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Art Lander’s Outdoors: It’s a wrap — a quick review of Kentucky’s 2016-17 deer season

It’s a wrap. Kentucky’s 2016-17 deer season ended last week with the conclusion of archery hunting.

The season will likely be remembered for unseasonable weather conditions that impacted hunter participation, a bumper crop of acorns that meant deer didn’t have to move around as much to find food, and full moons during prime hunting dates, that caused deer to move less during daylight hours.

Here’s some news and observations:

* Kentucky’s deer population continues to grow, but a slight decline in overall harvest was anticipated for the 2016-17 season.

For the past five seasons, deer harvests have been trending up and down, in a statistical range from a low of 131,395 during the 2012-13 season, to last season’s record high of 155,429.

Modern gun season continues to be the main event on Kentucky’s annual hunting calendar. The deer harvest during modern gun season has increased by 34.5 percent, from 76,421 in 2010, to 102,848 in 2016 (Photo Provided)

The 2016-17 deer season harvest total was the third highest on record at 139,429, and it was the fifth consecutive season that the overall harvest surpassed 130,000.

The biggest surprise of the 2016-17 season might be that for the first time in 18 seasons, Owen County did not lead the state in deer harvest. That honor went to Pendleton County, where hunters checked in 3,242 deer. Pendleton County is smaller than Owen County, at 282 square miles, compared to 354 square miles, and adjoins Grant County to the west. Owen County’s deer harvest was second with 3,106.

Three counties in western Kentucky rounded out the top five in deer harvest: Crittenden, 3,080; Graves, 2,857, and Christian, 2,771.

* Hunters continued the trend of harvesting more bucks than does. This past season 56.6 percent of the deer killed were antlered, and 43.4 percent were antlerless.

According to deer harvest data posted on fw.ky.gov the 2005-06 season was the last time there was a higher percentage of does than bucks in the harvest — 52 percent does to 48 percent bucks.

More does than bucks in the harvest slows herd growth. This is needed in Zone 1 counties, where deer densities are above target, and the management goal is herd reduction.

Of the top 10 counties in deer harvest for the 2016-17 season, only Graves County had a higher percentage of does (52.6 percent) than bucks (47.4 percent) in the harvest.

* Archery season, the longest of five deer seasons in Kentucky (the others being crossbow, muzzleloader, youth, and modern gun), got off to a fast start.

“We set an archery opening weekend record,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The weather was unseasonably cool and hunters took advantage of (good hunting conditions).”

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

Over the three-day holiday weekend, which ended on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, bow hunters checked in 1,746 deer.

“Then September turned dry and hot across the state, and the harvest declined back to harvest numbers similar to 2011 and 2012 seasons,” said Jenkins.

Archers bagged 5,009 deer during the month of September, 1,641 fewer than the previous September.

Kentucky’s archery season, which ended Jan. 16, 2017, was 136 days long and extended for parts of five months. The final tally was 19,567 deer reported taken, or 3,756 less than the 2015-16 season, when there was a record archery kill of 23,323 deer.

* The deer harvest during the youth season for boys and girls under the age of 16, on Oct. 8-9 was 3,795, which is statistically on average. The 10-year average deer harvest for the weekend season is 3,851 deer.

* The deer harvest during the early muzzleloader season, Oct. 15-16, was one of the lowest on record for the weekend season, which debuted in 1990.

“High winds, 80 degree daytime temperatures, nearly a bumper crop of acorns and a full moon all played into account for the sharp decline in the harvest,” said Jenkins.

Hunters checked in just 2,988 deer, or 4,110 deer below the 10-year average for the season of 7,098 deer.

* Modern gun season continues to be the main event on the annual hunting calendar, the season when a majority of the deer are taken.

The deer harvest during modern gun season has increased by 34.5 percent, from 76,421 in 2010, to 102,848 in 2016. This season hunting conditions were excellent, the rut was in full swing, and lots of hunters were successful.

“Hunters checked in 41,796 deer the first weekend of modern gun season,” said Jenkins. “The total harvest for the 16 days (in Zones 1-4) was the second highest on record.”


Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for NKyTribune and KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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