By Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
Warm, windy weather played a role Oct. 17 and 18 in early muzzleloader season when hunters took 2,987 deer, a number sharply down from 2015 when hunters benefitted from the timely arrival of a cold snap.
Biologists with Fish and Wildlife Resources say deer numbers are good across the state, but early returns from the 2016-17 season could portend a smaller harvest overall. Hunters set new harvest records in three of the past four seasons.
“In the end, what matters is what the grand total looks like after the third Monday in January,” said David Yancy, deer biologist. “That’s one advantage of having parts of a five-month deer season. We start in September and we don’t end until mid January.”
Archery hunters got the 2016-17 season off to a good start. The September opener coincided with Labor Day weekend, and archers telechecked a record 1,746 deer over the three days. The weather then turned dry and hot across the state. By the end of the month, hunters had taken a shade more than 5,000 deer, the fifth highest September total on record.
The October harvest is approaching 10,000 deer. The youth-only firearms weekend in early October contributed 3,795 to that number.
November brings the modern gun season, which accounted for 70 percent of a record overall harvest total in the 2015-16 season.
“In the past, when conditions haven’t been ideal for one opportunity, we’ve been able to make it up at a later point in the season,” Yancy said. “So if the October muzzleloader season harvest is down, it may be made up during the modern gun season in November.
“And in some years, when maybe the difference isn’t made up in modern gun, hunters have made some of it up in December muzzleloader and late season archery because there were a lot of deer out there that maybe in previous years hadn’t been. The downside of that is the deer can be pretty spooky by the back-end of the season because they’ve faced hunting pressure since September.”