Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Late muzzleloader deer season opens Saturday
FRANKFORT, Ky. –
Hunters do not have to
wait until next fall to harvest a deer with a firearm in Kentucky.
The late muzzleloader season
opens statewide on Saturday, Dec. 13.
Even before this opening day, the ongoing deer season already rates as
one of the state’s top three on record based on overall harvest numbers.
Wildlife biologists were
bracing for a potential decrease in the harvest this season
after consecutive record harvests and with oak trees so laden with acorns
this fall. However, the combination of favorable weather during key timeframes
and an uptick in hunter participation turned tempered expectations bullish as
the season has worn on.
"We've had a great
season," said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator with the
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "It's surprised me,
but I think it's also indicative of the effectiveness of our deer management
The modern gun deer season
drove a November harvest of 104,679 that fell just shy of last year's record
for the month. December offers the possibility of more quality hunting. Hunters
took nearly 13,000 deer last December.
The abundance of acorns on
the landscape this fall could translate into increased breeding activity this
month as does (female deer) and half-year old fawns that weren’t ready to be
bred last month come into estrus, Jenkins said.
“Chances are good that we
could see a really nice peak in breeding and some more activity in December and
January,” he said.
Black powder firearm hunters
took more than 6,100 deer during the early muzzleloader weekend this past
The late muzzleloader season
opening Saturday closes on Sunday, Dec. 21. Hunters in Zones 1, 2 and 3
counties may take either sex deer throughout the season. Counties classified as
Zone 1 offer hunters a good opportunity to harvest an unlimited number of
female deer. Those are counties where the department is trying to get a
reduction in the deer herd. Hunters must have the appropriate additional deer
permits to take advantage of that opportunity. In a Zone 4 county, black powder
firearm hunters may only take antlered deer from Dec. 13-18 and then either sex
from Dec. 19-21.
Locating high-carb food
sources is critical late in the season.
"Find the food. Find
the deer," said Derek Beard, Bluegrass Region wildlife coordinator for
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
Beard and Jenkins suggest
keying on the corners of agricultural fields, winter wheat fields or areas
thick with red oak acorns. White oak acorns have either been consumed or have
germinated by this point in the season, Jenkins said.
Set the alarm clock later
and hunt the warmest part of the day. Seek out a sunny spot or one that
provides deer some protection from the elements, like a briar thicket or a
“If it’s good and cold,
they’ll move throughout the day,” Jenkins said. “If it’s really cold, you might
consider hunting close to a bedding area.”
Resist the urge to set up on
top of that bedding area or food source in those instances. Instead, pick a
spot between the two that allows deer to be intercepted en route to one spot or
the other, Beard said.
“It’s a chess game,” he
said. “There may only be a 10-minute window where they may be coming through.”
Driven by the strong
November, the statewide deer harvest total stood at more than 126,000, as of
Thursday, Dec. 11. With the late muzzleloader season on deck, and the crossbow
and archery seasons ongoing, Jenkins expects the harvest number to climb past
the 2012-13 season for second highest on record behind last season’s benchmark
“We’re not overharvesting,”
Jenkins said. “Our age structure is still good. If we were overharvesting, we
would see an increased number of fawns and yearlings in our harvest and we
wouldn’t shoot as many quality deer. We’re still shooting those and our numbers
are holding tight and even increasing some.”
Black powder hunters are
reminded to wear hunter orange and to always obtain landowner permission before
hunting private property. For additional information about the upcoming late
muzzleloader deer season and other hunting opportunities available across the
state, visit Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at fw.ky.gov.