Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors:Rabbit and quail season at a glance
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Rural mail carriers who volunteer to help the Kentucky Department of Fish
and Wildlife Resources reported seeing fewer rabbits along their routes this
year, but hunters can still expect to encounter plenty of rabbits this season.
“If you look back at the data, we’ve
had really high numbers of rabbits, some of the highest in several years,” said
Ben Robinson, small game biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “There
should be good numbers of rabbits on the ground, which should translate into
good rabbit hunting.”
Kentucky’s rabbit and quail season dates vary by zone.
The Eastern Zone is made up of 91 central
and eastern Kentucky counties. In this zone, the season opened Nov. 1 and
continues through Nov. 13. It closes for the opening weekend of modern gun deer
season (Nov. 14-15), then reopens Nov. 16 and continues through Jan. 31, 2016.
The Western Zone includes Fulton,
Hickman, Carlisle, Ballard, McCracken, Graves, Calloway, Marshall, Livingston,
Lyon, Trigg, Caldwell, Crittenden, Christian, Hopkins, Webster, Union,
Henderson, McLean, Muhlenberg, Todd, Logan, Simpson, Allen, Warren, Butler,
Ohio, Daviess and Hancock counties. In those counties, the rabbit and quail
season opens Nov. 16 and runs through Feb. 10, 2016.
The statewide daily bag limit is four
rabbits and eight quail.
“Rabbits do well in areas that are
overgrown, grown up fields, shrubby fence rows,” Robinson said. “And just because
an area is grown up doesn’t mean that’s the first place you want to look for
quail. They require more intensive management, which hopefully you’ll find on
our public areas. One of the hot spots continues to be the multi-county Green
River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) down around Mammoth Cave.
We’re still getting good reports from there. It’s just a matter of figuring out
ways to obtain landowner permission to hunt those properties.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife tracks
hunter success and population trends on an annual basis with assistance from
rural mail carriers and hunters. Hunters can help by keeping a daily hunting
diary during the fall hunting seasons.
Printable logs are available online
at fw.ky.gov or by contacting Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife by phone at 1-800-858-1549 or mail at #1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort,
KY 40601. Completed logs should be submitted at the end of the season. Hunter
cooperators receive a small gift for their participation.
“It’s one of our primary surveys for
monitoring population trends from year to year,” Robinson said. “In recent
years, we’ve seen participation decline. We would love to have more hunters
Rabbit hunters who submitted hunter log surveys last season went on a combined 1,413 hunts in 93
counties, jumped an averaged of 6.5 rabbits per hunt and harvested an average
of 2.7 rabbits per hunt. Quail hunters who completed hunting logs went on 365 hunts and reported flush and harvest rates almost
double that of the previous season.
The mail carrier survey offers a peek
into what can be expected for the upcoming hunting season. This year, the
survey was conducted the last full week of July and indicated population
declines in both species.
The weather and the timing of major
weather events can impact small game populations, and Kentucky has experienced its
share of extreme weather this year. In February and March, record cold, snow
and flooding affected parts of the state. Then a hot and dry June was followed
by a soggy July.
Biologists point to the cold and late
snowfall as culprits contributing to the drop in the number of rabbits and
quail observed by the mail carriers. Rabbits begin nesting in late February and
their breeding season can continue into late summer. The peak hatch for quail
occurred in July, so the heavy rain that month likely hurt chick survival in
“I’m afraid I can’t give one statewide
prediction for quail this year,” Robinson said. “From the anecdotal reports
that I’m getting, it’s going to depend on where you are in the state. The fall covey
counts conducted out west on Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA) this year
were some of the best in recent years. You move into parts of central Kentucky
and the numbers seem to be down. You keep going farther east and up to Clay WMA
(in Nicholas, Fleming and Bath counties) and throughout the summer they were
seeing broods all over the ground. It seems like kind of an odd year. It’s
going to be hit or miss.”
The East Region from
Lewis County down to Wayne County and points east led the state in the number
of rabbits observed by the mail carriers. The region also produced a
year-over-year increase in the number of quail observed along the delivery
“We’ve always had good reports of
rabbits and quail in that area,” Robinson said. “Some of the reclaimed mine
areas are growing up. For the next couple of years, it may be an area that
folks want to target if they can get access to some of these properties. If
hunters are targeting those areas and can find food sources on those mine
areas, there’s a good chance they’re going to find quail.”
More information about the rabbit, quail and
other small game seasons appears in the Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting licenses are sold.