In Oct. 15 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Sports Editor
While archery season has been underway just over a month, many local hunters will head to the woods for the first time this weekend as the annual two-day muzzleloading season unofficially kicks off Whitetail deer season in Russell County.
While the muzzleloading season is quite popular among local hunters, the big one, modern firearms season begins Nov. 14 and runs through the 23rd of next month.
Still, the early muzzleloader season allows a chance for hunters to get a jump in the woods and get a feel for a firearm.
State deer biologist David Yancy said that deer reproduction this year looks outstanding because all the summer rains had created such lush vegetation.
Yancy said this deer season would probably be like the last couple in regards to the harvest, maybe even better.
"We think things are looking good," Yancy said. "We've had two successful reproductive seasons since the EHD outbreak of 2007."
He said the does and bucks should enter the rut, or breeding season, in good condition.
"We've had a wet summer and that allowed them to browse on more succulent and lush vegetation," he said.
This allowed the deer to enter the fall with more food options as the past two summers were hurt by severe droughts which meant less food.
Dave Baker, with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and Kentucky Afield magazine, agreed with Yancy's thoughts.
"This gave fawns more food to eat and better cover for them to hide in," Baker said of this fall's vegetation. "Surveys show our mast crop - mainly the tree nuts such as hickories and acorns - doesn't look good this year. If you can find some oaks with a lot of acorns underneath, that's a prime place to hunt."
Baker said the KDFWR is also telling hunters that deer movement patterns may change this year, especially in the western part of the state.
"This is because the ice storm downed a lot of trees and deer may have been forced to switch around their trails," he said.
Russell County, located in zone 3 of the state's hunting zones, has already seen 19 deer taken so far this hunting season, 13 by bow, two by crossbow and four by modern firearm, according to statistics from the state's department of fish and wildlife.
The four harvested by modern firearm were taken this past weekend during the annual youth hunt weekend for persons up to 15 years of age. The statewide event is held to get youth more involved in the outdoors and gives them a chance to harvest a deer before the modern gun deer season begins.
Kentucky's deer hunters took 120,610 animals last hunting season, according to state figures.
"This is the third highest deer harvest ever recorded in Kentucky," Baker said.
Locally last year, the county saw a total of 347 deer checked in with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Of those, 172 were bucks while 175 were does. Last year's harvest was down just a bit from the previous year, according to the KDFWR, but was still solid compared to others in the Lake Cumberland region.
Yancy said he expected the deer to be moving this weekend with the forecast cooler temperatures.
"Deer move less when it is unseasonably warm so if it is going to be cooler, there will be activity," he said.
Also last hunting season, Kentucky hunters took 22 bucks that were big enough to qualify as trophies in the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, according to Baker.
"Jacob Tyles, while hunting in Russell County, took the ninth largest non-typical deer recorded in the state last year," he said.
Kentucky's total deer herd is annually estimated at one million, according to state statistics.
Besides the coming weekend muzzleloader hunt, another week, December 12-20, is slated for the muzzleloader hunter as well.
Crossbow hunters are able to hunt Oct. 1-18 and again Nov. 14 through December 31 in Russell County.
In zone 3, a hunter may take no more than four deer total and combined with zones 2 and 4. Two deer may be taken using the statewide permit and up to two more antlerless deer may be taken using one bonus antlerless-only deer permit, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Of these, all four deer may be taken with archery or crossbow equipment and a hunter may take no more than two deer with a firearm.
A hunter is limited to one deer with visible antlers, excluding button bucks, per license year statewide, except additional antlered deer may be taken on WMA or State Park quota hunts or federal areas, according to fish and wildlife officials.
All paper licenses and permits must be signed and all information completed before hunting, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Kentucky's Hunter Orange Clothing Law requires all hunters hunting for any type of game during the modern gun and muzzleloader deer seasons to wear solid, unbroken blaze (hunter) orange visible from all sides on the head, back and chest, according to Kentucky state law.
Taking off hunter orange after arriving at your hunting spot violates this law, therefore, hunter orange must be kept on at all times while hunting during the state's modern firearm deer season.
Hunter education is also required for all hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, except kids under 12 and hunters who are license exempt, according to state wildlife officials.
However, a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit is available for $5 online at fw.ky.gov, which allows hunting for one year from the date of purchase without a hunter education card while accompanied by a legal adult hunter who meets Kentucky's hunter education requirement.
Adults planning to take a youth hunter with them must accompany them throughout the hunt and must be able to take immediate control of the youth hunter's firearm at all times.
"Harvest projections are practically impossible to make," Baker said of this year's numbers. "The weather affects hunting turnout just like it does the voter turnout. The better the weather, the bigger the turnout - and the harvest."
For more information on the ongoing season for deer, visit fw.ky.gov