PADNWS-11-27-21 ODRS WATERFOWL - PHOTO

Most Kentucky duck hunters would welcome these out-of-town visitors this weekend.

For Kentucky hunters, it really is feathers or fur options now that waterfowl hunting has entered the mix.

The state’s early segment of duck hunting is the latest of major seasons to ensue. The early duck hunting stretch opened Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, and runs through Sunday. The Nov. 25-28 segment of duck hunting will be followed by a much longer stint Dec. 7-Jan. 31 that fills out Kentucky’s allotted 60 days of duck pursuits under the federal framework.

Meanwhile, goose hunting in Kentucky for Canada and white-fronted geese, brant and snow geese also opened Thursday. Goose hunting, however, runs continuously through Feb. 15.

With abundant ducks in North America’s nesting habitats, the 60-days of hunting allowed in Kentucky is also matched with a six-duck daily limit allowed under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s “liberal option.”

The daily limit breaks down to species allowances of no more than 4 mallards (only 2 of which may be hens), 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail, 2 black ducks and 2 canvasbacks. The limit may include only 1 scaup (also called bluebill) Nov. 25- 28 and Dec. 7-17, but 2 scaup can be included in the daily bag Dec. 18-Jan. 31.

Mergansers are not included within the general duck limit. Counted separately, hunters may take as many as five daily, but only two hooded mergansers can be within those.

For the goose bag limit, among Canada and white-fronted geese and brant, a hunter can take five birds. There is a maximum of three Canadas, two white-fronted geese and one brant, however. For snow geese, the daily limit through the regular season is a generous 20 birds. For a “conservation reserve” season that follows beginning after the close of the traditional season, there is no daily harvest limit.

As always, those participating in waterfowl hunts have a few regulatory hoops through which to jump first. Any hunter except for kids younger than 16 must have completed a HIP (Harvest Information Program) survey through the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources website, www.fw.ky.gov, under MyProfile, before hunting.

Most hunters are required to have a hunting license, Kentucky migratory bird/waterfowl permit and federal duck stamp. Anyone with a senior or disability combination licenses has the state permit included in his or her license but still needs a federal duck stamp. Kids 15 and younger only need a youth hunting license.

This weekend’s waterfowl hunting options still compete for attention with Kentucky’s ongoing modern firearms deer hunting season. Today and Sunday are the last opportunities in that 16-day whitetail gun hunt.

The present firearms deer hunt has been adding to what seems a prosperous-for-hunters overall deer season. Modern gun hunters by far claim more whitetails than hunters by other weaponry, and firearms hunters on Tuesday of this week pushed the all-weapons/all-seasons deer harvest for 2021 over and well past the 100,000 mark.

This final weekend of gun hunting for deer should add another harvest flurry toward the final total whitetail take of the 2021-22 hunting year. Last year’s total deer harvest for all weapons and seasons was 141,621.

In addition to waterfowl and deer, the full range of Kentucky’s small game and furbearer hunting also is under way at present. Hunters in pursuit of these species by day are reminded that, while the gun deer season continues this weekend, they must also comply with the orange clothing requirements of the firearms deer season.

That is, hunters after squirrels, rabbits, furbearers and such who are afield while the gun deer season continues must wear clothing of solid, fluorescent orange on head, chest and back. That goes for archery or crossbow deer hunters, too.

Waterfowl hunters are exempted from the blaze orange safety requirement.

The Land Between the Lakes again this year is offering free cedar trees as Christmas trees for those in the public who wish to find, cut and pack out their own.

The “u-pick” cedar Christmas tree program, effective now through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, requires a free permit and involves a set of regulations that stalkers of the Yule greenery must follow.

The no-cost permits are available only online at www.landbetweenthelakes.us/reservations. The process of getting a permit assures that any participating cedar pursuant will receive full information and guideline about how to collect a tree.

Trees taken must be cedars (no pines, mind you) of less than 10 feet tall. The stump left behind must be no taller than 4 inches.

In general, the whole of the LBL is open to the harvest of single cedar Christmas trees, except for special restricted areas. Cedars cannot be taken if they are growing within sight of the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway (“The Trace” that runs the north-south length of the LBL) and U.S. 68/Ky. 80 that crosses the LBL east-west through the Golden Pond area.

Further, cedars are off limits to Christmas tree hunters if they are growing in cemeteries, in Nature Watch areas, campgrounds, in and around facilities including the Elk & Bison Prairie, and other mowed, maintained areas.

“Taking the family out into the woods to look for the perfect Christmas tree is a great holiday tradition,” LBL silviculturist Yvonne Antes, said.

Some people wonder about the granted freedom to cut Christmas trees in the closely managed timberland of the federal recreation area. A key to that is that only cedars can be removed in this program.

“The cedar tree program helps Land Between the Lakes maintain open lands and promote diverse wildlife habitat,” Antes said.

Toward that end, Antes suggested that Christmas tree seekers look for appropriate cedars in old forest openings and along the side of numbered backroads within the federal area.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or phone 270-575-8650.

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