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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Ky’s 2022-23 deer season begins Saturday with opening of archery season

A whitetail doe (Photo by Helmer Nielson, via Flickr Commons)

Kentucky’s 2022-23 white-tailed deer season opens Saturday, with the start of archery season. The 136-day season continues through January 16.

The outlook for the 2022-23 deer season is upbeat.

“I think we’ll have a good season,” said Deer Program Coordinator Noelle Thompson. “We’re hoping for good hunting weather. We don’t have CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) in Kentucky and have set up a surveillance zone.”

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Zone

New this season is a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Zone in five counties in the Jackson Purchase — Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman and Marshall Counties — and special regulations have been established.

Kentucky’s 2022-23 deer season zones (Graphic from KDFWR; click for larger image)

CWD is a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids, members of the deer family, including deer, elk, and moose.

Since its discovery in 1967, CWD has spread geographically and increased in prevalence locally. CWD is contagious and transmitted freely within and among cervid populations. No treatments or vaccines are currently available.

Of great concern to wildlife managers and the hunting community, CWD has been detected in at least 23 states, and two Canadian provinces, but does not infect livestock or humans. CWD is transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact, and indirectly through contact with objects or environments contaminated with infectious material, including saliva, urine, feces, and carcasses of CWD-infected animals.

CWD has not been found in Kentucky, but has been detected nearby in western Tennessee.

Special regulations in Kentucky’s CWD Surveillance Zone include:

• 13 Mandatory CWD check stations open during the three weekends of modern gun season.
• No feeding or baiting of deer at any time in the CWD Surveillance Zone.
• No transportation of harvested deer out of the CWD Surveillance Zone. Whole deer carcasses and high-risk parts, including intact heads containing brain material, cannot be moved out of the zone.

For the complete CWD Surveillance Zone regulations consult page 13 of 2022-23 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. 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.

Kentucky deer population dynamics

The 2021-22 Kentucky White-tailed Deer Harvest and Population Report stated that “Overall, the statewide deer population estimate shows a stable to slightly decreasing trend. The 2021 statewide estimate was 919,308 deer at the start of the 2021-22 hunting season, (which is) less than 1 percent below the 10-year average.”

Zone 1 counties have the highest deer densities in the state, are considered reduction zones, with an unlimited bag limit on antlerless deer.

At the other end of the spectrum the Zone 4 counties have the lowest deer densities, and antlerless deer harvest opportunities are very limited.

The Zone 2 and Zone 3 counties are at or near population goals.

Weather influenced last season’s deer harvest

The total number of deer harvested during the 2021-22 deer season was 132,328, which is the ninth highest harvest on record, but a 6.56 percent decrease from the 2020-21 season harvest of 141,620, and 5.6 percent below the 10-year average of 140,129.

Weather played a big role in the harvest decline last season.

During the months of October and November there were several days of warmer than normal weather and rain. In December there was a record-breaking weather event, a widespread tornado outbreak.

All these factors contributed to the lower than expected deer harvest for the overall season, but in January the harvest was the highest on record for the month, 3,788.

Highlights from last season’s deer harvest

Here’s some deer harvest highlights from last season that are relevant going forward:

• The total antlered deer harvest was 68,035; 70.6 percent of which were adult males, 19.8 percent yearling males and 9.5 percent male fawns. It was the sixth highest antlered buck harvest on record.

A whitetail buck (Photo by Joe Lacefield, KDFWR)

The top three counties with highest antlered deer harvest per square mile of habitat were: Anderson County, 4.5 antlered deer/square mile; Pendleton County, 4.4 antlered deer/square mile, and Bracken County, 4.3 antlered deer/square mile.

The antlered buck harvest in Fayette County was 0.6 antlered deer/square mile, the lowest of all 120 Kentucky counties, according to the report.

Kentucky ranks in the top five for all time, in the Boone and Crockett Club record books.

• The total number of female deer harvested was 57,126, which is 11.6 percent lower than the 2020-21 season. However, the percentage of female deer harvested has been relatively stable over the last decade.

• Harvest by weapon type: archery, 14,869 deer; crossbow, 12,202 deer; modern firearm, 96,370 deer, and muzzleloader, 9,245 deer.

Kentucky 2022-23 deer season dates

For this upcoming season there are no changes to the zone status of Kentucky’s 120 counties, season lengths or bag limits.

There are 51 Zone one counties, 34 Zone two counties, 13 Zone three counties and 22 Zone four counties.

• The archery season is September 3 through January 16.
• Youth/Senior crossbow season is September 3 through January 16.
• Crossbow season is September 17 through January 16.
• The youth-only modern gun season is the weekend of October 8-9.
• Early muzzleloader season is October 15-16.
• Modern gun season is November 12-27.
• Late muzzleloader season is December 10-18.
• Free youth weekend is December 31 – January 1.

Deer season regulations

The complete regulations for the 2022-23 Kentucky deer season are available online at fw.ky.gov.

Deer season is a celebration of Kentucky’s wildlife bounty of quality antlered bucks and deer in abundance statewide. Start planning your hunts now.

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