Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors:Record duck numbers portend good
– The work done by conservation groups as well as state and federal fish
and wildlife agencies over the past 60 years to increase waterfowl populations
is nothing short of remarkable.
“This year, we’ve
had the highest counts of ducks as a whole by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird
coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “It is
the highest counts ever with 49,522,000 ducks as well as 11,643,000 mallards,
also a new record.”
populations are at their all-time high with just over 4 million birds and
numbers of gadwall numbers are also exceptionally high with 3,834,000 birds.
This all is great news
for the opening of the waterfowl hunting seasons for ducks, coots, mergansers
and geese on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26. “I think it will be a highly productive
season,” Brunjes said. “We have a lot of ducks and geese out there, but as with
all hunting, success is weather-dependent.”
Some cold weather
would help push birds languishing up north into Kentucky. “The migration maps
show many ducks in the upper Plains and upper Midwest,” Brunjes explained. “We
are a week or so away from opening day and it is too warm. The question is
whether we will have birds. It all depends on the weather. The severe cold snap
forecast for the coming weekend should help drive some birds south.”
western Kentucky usually has ducks and geese earlier than the eastern and
middle sections of the state. “I saw a lot of birds on Lake Barkley and
Kentucky Lake last week,” he said. “The reality is you hunt where you have a
spot, but early in the season, go west if you can. The east gets better with
Finding a waterfowl
hunting spot can be a challenge for the majority of Kentucky hunters. The first
place to check is the public land hunting section of the current Kentucky
Hunting Guide for Waterfowl. This section details the hunting options and
regulations on public lands, mainly wildlife management areas.
Many, but not all,
of the smaller lakes owned or managed by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife are open to
waterfowl hunting, especially those with wildlife management areas along their
shores such as Cedar Creek Lake in Lincoln County. Call the Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife information line at 1-800-858-1549 to inquire if a lake is open to
state parks have open waterfowl hunts that open Dec. 13 and close Jan. 31:
Barren River Lake, Grayson Lake, Greenbo Lake, Lake Barkley, Lincoln Homestead,
Nolin River Lake, Paintsville Lake, Pennyrile, Rough River Lake and Yatesville
Lake. Hunters must check-in at the designated check station each day before
hunting and get a map detailing areas of the park open to waterfowl hunting.
They must also check out each day as well.
“Our large lakes
operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the U.S. Forest Service are
open to waterfowl hunting,” explained Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of
law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “However, you cannot hunt areas
marked by signs that are closed for hunting and you cannot hunt areas closed to
public access. A person cannot hunt in designated recreation areas or public
hunters on the bigger lakes employ common sense to avoid conflicts and not hunt
near marinas or private residences.
Farm ponds that
dot the landscape of Kentucky offer excellent duck and goose hunting. “Farm
ponds can be really good, but they often need some cold weather to get birds on
them.” Brunjes said.
fields provide an overlooked waterfowl hunting opportunity. The corn stubble
and waste grain draw both ducks and geese.
“Waterfowl feed in
fields when the really cold weather sets in,” Brunjes said. “The best time to
hunt fields is when the birds start feeling stressed from cold weather.”
potential spots is important in waterfowl hunting, as is simply time in the
“One of the great
rules with wildlife is there are no rules,” Brunjes said. “If you have a day to
go hunt, get out there because you just don’t know.”
Duck, coot and
merganser season runs from Nov. 26 through Nov. 29 and opens again Dec. 7 and
closes for good Jan. 31, 2016. All goose seasons open Nov. 26 and close Jan.
31, 2016, except in the Northeast Goose Zone which opens Dec. 19 and closes
Jan. 31, 2016.
New for this
season, waterfowl hunters must fill out the Harvest Information Program
(H.I.P.) Migratory Bird Survey before going hunting, if they have not completed
the survey already this year. This brief, 5-minute survey is available online
at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov. Click the “My
Profile” tab to begin.
hunters must also possess a valid Kentucky hunting license, a Kentucky
Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit as well as a Federal Duck Stamp. Duck
stamps are available at post offices across Kentucky.