Bowhunts back: Today is day one of 136-day season

Contributed photo

Archery deer and turkey hunters are taking to the trees (and ground blinds) again for a season that runs today through Jan. 20.

By Steve Vantreese

Kentucky's archery hunters - those with the longest-running opportunities to pursue deer and wild turkeys - are back at it as of today.

The bowhunters' blitz in the commonwealth for some years now has started on the first Saturday in September and continued through the third Monday (Martin Luther King Day) in January. This year, that's Sept. 7-Jan. 20.

The season works out to 136 days, about 4½ months, of hunting. It's not exclusive, of course. Archery hunters must share their season with the shorter stints of firearms hunting - modern firearms season, youth gun hunts and muzzleloading firearms seasons. But if bowhunting is what you want, put on the blaze orange during the gun hunt and keep right on.

Archery season traditionally has offered more days of potential deer hunting because of higher level of difficulty with bow and arrow gear. Even with modern compound bows, archery hunting remains a rather short-range endeavor and a hunter still must come to full draw in the presence of a deer before a shot may be taken.

Firearms hunters far outnumber archery deer hunters. That and the degree of difficulty makes the archery deer harvest a fraction of the gun harvest despite many more days of opportunity for bowhunters.

Archers may have more company out there this season, however. The Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commission passed a measure to greatly expand crossbow hunting during the 2019-20 hunting year. This year, crossbow deer and turkey hunting is allowed Sept. 21-Jan. 20. The season, now continuous instead of segmented, lacks only the first two weeks of archery season to have opportunities equal to bowhunters.

Senior hunters, those 65 and older, meanwhile, are permitted to hunt deer and turkey with crossbows at any time during the archery season.

Archery hunters themselves should find regulations otherwise very familiar this season. The bag limit is unchanged. In far western Kentucky, all counties remain designated Zone 1 regarding the deer harvest regulations. That means there is no limit on the number of antlerless deer that may be taken, while each hunter is restricted to the harvest of one antlered buck by any weaponry during the hunting year.

Deer typically are the focus of the vast majority of most bowhunting, but turkeys often represent bonus opportunities for deer hunters when the largest of game birds stroll along into their whitetail ambush positions. Turkey hunting during the deer season requires each hunter to have a state fall turkey hunting permit.

n Kentucky's mourning dove season already is as old as September, but today represents the first Saturday of dove hunting opportunities statewide and a heavy outpouring of hunters can be expected.

The segmented dove season offers three stints of hunting, Sept. 1-Oct. 26, Nov. 28-Dec. 8 and Dec. 21-Jan. 12. In practice, however, a strong majority of hunter trips afield are taken during the first two or three weeks of the season.

The first two weekends of the season typically get most of the attention of casual dove hunters. With today being the first Saturday opportunity, it's predictable that a burst of hunting activity could rival opening day again.

For those taking to the dove fields for the first time today, it's worth a reminder that each hunter should be packing the required confirmation number to show that he or she had completed a Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey.

Each Kentucky hunter of migratory birds must take a quick online HIP survey ( before hunting. The survey taker must have a confirmation number written on license or migratory bird permit to prove compliance into the field.

n Bobcat hunting and trapping is still a rather new concept in Illinois, and those who hope to participate there should apply for one of the 1,000 available 2019-20 bobcat permits before September is up.

To put in for a permit, apply at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources online license and permit site, It costs a non-refundable $5 to apply. Permits will be mailed to those drawn to receive them.

Those who receive permits this year will not be eligible to receive a permit next year, a means to spread the opportunities to as many as possible.

Illinois bobcat hunting and trapping will be Nov. 10-Feb. 15. The area open to bobcat harvest and full regulations regarding hunting and trapping them, is specified in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations for 2019-20, available online at IDNR home site,

n Many ruby-throated hummingbirds have migrated beyond the western Kentucky area on their way toward wintering habitats in the tropics of southern Mexico and Central America - but some are still in our neighborhoods.

Hummingbird authorities advise people who provide for the little emerald fliers by putting out sugar water in colorful feeders to keep right on with their efforts. By early September, many transient hummers from points to the north already have passed through, and a good number of locally nesting birds may have joined the journey south.

When nature dictates that they go south, they'll go.

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

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