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Season for lighted coyote hunts begins, but heed technicalities

By Steve Vantreese

The onset of February means that Kentuckians are into the first-time season during which lights may be used for hunting coyotes at night.

Recently passed regulations technically allow year-round night hunting of coyotes. However â “ and that's a big however â “ artificial lights only can be used Feb. 1-May 31.

In a practical sense, night hunting for coyotes is only realistic February through May, when lights can be used to illuminate the approaching objects of such hunts. The Kentucky General Assembly legalized year-round night hunting really just to give Kentuckians the right to protect their home fronts, livestock, pets, etc., during hours of darkness without possible infraction of game laws.

The use of lights were approved for those late winter and early spring months when most buck deer are less likely to be wearing any antlers â “ a provision that reduces the likelihood that poachers would use night coyote hunting as a cover to be out there spotlighting and shooting whitetail bucks.

That's a primary reason, too, that night coyote hunters can use only shotguns (and no slug ammunition) in their quest. The excuse for cruising around with a centerfire rifle is eliminated by a shotgun mandate.

Nocturnal coyote hunters should be alert to other stipulations for the use of lights. According to Kentucky's regulations, hunters cannot shoot from vehicles. A vehicle's headlights can't be used to illuminate coyotes for hunters. Furthermore, the lights can't be plugged into the vehicle as a power source. (It's already a violation to shoot from a roadway, you know.)

As with daylight hunting, night-time coyote seekers can use mouth and/or electronic calls to attract the canine predators. Decoys are OK, too, although it seems they'd be minimally effective in darkness.

Where you hunt is somewhat limited. In far western Kentucky, the federal areas of the Land Between the Lakes and Clark's River National Wildlife Refuge both prohibit night coyote hunting under the new state provisions. So does the Fulton County portion of Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources-managed wildlife areas that are open to other general hunting activities also are open to night hunting for coyotes. (If any doubt exists, check with the specific area manager's office or phone the KDFWR at 1-800-858-1549.)

Far more private land is open to night coyote hunting â “ but the new season doesn't give people the freedom to hunt without landowner permission. Hunters always should have landowner approval before entering private property. And because hunting from roadways is prohibited, coyote hunters will have to enter properties to stay legal about it.

Coyotes aren't really classified as game animals. No bag limit exists and they can be shot year round. However, a hunting license is required to hunt them.

Daylight coyote hunting, meanwhile, has similar regulations plus the hunter freedom to use other weaponry. Day-time hunters can use rifles, archery gear or crossbows as well as shotguns. Federal areas open to other hunting also allow daylight coyote hunting, too.

n More small game hunting lops off early next week. Monday is the final day for rabbit and quail hunting in Kentucky's western zone, which encompasses all far western counties.

Eastern zone hunting for rabbits and quail ended with the close of January.

Squirrel, furbearer hunting and trapping, and the late crow hunting season runs through the end of February.

n Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources biologists are surveying caves statewide, including western Kentucky locations, during the next several weeks as they monitor for the presence of white-nose syndrome in hibernating bats.

Biologists want to inspect nearly 100 caves to get a count on hibernating bats, a species breakdown among the animals, and to determine if the fungus which causes the disease has infected any of the bats in each cave.

Infected bats develop white fungus on their muzzles, ears, wings and tails. Biologists say the syndrome has been linked to millions of bats of varying species in 23 states and five Canadian provinces since first identified in New York in 2007.

White-nose syndrome was first confirmed in Kentucky in 2011 when a little brown bat in a Trigg County cave tested positive. Since then, the syndrome has been detected in more than 30 sites in 16 Kentucky counties.

The fungal infection is not known to affect humans, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists say human contact with the fungus in caves used by bats may accelerate the spread of white-nose syndrome by transporting the offending spores to more locations. People exploring caves, therefore, are urged to decontaminate their gear after spelunking.

More information about the bat-killing fungus and cavers' decontamination practices can be found on the website www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

n The Shawnee Volunteer Corps is signing up students and others who volunteer to pitch in and join crews for trail work days in coming weeks in areas of southern Illinois' Shawnee National Forest.

Volunteers are sought for Saturday and Sunday projects on the Indian Point Trail at Garden of the Gods 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 1, 9 and 15, and April 5.

More volunteer workers are needed for weekend trail work in the Panther Den area, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Feb. 22 and 23, March 2, 16 and 30, and April 6, 13 and 19.

No prior experience is necessary. To register to participate or receive more information, phone Kelly Pearson, volunteer coordinator, at 618-833-8576 or e-mail kdpearson@fs.fed.us.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. E-mail outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or call 270-575-8650.

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