Archery hunters in Kentucky started getting after whitetails beginning Sept. 7 this year, with the season continuing through Jan. 20, 2014. For the past three seasons, record harvests have been posted for the month of September: 5,577 deer in 2012; 4,945 in 2011; and 4,407 in 2010.
“Even though weather conditions aren’t always ideal early on [hot and humid], there are some advantages to early season hunting,” said Tina Brunjes, deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (WDFWR).
Deer are still calm and predictable when bow season opens, enabling hunters to pattern them and tag out early.
Archery hunters aren’t the only successful hunters in the Bluegrass State. In fact, last season’s deer harvest was the highest on record. Deer hunters reported taking 131,395 deer, a 9.8 percent increase from the 2011-2012 season. The 2012 harvest included 42 reported entries, 31 typical and 11 non-typical, into the Boone and Crockett Club record book. Western and West-Central counties generally have the most trophy bucks.
The current statewide population estimate for Kentucky’s deer herd is about 900,000 animals.
“Hunters who are monitoring trail cameras or spending time observing deer in the afternoons realize it has been a good year for deer reproduction and survival,” added Brunjes.
Last year epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) hit all but the far western portion of the state. The outbreak in South-Central and Southeastern counties was locally severe, which could explain why deer populations in those areas aren’t increasing.
“Die-offs due to EHD seem to be happening every 2-3 years in those areas, and some over-harvest may be the reasons why we just can’t get the population density above 5-6 deer per square mile in some counties,” explained KDFWR wildlife biologist David Yancy.
There are numerous public lands open to hunting in Kentucky. The Bluegrass Army Depot, Ballard Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Fort Knox, Pennyrile State Forest, and Peabody WMA offer the best odds of bagging a trophy buck.