A Million Deer in Kentucky
Courtesy Kentucky New Era


This fall deer season marks a turning point of sorts in the management of Kentucky's burgeoning deer herd, now estimated to number about 690,000 animals but with the potential of ballooning to well over a million animals within a few years.

Wildlife officials say the state easily could accommodate a herd of a million or more deer, but at a sacrifice in quality, with smaller average size and an imbalance of does and mature bucks.

With a goal of managing the herd for quality over quantity, wildlife officials extended this year's modern gun season to 16 days in all zone 1 and zone 2 counties and removed the bag limit on does in zone 1 counties. (Christian, Caldwell, and Trigg counties are in zone 1, while Todd is a zone 2 county.)

The one-buck bag limit remains in effect in all zones this year.

Wildlife officials predict that hunters will harvest about 100,000 deer this year, leaving the herd at roughly the optimum level of about 600,000 animals. For now, they say, the prospect for hunters is excellent, with good numbers of older age-class bucks, and they would like to keep it this way.

Since 1992, only Illinois has produced more recordbook deer per square mile of habitat than has Kentucky. Wildlife officials say the only way to maintain such quality is for hunters to take more does.

David Yancy, assistant deer program coordinator for the state department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, says that without the harvest of does, the herd will grow exponentially because more deer quickly produce even more deer.

"Crop damage would increase along with vehicle collisions and browse lines would develop in wooded areas. Ultimately, deer would be eating themselves out of house and home and the result would be small and unhealthy deer, which means small and unhealthy bucks," Yancy says.

The modern gun deer season opened today (Nov. 11) in zones 1 and 2 and runs for 16 consecutive days util Nov. 26. Antlerless deer only may be taken during the last six days of the season.

Complete information on regulations is available in the 2000-2001 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide.

Hunters for the Hungry

By taking advantage of the liberalized deer season this year, you might say hunters can kill three birds with one stone: Increase their sporting opportunities, help improve the quality of the state's deer herd and help feed the hungry through a new program called "Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry."

KHFH is a non-profit organization that helps distribute donated venison form hunters to Kentucky's poor and needy people.

The KHFH program is supported by the Safari Club International, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Kentucky Harvest, League of Kentucky Sportsmen and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The program works this way: Once a deer is donated, it goes to a licensed meat processor to be deboned, ground into hamburger, packaged and frozen. The meat is distributed to various state shelters, missions, orphanages, etc. that serve the needy.

Information on the program is available by calling the department of Fish and Wildlife at 800-858-1549 on weekdays.

It is unclear for now whether the new program is fully organized throughout the state and whether nay area meat processors have elected to participate.

Meanwhile, area hunters who so choose can donate a portion of their processed venison to the charitable organizations of their choosing. Capt. Robin Starr, commander of the Salvation Army post in Hopkinsville, says his soup kitchen will welcome as much ground venison as storage space will permit.

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