work overtime to meet unrelenting demand. The arrival of the new Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources provides a comforting reassurance that summer is marching closer to fall. The free guide ships...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Experimental stocking of fast-growing saugeye offers anglers another option

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward With every passing season, anglers are building their knowledge base about how to catch saugeye stocked in a handful of central and northern Kentucky lakes. A saugeye is a fast-growing cross between a walleye and sauger that can reach 15 to 19 inches in its second year. The hybridization is evident in the species’ physical appearance. Saugeye display the faint...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Newly published plan to bring back ruffed grouse comes into focus

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward A newly published plan developed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources offers a long-range strategy to help ruffed grouse populations rebound in eastern Kentucky after years of decline. The Ruffed Grouse and Young Forest Strategic Plan looks 10 years out and its success hinges on an array of partners working together to create the young forest...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Fun the key to encourage your young angler’s growing interest this summer

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward If free fishing weekend was a home run with your kiddos, you might be wondering about how to keep the momentum going throughout the summer. Take a cue from them: keep it fun. Does this mean they need to catch a fish or get a bite every cast? Not necessarily. Fun can be wading a creek or floating down one for the first time in a canoe or kayak. Fun can be seeing how...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Despite challenges, state hunters posted productive spring turkey season

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Turkey hunters in Kentucky encountered wind, rain and wild temperature swings this past spring season but did not let factors out of their control keep them from posting impressive results. The 2017 youth-only and general seasons produced a total harvest of 33,061 turkeys – a 6.5 percent increase over 2016 and the third highest on record for the state. “We were...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Memorial Day is the official kick-off for the state’s summer boating season

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Kentucky’s lakes and streams are bound to be crowded with anglers, paddlers and pleasure boaters during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend. Boating safety officials want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. “On really busy holidays, the boat’s operator has to remain extremely attentive,” said Zac Campbell, boating education...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Now a common presence in state, coyotes coexist in the urban landscape

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward An expansion from its historic range in the interior plains brought the coyote to Kentucky where as recently as the early 1970s sightings of these animals were still considered rare. Coyotes are now common across the state but their presence in urban and suburban areas can surprise residents. “People in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Denver have grown accustomed...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Elk quota hunt application deadline is rapidly approaching

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Twenty years ago this December, seven elk were released atop Potato Knob in Perry County in front of thousands of onlookers. The landmark restoration of a free roaming elk herd in Kentucky was off and running. Fast forward to present day. There are now more elk in Kentucky than any state east of the Rocky Mountains and each year the prospect of harvesting one compels...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: The time has come! Here’s your spring wild turkey season preview

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Spring turkey hunting is slipping into position before daybreak and sitting still as the sun eases over the hills. It is breaking the silence with a call and getting a response that sends a shock of excitement down your spine. It is coaxing a love-struck gobbler closer and keeping your wits as it struts into range. “There’s something about that drumming, spitting,...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Angles stand excellent chance of catching a trophy muskellunge

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward (This is the third installment of the “Spring Fishing Fever” series of articles, detailing productive fishing techniques and opportunities across Kentucky. The series will continue until early summer. An archive of past articles is available on the department’s website at www.fw.ky.gov). Spring break for many conjures thoughts of traveling somewhere warm and...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Make sure you get your new license so you can enjoy best fishing of year

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward The mild weather this winter has many thinking it will be an early spring across Kentucky. The earlier, the better for anglers, who by late February are like sprinters on their marks waiting for the starter’s pistol to fire. Some of the best fishing of the year is right around the corner. The new license year is, too. It starts March 1. For $20, an annual resident...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Be prepared when that unexpected winter fishing opportunity arises

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Planning a fishing trip more than a couple days ahead of time can be a gamble in late winter when the weather is a mixed bag and the favorable conditions here today may be gone tomorrow. With some advance preparation, you can be ready to grab what you need and go when that friend calls at daybreak or the impulse strikes and the schedule allows for a last-minute trip. Performing...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Hunters log another top-five deer season; total surpasses 139,000

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward It’s often said these are the good old days for deer hunting in Kentucky, but for those of a certain age, or new to hunting, it’s all they have ever known. The world was tip-toeing into a new millennium the last time Kentucky’s deer harvest did not break 100,000 for a season. The 2016-17 season cleared that mark and surpassed 130,000 for the fifth consecutive...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Get to know your new hunting rifle before you head out to the range

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward Lots of hunters receive a new rifle over the holidays or take advantage of the subsequent sales to add to their collection. The impulse is to immediately dash off to the shooting range. Fighting back that urge and instead taking time to familiarize yourself with your new rifle is a good first step toward safe and responsible ownership. Because the mechanics and features...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Closing out 2016 with a look ahead — the possibilities for new year

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward The end of the year is a time for reflecting on the past 12 months and envisioning the possibilities for the new year. The directors of the Fisheries, Wildlife and Wildlife Diversity divisions at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources recently previewed what’s ahead in 2017. From firming-up long-range plans for the restoration of ruffed grouse in...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Landowners honored for improving wildlife habitat

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward As it works to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife resources across the state, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources doesn’t do it alone. Private landowners, businesses and other groups are key players. “They are critical to us being able to manage the state’s resources,” said Dan Figert, assistant wildlife division director for Kentucky...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Gift ideas for the outdoors enthusiast include Kentucky Afield Calendar

By Kevin Kelly Special to KyForward One by one, the photographs appear on the display screen in the darkened Commission Room at Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources headquarters, and the people gathered around the conference table discuss the merits of each image before the group reaches a consensus. This process repeats itself hundreds of times over the course of a fall day until a...