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Art Lander’s Outdoors: 2022 Kentucky deer season produces fourth highest harvest numbers in a decade

Kentucky’s 2022 white-tailed deer season lived up to expectations with a harvest increase.

“The 2022 deer season harvest was the fourth highest in the last decade,” said Deer Program Coordinator Noelle Thompson. “It exceeded the 10-year average by about 2,000 deer.”

Deer in the snow (Photo by Art Lander, Jr.)

During the 136-day season, which ended Monday, January 16, there were 144,504 deer reported taken, which is 12,000 more than last year, and represents a 9.2 percent increase.

The total harvest was 54.8 percent male deer and 45.2 percent female. Of the bucks harvested, 60 percent were 2 1/2 years old or older.

Harvest by weapon type was: archery, 15,671; modern firearm, 104,878; muzzleloader, 10,685, and crossbow, 13,270.

In the Bluegrass wildlife region, which includes 31 counties from Boone County southward, the deer harvest was 40,564. Last season, hunters reported taking 38,616 deer in the region.

The overall statewide season tally was the highest deer harvest reported since the 2019 season.

Top 10 Counties

The top 10 counties in deer harvest were:

1.) Christian (Zone 1), 3,471
2.) Hardin (Zone 1 ), 3,393
3.) Shelby (Zone 1), 2,929
4.) Breckinridge (Zone 2), 2,864
5.) Pendleton (Zone 1), 2,816
6.) Crittenden (Zone 1), 2,707
7.) Hart (Zone 1), 2,701
8.) Washington (Zone 1), 2,700
9.) Nelson (Zone 1), 2,618
10.) Grayson (Zone 2), 2,615

Overall there were 63 counties with a deer harvest of more than 1,000. Menifee County had the lowest harvest in the state, with 202 deer.

Zone 1 counties have the highest deer densities in the state, above management goals. In the Zone 1 counties there is an unlimited bag limit on antlerless deer, provided hunters have obtained the required permits.

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.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was a good fawn crop last spring in some areas of central Kentucky, but Thompson said “ the fawn crop varies by region. It’s localized.”

The 2021-22 Kentucky White-tailed Deer Harvest and Population Report estimated that the statewide deer population was 919,308.

“We don’t expect any major difference in the statewide deer population (this year),” said Thompson. “(That figure) is just a good estimated average.”

Favorable Hunting Weather

Last September as hunting was about to get underway, Thompson said “we’re hoping for good hunting weather.”

And generally, favorable hunting weather was the case throughout most of the season.

Weather during deer season is a major factor in how many hunters go afield, and ultimately the number of deer harvested.

• During the early archery hunts, the weather was warm and sunny with no rain. Hunters posted the second-highest harvest total on record for September, 7,119 deer. That total is 1,090 deer above the 10-year average for September.

• For the early season weekend hunts in October, the youth-only gun season and early muzzleloader, it was also sunny and warm, with no rain.

The total October harvest, which included archery hunting, was 16,072, which is 3,794 more than during October 2021.

• For deer season’s main event, modern gun season, November 12-27, it was cloudy and rainy on opening weekend, then cloudy, with seasonal temperatures and some rain, during the remainder of the season.

Nevertheless, the deer harvest for November was 106,553, an increase of 3,713 deer over November 2021.

“The worst weather was on opening day,” said Thompson. It was good on Sunday (November 13), and was seasonable during the other weekends of the season

Hunters reported taking about 102,000 deer during modern gun season, said Thompson.

a harvested mature white-tailed buck (Photo by Art Lander, Jr.)

• In December and January there were some spells of poor hunting weather during the late muzzleloader season, free youth weekend, and archery seasons. There were heavy rains, snow, bitterly cold temperatures, and wind chills.

But despite these poor weather conditions, the deer harvest was good.

In December, hunters reported taking 11,126 deer, a whopping increase of 3,777 deer more that the 2021 season.

In January the deer harvest dropped only slightly to 3,633 from the 2021 harvest of 3,788, the all-time high for the month.

• A spotty mast crop may have been a factor in the increased deer harvest.

“We aren’t seeing a bumper crop of acorns in most areas, so deer should be on the move in search of food this fall to sustain them through the winter,” said Thompson on November 1, 2022. “This will mean good opportunities for hunters to see more deer.”

Deer harvest in Kentucky over the past 10 years is trending in a range from a high of 155,734 in 2015, to a low of 132,328 in 2021. Fluctuations in deer harvest are a normal occurrence, due to a number of factors.

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