Deer

Managers hope muzzleloader hunters will help take more antlerless deer, for which there remains no limit in Zone 1 counties like those of far western Kentucky.

It is by one well-spaced shot at a time, but this Saturday and Sunday is open to a variety of firearms deer hunting with Kentucky’s early muzzleloader season.

As is routine on the weekend starting with the third Saturday in October, this year’s first muzzleloading firearms deer pursuits are Oct. 17-18. This early black powder season is augmented by a longer and later hunt — a nine-day stretch that spans two weekends — Dec. 12-20.

Regulations for the state’s muzzleloader hunting are uniform with those of the regular firearms season except, of course, that only firearms that are loaded from the muzzle can be used. Front-stuffing rifles as well as muzzleloading shotguns (single projectiles only) and muzzleloading handguns all are legal for this season. No breechloaders of any sort are permitted.

Muzzleloading weapons may be of traditional or modern design. Telescopic or modern electronic sights can be utilized just as well as basic iron sights. Propellants can be traditional black powder or modern substitutes. The single projectiles allowed include round balls, conical bullets or sabot-mounted bullets. Here again, the guns just must be loaded from the muzzle.

Because muzzleloader season is a firearms hunt, safety concerns are such that all participating must wear garments of solid fluorescent orange on head, chest and back. Likewise, any hunters afield involved in pursuits for other game also must wear the mandated orange. Raccoon and ’possum hunters active at night are excluded from the fluorescent orange requirement.

Kentucky’s deer harvest regulations are unchanged this year from those of last year. There is a limit for the entire hunting year covering all methods/weapons and all seasons that permits each hunter to take only a single antlered buck.

The one-buck limit, indeed, is a crown jewel of Kentucky’s deer management program, responsible for much more selectivity by hunters in buck harvest and, hence, a significant increase in the age structure among bucks in the overall deer population. This, say Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources biologists, has resulted in a major upturn in the production of bigger, trophy quality deer over the past several seasons.

Antlerless deer are quite another matter. Again, this year as in the past several years, hunters in counties designated as Zone 1 can take an unlimited number of antlerless deer. All far western Kentucky counties are designated Zone 1 to encourage harvest of more antlerless deer here.

The basic deer permit (as well as the youth deer permit) allows the taking of four deer, yet still no more than one antlered buck. But where unlimited harvest is allowed, a hunter can purchase additional antlerless deer permits, each good for two more antlerless deer. There is no limit to the number of additional permits that may be bought nor the number of antlerless deer that can be taken.

Area counties remain Zone 1 in designation because KDFWR managers believe the deer population hereabouts is higher than ideal and would benefit from some rollback, particularly from a greater harvest of does.

• Kentucky’s early youth firearms deer season produced a lower harvest from that of last year, a downward swing that probably was weather related.

Following the past weekend, when Kentucky’s regular early youth deer season was offered for those younger than 16, there was a harvest of 2,735 deer statewide attributed to the junior deer hunters Oct. 10-11.

That gun harvest likely was moderated somewhat because of rains scattered over Kentucky at times during the weekend season. The comparable youth deer season of 2019 produced a record harvest of 4,334 by the teen and younger hunters. Perhaps telling in that harvest was the fact that weather was reported as nearly perfect statewide during that weekend.

• The Land Between the Lakes’ annual youth quota hunt for deer in the federal area’s Tennessee sector is this weekend. The Saturday-Sunday season (Oct. 17-18) in the Tennessee part of the LBL is for kids ages 6 to 16 who applied and were drawn for permits earlier this year.

The LBL’s youth hunt in the Kentucky section of the recreation area is scheduled for Oct. 24-25, the following weekend. It is reserved for youngsters who have not reached their 16th birthday. These young hunters also must have entered and been drawn in an electronic lottery process.

As in statewide youth hunts, junior hunters in the LBL each must be accompanied and overseen by an adult who cannot hunt at the time.

• Regarding fall turkey hunting, Sunday is the last day of the early segment of crossbow hunting for birds of either sex. A later segment begins Nov. 14 and runs all the way though Jan. 20.

Archery turkey hunting has been open since the start of archery hunting Sept. 5 and runs continuously through Jan. 20.

The first of two shotgun hunting seasons for turkeys of either sex begins next week, running Oct. 24-30.

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

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