Early waterfowl opportunities next week merge with ongoing hunting pursuits across Kentucky.
The annual mourning dove season has been in high gear since the Sept. 1 opening day, and the first weekend of September brought in the long-running archery deer and turkey hunting season. The senior/youth crossbow season for deer opened along with the archery hunting.
Over in the far eastern end of Kentucky, those hunters who applied for and were drawn for the appropriate permits as of today can hunt for elk in the early archery and crossbow season for those native, re-established big game critters.
Yet, Friday of next week brings the opening of the early Canada goose hunting season statewide. This Sept. 16-30 stint is an opportunity for warm season waterfowlers to take local-nesting, non-migratory Canada geese.
Migrant geese, interior Canadas, barely reach Kentucky nowadays because of a general shortening of their annual migration route, but even that can be ruled out during the hunting period scheduled during September. Hunters can have confidence that geese encountered during the season beginning in late summer are resident Canadas.
The season serves a twofold purpose. It provides hunters with some non-traditional waterfowling opportunities. Moreover, it gives wildlife managers a means to exert some control on the flourishing numbers of local-nesting geese. Over recent decades, non-migratory honkers have multiplied generously and with minimal natural checks in the environment, in some cases they have expanded their ranks to pest status. The September season provides a way to moderate those numbers.
Regulations for September goose hunting are the same as the regular season except for the daily bag limit. The maximum harvest is five Canada geese per day per hunter. That typical amounts to a rather modest harvest, however, because of light participation of waterfowlers in the September season.
More interest is shown in an early season that begins next Saturday and runs five days, Sept. 17-21. That’s the special early wood duck and teal season. Kentucky hunters have a rare opportunity to hunt local nesting wood ducks, the state’s native ducks, before the early migrating birds wing off to more southerly locales each fall. Kentucky’s own homegrown woodies most often are gone and unavailable to hunters during the regular waterfowl season that begins on Thanksgiving Day. The wood duck opportunities are combined with the chance to gun for early migrating blue-winged, green-winged and cinnamon teal that sometimes can be intercepted moving through Kentucky latitudes during the September season. Following the five-day season with both wood ducks and teal may be taken, Kentucky hunters are offered another four days, Sept. 22-25 during which teal and teal only may be bagged.
General waterfowl regulations must be followed during the wood duck/teal and the teal-only seasons. Daily bag limits are six birds, no more than two of which may be wood ducks, during the wood duck/teal season, and six teal during the teal-only period.
The early Canada goose season overlaps the wood duck and teal hunting beginning with the second day of the honker season, so hunters have an opportunity for a mixed bag in habitats where these varied species happen to mingle.
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The Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commission in a recent meeting voted to address hunter concerns and observations of wild turkey population decline by reducing the seasonal bag limit for fall either-sex turkey hunting.
The reduced bag limit is scheduled to take effect beginning with the fall hunting of 2023. The change will not effect fall hunting of the current season. That, in part, already is under way with the archery hunting season for both deer and turkey that began last week, the first Saturday in September, Sept. 3. The existing bag limit on turkeys during fall hunting is four birds for the fall period regardless of weapon or weapon-specific season (archery, crossbow or shotgun). Among those four birds, no more than one can be a bearded turkey with a beard of three inches or longer. That stipulation limits the harvest of mature gobblers.
The bag limit to take effect in the fall of 2023 will effectively reduce the number of hen turkeys that will be taken. It will set a limit of two birds, only one of which can be a hen (or beardless turkey) and only one of which can be a turkey with a beard of three inches or longer.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to email@example.com or phone 270-575-8650.