The ongoing modern firearms deer season dominates Kentucky hunting right now, and the opening of small game and furbearer seasons earlier this week further adds to the outdoors bustle.
There is a set of hunters, however, who may or may not take too seriously what has been happening out there to this point. For these, including some hardcore specialists, the real deal is still just ahead: the Thanksgiving Day opening of Kentucky’s traditional waterfowl seasons.
Thursday brings the start of the holiday stint of duck hunting, Nov. 25-Nov. 28. Following those four days the duck season goes on a short sabbatical. It returns Dec. 7 for the duration of the total 60-day season, running through Jan. 31, the latest (and typically most hunter favored) that it can be under federal framework guidelines for duck hunting.
Goose hunting is of far lesser concern to area waterfowlers nowadays that the migration of interior Canada geese to these latitudes is slim to nothing. Nonetheless, there are possibilities for a few migrant Canadas as well as snow/blue geese and white-fronted geese in addition to the occasional experience with local, non-migratory, Kentucky-nesting Canada geese.
Seasons for hunting all those geese begin on Thanksgiving Day as for duck hunting. However, goose seasons run interrupted through Feb. 15.
This year’s daily bag limit for ducks again is a six-duck maximum with the following species daily limits: Four mallards (only two of which can be hens), three wood ducks, two black ducks, two redheads, two canvasbacks and one pintail. The scaup or “bluebill” limit is date dependent. Only one scaup may be taken daily Nov. 25-28 and Dec. 7-17. Two scaup can be taken daily Dec. 18-Jan. 31.
Mergansers are not included within the general duck limit. Counted separately, hunters may take as many as five daily, but only two hooded mergansers can be within those.
For the goose bag limit, among Canada and white-fronted geese and brant, a hunter can take five birds. There is a maximum of three Canadas, two white-fronted geese and one brant, however. For snow geese, the daily limit through the regular season is a generous 20 birds. For a “conservation reserve” season that follows beginning after the close of the traditional season, there is no harvest limit at all.
In terms of mass hunter participation, however, nothing in Kentucky tops the modern firearms deer hunting season, and we are still in the thick of this with weekend number two.
The gun deer season started a week ago today, Nov. 13 (as always, on the second Saturday of November) and continues for 16 days through Nov. 28. This being the second weekend, another major surge of hunters is expected across the state’s woodland and fields today and Sunday.
The initial weekend of the firearms deer season is always the busiest two days on Kentucky’s sporting calendar in terms of hunter participation. Likewise, that opening weekend habitually represents the two days with the greatest deer harvest of the year. It is a usually the result of the most hunters afield, those hunters encountering deer that have not yet experienced peak hunting pressure and typically an elevated level of deer movement associated with the annual reproductive season, the rut.
Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources managers say preliminary Telecheck deer harvest totals show that hunters reported taking 32,389 deer during the first Saturday and Sunday of the firearms season. That total represents an increase of almost 9% over the 29,786 deer taken during the first weekend of last year’s firearms deer season.
Hunters pursuing whitetails in Marshall, Graves, Calloway, Hickman and Fulton counties are reminded of new regulations in place this year with the creation of a CWD Surveillance Zone as a result of the confirmation of a deer infected with chronic wasting disease in Henry County, Tenn., just a few miles from the Kentucky line south of Murray and Calloway County.
Among those regulations, all deer taken in the five-county surveillance zone must be taken to a special CWD-monitoring check station, of which there are multiples in each affected county. This applies to all deer taken during modern firearms and muzzleloading firearms seasons.
Other special regulations for the zone include the ban on removing while deer carcasses to areas outside the zone. Venison must be boned out before it can be removed from the zone. Antlers can be taken out as racks on cleaned skull plates. However, whole deer can be taken to processing houses within the five-county zone. Deer destined for mounting can be taken to taxidermists within the five counties.
Deer hunting in the zone prohibits the baiting of deer or any wildlife feeding other than immediately around the confines of a home. See CWD Surveillance Zone complete details — including locations of the special CWD monitoring check stations — on the KDFWR website, www.fw.ky.gov.
Thanksgiving, Thursday of next week, when Kentucky’s duck and goose seasons open, is also the restart of mourning dove hunting. While most Kentuckians cram most dove hunting into the first couple of weeks of the summer start, this is a lengthy, three-part season.
Dove season opens on the traditional Sept. 1 date and this year ran through Oct. 26. Again, that first season segment stretched way beyond the interest of the masses in dove hunting. For those wingshooters so inclined, however, dove hunting includes late fall and winter options, too.
Segment two runs Thursday, Nov. 25- Dec. 5. Finally, the third, late portion of the dove season is Dec. 18-Jan. 9.
Another warranted reminder is that, while hunting and trapping for most furbearer species opened across Kentucky on Monday after the first firearms deer hunting weekend, bobcats are still off limits for hunters.
Trapping for the wild felines opened with the rest of the furbearer season. Bobcat hunting, however, is delayed until Nov. 27, next Saturday. The later start protects more bobcats from opportunistic taking by firearms deer hunters for an additional 12 days. Starting in a week, the opening does allow some harvest by deer hunters on that last gun season weekend.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to email@example.com or phone 270-575-8650.