Deer

Firearms hunting opportunities have taken all the deer that they are going to in statewide seasons for the 2020-21 hunting year, and certainly there are leftovers.

The guns of Kentucky’s 2020-21 statewide deer hunting year have fallen silent, while those relative few late-season archery and crossbow hunters cling to the pursuit for another several days.

The last of the firearms hunting came during the previous weekend’s free youth deer hunting season, two days during which adult-overseen juniors under age 16 could hunt with modern guns or muzzleloaders.

Less than ideal weather may have factored into a less than bountiful deer harvest during the special weekend in which kid hunters could participate without necessity of junior hunting license or deer permit. The statewide harvest by gun over the weekend amounted to a little more than 1,100 deer for the young hunters.

The total modern firearms deer harvest for this hunting year totals 97,537, which is well off the pace of last year’s record modern gun harvest of 110,130. The harvest by muzzleloading firearms, which have two muzzleloader-specific seasons as well as being allowed in the modern gun season, actually is up this year.

During all the eligible hunting seasons with muzzleloaders, Kentucky hunters took 12,849 deer during the 2020, up from 11,872 last year.

At the close of the free youth gun hunting weekend, the archery total harvest for the year was about 16,300, while last year’s archery harvest was 16,609. Archery hunting continues through Jan. 18. The final archery harvest should be near that of last year.

Crossbow deer harvest already has exceeded that of last year. At the close of the free youth weekend hunt, crossbow hunters had taken 11,253, while last year the total was just 9,784.

Last year’s total deer harvest by all weapons in all seasons was the second highest on record, 148,395. Earlier this week, the total for the 2020-21 hunting year was running about 10,000 behind that, that deficit pointing mainly at the downturn in modern firearms harvest this year.

• An exception to the end of firearms deer hunting is the late controlled slug-loaded shotgun and muzzleloading firearms hunt at West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area near Grahamville in western McCracken County.

A Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources-managed quota hunt, the three days of late opportunities will be Jan. 16-18. But this year’s pandemic precautions for the safety of hunters and WMA staffers call for different sign-up procedures.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Monday (Jan. 4), hunters can register for this hunt by phoning the management area at 270-488-3233 or by emailing weston.mason@ky.gov. The deadline to register by phone is 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Jan. 5), while email registrations will be accepted through Jan. 8.

However, the hunt is open to a maximum of 140 hunters. As soon as 140 slots have been filled, no further sign-ups will be accepted.

While registrations are being accepted, any hopeful hunter can sign up parties of as many as five hunters. But registration of multiple hunters requires the name, fish and wildlife customer ID number and phone number of each individual in the party.

Before the first day of the quota hunt, hunter cards and instruction sheets will be provided to each successful registrant. The hunter cards must be visibly displayed in the windshield of each hunter’s vehicle while that person is hunting. The cards must then be returned to a drop box at a designation location on the management area after hunting.

COVID-19 precautions prevent a staffed check station at which hunters can register harvested deer. Instead, successful participants should use the state phone-in Telecheck reporting system (800-245-4263) or register their deer online at www.fw.ky.gov.

• Today, the first of 2021, is the final day of Kentucky’s free youth small game hunting and trapping season. Hunting and trapping for small game and furbearer species continue on, of course, but today is the last session of the “free youth” season when adult-accompanied kids younger than 16 can hunt without need of a youth hunting license.

Youngsters ages 12-15 can continue to pursue these game species Saturday and later into ongoing seasons. Yet, youth licenses are required after the free youth season is closed. Kids younger than 12 always can hunt without requirement of a license, although they must be accompanied by an overseeing adult.

• Other transitions in Kentucky’s hunting calendar coming soon include the opening of the late crow season. That begins Monday and runs all the way through Feb. 28.

Crows can be shot at any time of the year in Kentucky if they are committing or are about to commit an act of depredation. That’s the law. There is a little slack built into that regulation, because most people recognize that, well, crows generally are about to commit depredation if they wake up in the morning and they are still crows.

So, what’s the point of having official hunting seasons for crows? That pertains to how one goes about taking the crows. It is only during an official hunting season that someone can use accoutrements like calls, decoys or other lures and blinds to attract and ambush crows.

Kentucky has two periods of official crow hunting. This year the early season was Sept. 1-Nov. 7. In real life, neither season draws much participation. The winter segment, however, is more appealing to some because of the closure of other options as the hunting year winds down.

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

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