The nuts and bolts of Kentucky’s modern firearms deer hunting season are familiar: Regulations are unchanged from those of last year.
The Nov. 14-29 season will offer hunters the same generous harvest limit as has been the rule for several years now in western Kentucky counties. That is, each hunter is restricted to a maximum of one antlered buck, but the sky is the limit on antlerless deer.
In Zone 1 counties, all those with the most liberal designation, there is no limit on the number of antlerless deer than can be taken. All far western counties are managed under this zoning regulation.
The basic deer permit allows the taking of four deer. Again, there is a maximum of one antlered buck allowed, but as many as four antlerless deer could be taken on the initial deer permit. After that, a hunter could take more antlerless whitetails by purchasing additional antlerless deer permits — two slick-headed deer per permit.
What qualifies as an antlered buck? It does not require any particular length of antler. Any deer with any visible antler, even just one antler, is officially an antlered buck. This does exclude, however, male fawns or “button bucks.”
This is the second year of the essential deer permit being good for taking four deer. Previously, just two deer were covered by the primary permit, subsequent whitetail harvest allowed only by the purchase of the additional permits. That was changed in 2019, however, as another incentive for hunters to take more antlerless deer — does, management hopes — to exert more population control in Zone 1 counties.
Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources managers still maintain that counties designated as Zone 1 could benefit from an overall reduction of deer numbers.
Gun season deer hunters may use any centerfire rifle or handgun as well as shotguns no larger than 10 gauge firing single-projectile (slug) ammunition. Muzzleloading rifles, handguns and slug-loaded shotguns are permitted.
“Big game” sorts of air guns can be used. These are required to shoot an expand-on-impact projectile of at least .35 caliber and be charged by an external tank.
Hunters can handicap themselves somewhat during the gun deer season, hunting with archery equipment or crossbows instead of firearms if that be their choice of gear.
For the gun hunters, however, they should recall that magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition are prohibited in the deer woods and fields. So is ammunition with non-expanding, full metal jacketed bullets or tracer rounds.
As in any firearms deer season, any hunter afield during the period must wear solid, unbroken fluorescent clothing that is visible from all sides on head, back and chest. That applies to hunters in pursuit of other game when other seasons overlap with the gun deer hunt. Waterfowl hunters or hunters such as raccoon hunters that are active by night are exempted from the orange mandate, however.
Any hunter taking a deer must report it to the KDFWR tabulation system, by which deer harvest is monitored for vital management purposes. This is done by phoning the information to the automated “Telecheck” number at 1-800-245-4263 (which is 1-800-CHK-GAME) by midnight on the day the critter is recovered and before the deer is processed.
An alternative to reporting the deer by phone is to do it online at the KDFWR website, www.fw.ky.gov. Go to the homepage and click on “Telecheck.”
• Small game hunting goes on hold across Kentucky during this weekend, the Saturday and Sunday opening rounds of modern firearms deer hunting. But come Monday, those inclined to shun deer will find that options for smaller game burst open.
Squirrel hunting resumes, and in the western Kentucky rabbit and quail zone, bunnies and bobwhites become legal game for the first time this season. West Kentucky’s concurrent rabbit and quail hunting runs Nov. 16-Jan. 31.
Also Monday, Kentucky’s general furbearer season for hunting and trapping begins. Raccoon and ’possum hunting has been open since Oct. 1. It is closed this weekend, but it resumes with the rest of furbearer hunting (and trapping, too) Monday.
The general furbearer hunting and trapping seasons run through Feb. 28, the last day of the 2020-21 hunting year.
• All this furry stuff will get some significant attention competition from feathered game in the not-so-distant future. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks henceforth, and with that holiday Thursday of Nov. 26 also comes the opening of Kentucky’s duck and goose seasons.
The duck hunting is the annual early Thanksgiving taste test. Kentucky waterfowlers get to hunt that Thursday through Sunday — Nov. 26-29 — as a sampler. The bulk of the 60-day duck season comes Dec. 7-Jan. 31.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to email@example.com or phone 270-575-8650