Thursday is Thanksgiving, but that turkey day also represents duck day for many Kentucky waterfowl hunters.
The opening of the common-
wealth’s early stint of the regular duck season is superimposed over the holiday. The four-day segment runs Thursday-Sunday, overlapping the stretch through the holiday weekend during which many hunters manage to find some “off” time when they can have the year’s first go at the traditional migratory duck mixture.
Following the Nov. 26-29 duck sampler period, the season closes, only to reopen Dec. 7 to run the duration of the 60 days allowed for Kentucky duck hunting under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service framework. The season closes Jan. 31.
While it fails to generate nearly the interest that duck hunting does, Kentucky’s goose hunting season also commences Thursday. Hunting for Canada, snow and white-fronted geese and brant is open continuously from Nov. 26 through Feb. 15.
Unlike years of decades well past, few if any Interior Canada geese migrate southward to this latitude nowadays. There are some Canadas present, of course, but these are local nesting, non-migratory resident birds.
Goose hunting is mostly a sideline pursuit, with resident Canadas providing some occasional marks along with a smattering of migrant white-fronted geese and feast-or-famine flocks of snow geese that may be working back and forth from roosting habitats like Ballard Wildlife Management Area.
Also unlike decades past, duck hunting is the headliner event among waterfowl seasons now. As in the past several years, continental duck populations are robust, leading to “liberal option” offerings from federal waterfowl managers. That take, based on continuing high numbers of ducks in U.S. and Canadian surveys, still gets us 60-day seasons and six-bird bag limits.
This year’s daily bag limit for ducks is that 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 canvasbacks and one pintail. The scaup or “bluebill” limit is date dependent. Only one scaup may be taken Nov. 26-29 and Dec. 7-17. Two scaup daily can be taken 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.
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.
• Waterfowl hunting that is on the way will overlap with Kentucky’s ongoing red-letter hunting season, the modern firearms deer season. This continues as we speak — or rather, as I write and you read.
Today and Sunday bring the second weekend of the gun deer season, a significant period of hunter participation that typically brings another major bump in deer harvest. The firearms hunt is Nov. 14-29 this year. (It always starts on the second Saturday of November, for years now running 16 consecutive days and encompassing three weekends.)
Last Saturday and Sunday, the much-heralded opening weekend of the gun hunt, in part ran afoul of some passing rainy conditions. Many or most hunters did their due diligence nonetheless, and early results from the Telecheck game harvest reporting system suggested that approaching 30,000 Kentucky deer were taken during the weekend.
Kentucky’s 2020-21 deer harvest was off to a record start with archery and crossbow results during September, followed by strong showings during the early youth firearm season and the early muzzleloader season. The opening gun weekend, however, looks to have fallen short of last year’s opening weekend (perhaps 34,000 harvested).
Last year’s firearms harvest was a record high by a few dozen, although the all-seasons, all-weapons total was somewhat short of that from 2015-16, when all those hunting methods produced the standing record harvest of 155,730 deer.
• Firearms deer hunting presently is concurrent in Illinois and Kentucky.
As it is in Kentucky, the firearms hunting season for deer is the busiest hunting period for Illinoisans. Sportsmen and women there get seven days of regular firearms hunting in two segments.
Illinois’ first segment of gun hunting is under way now. It opened Friday and runs through Sunday. A second stint of four hunting days comes Dec. 3-6.
Illinois firearms deer hunters are restricted to shotguns firing single-projectile ammunition, slugs, or muzzleloading firearms. By contrast, Kentucky firearms deer hunters can use centerfire rifles.
• While much of Kentucky sporting pursuits are directed at deer at present, small game and furbearer seasons are at full bore. Hunting seasons for squirrel, raccoon and ‘possum were suspended during last weekend’s first two days of gun deer hunting, but those resumed Monday.
Monday also brought the opening of Kentucky’s rabbit and quail seasons in the west Kentucky zone and hunting and trapping for most furbearer species. West Kentucky rabbit and quail hunting runs through Jan. 31. The furbearer season continues through Feb. 28.
Hunters should be alert to the delayed opening of the bobcat hunting season. That comes Nov. 28. Therefore, deer hunters in the woods during the next week must refrain from any bonus opportunity should a bobcat happen by during that period.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 270-575-8650.