FRANKFORT – The opening of Kentucky’s fall squirrel season this weekend means hunting opportunities are about to mushroom.
The first week of September brings some migratory bird and waterfowl species into season and sees archery seasons for deer and wild turkey open. It also starts the clock on the quota hunt application period.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources administers quota hunts for deer, pheasant, quail, upland bird and waterfowl on state wildlife management areas (WMAs) and other public lands. Information about these opportunities is available on the department’s website at fw.ky.gov. Click on the “Hunt” tab and choose “Quota Hunts” from the dropdown menu.
The quota hunt application period begins Sept. 1 and spans the entire month. Hunters may apply via the department’s website or over the phone by calling 1-877-598-2401. The minimum charge to apply is $3.
There are 29 quota deer hunts on tap this season and each has a set number of available slots. Hunters applying for a quota deer hunt can pick a first and second hunt choice but may be drawn for only one.
Quota deer hunts strive for balance; that of providing hunting opportunities on popular public areas while supporting the department’s management objectives at those locations. Without them, there might be overharvest and increased risk to fellow hunters.
“We are also trying to minimize the potential for ‘poor quality’ firearm deer hunting on those quota areas,” said David Yancy, deer biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “That is, by limiting the number of gun deer hunters that are allowed to be on a WMA during the quota hunt period, we are endeavoring to reduce the number of occurrences of participating hunters seeing or encountering other hunters during a hunting session.”
New to the quota deer hunt lineup this year are two opportunities within the “Golden Triangle” of Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky.
Kentucky River WMA in Henry and Owen counties expanded with the acquisition of the Boone tract and now will hold a two-day quota deer hunt Nov. 7-8 with 65 hunt slots. Veterans Memorial WMA in Scott County will again hold a two-day quota deer hunt the first weekend of November but this year has added a two-day quota hunt for antlerless deer Dec. 5-6 with 65 hunt slots.
“The reason we did that is we wanted to see if we could further reduce female deer numbers out there,” Yancy said about the new Veterans WMA quota hunt. “An advantage to that is if there’s a quota hunt you really want to get in and don’t have any preference points this is a way to speed up the process.”
Preference points increase a hunter’s odds of being drawn for a quota hunt. Hunters participating in the December quota hunt at Veterans WMA will receive one preference point for each female deer harvested, up to four.
Yancy offers some tips for hunters unsure of where to go.
“Study the regional maps in the hunting and trapping guide or online and see if anything piques your interest,” he said. “Then you could use all the wonderful map tools that are on our website that allow you to look at aerial photos and topography of the various WMAs. Familiarize yourself with how it looks, how it lays, and see if that helps you.”
Bowhunters who also plan to apply for a quota deer hunt can use the archery deer season to their advantage. The archery deer season opens statewide on Sept. 5. Because each WMA that holds a quota deer hunt is open for the archery deer season, hunters can familiarize themselves with an area during archery season.
There is a variety of quota hunt options for the small game hunter.
“You have different opportunities in the state and there are all types of upland hunting experiences,” said John Morgan, small game program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
Pheasant quota hunts are scheduled Nov. 20, 21 and 22 at Green River Lake WMA, Dec. 4, 5 and 6 at Clay WMA and Dec. 11, 12 and 13 at Yellowbank WMA. Drawn pheasant hunters must buy the $25 pheasant quota hunt permit regardless of attendance and carry it while hunting.
Bobwhite quail quota hunts on the Ken Unit of Peabody WMA are scheduled Dec. 1 and Dec. 22, 2015 and Jan. 2, Jan. 9 and Jan. 19, 2016. A mentor hunt is scheduled Nov. 28, 2015.
Upland bird quota hunts at Clay WMA are scheduled Nov. 11, Nov. 15, Dec. 19 and Dec. 22. Hunters may take bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse and woodcock during the upland bird quota hunts, when the seasons for all three species are open. Woodcock season closes Dec. 15.
“There are not a lot of places in the country where you can pull off something like that,” Morgan said.
Waterfowl hunters can apply for quota hunts on Ballard WMA and the Sauerheber Unit of Sloughs WMA, held during the fall and winter duck and goose seasons. Ballard hunts are held Wednesdays through Sundays. Quota hunts are held daily at Sloughs WMA, but hunters must apply for a block of dates.
The dates for these quota hunts and all others will be displayed on the online application. Results of the drawings will be posted on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website in early October. Applicants may also call the department at 1-800-858-1549 during business hours (8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Eastern time, Monday-Friday) and provide either their confirmation number or Social Security number to find out if they were drawn.
Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.