In addition to many of the small game and migratory game bird species you find in the eastern part of the United States, Kentucky also has a desirable array of the big game. Indeed with a booming whitetail deer population, the Bluegrass State not only offers opportunities to put food on the table but also to earn trophy-level harvests. Thus contained in this document you will find all of the necessary information you will need to conduct a successful hunt in the State of Kentucky, right from acquiring the necessary license(s) to registering your takes with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).
How to Get a Kentucky Hunting License
The procedures to get a hunting license in Kentucky is basically the same as it is in other States, meaning buyers have the option of either purchasing them online, in-person or by telephone. The KDFWR has set up a License Sales webpage specifically for the purpose of facilitating the acquisition of hunting licenses online. Acceptable means of transaction for online purchase are Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Cards or a gift certificate from the KDFWR, which can also be purchased online. Unlike some other States, when a license is purchased online, a physical copy is not mailed to the applicant’s home. Instead, they are given an authorization number to validate their approved status. However, a physical copy of the actual license can be printed by the applicant on his or her own computer.
If a hunter instead decides to buy his or her hunting license in-person, the KDFWR has set up a nifty Find a Vendor webpage that features all licensed salespeople in the State. Users can search for sellers by county and are then directed to a list of vendors, including links to Google maps of their locations.
Finally, interested parties have the option of purchasing hunting licenses from the KDFWR via the telephone number provided on their How to Buy Licenses and Permits webpage. Accepted methods of payment for telephone purchases include Visa, MasterCard, and Discover cards, as well as e-checks, and buying licenses using this method carries an additional convenience fee. As with online purchases, successful applicants will receive an authorization number which serves as validation of the license yet can request to have a paper copy mailed to them also.
All active hunters in the State of Kentucky over the age of 12 are required to acquire a hunting license before pursuing game. However, hunters between the ages of 12 and 15 are eligible for licenses at discounted rates. As with other States, hunting licenses for residents of Kentucky are more moderately-priced than those for nonresidents. However, with the exception of tags to hunt big game, the disparity is not nearly as wide as in other parts of the country.
Who is Eligible for a Kentucky Hunting License?
Hunters who practice their craft in Kentucky must always carry the proper documentation, such as applicable hunting licenses or an authorization number (along with a picture ID), while they are on the field. Moreover, all hunters born after 31 December 1974 must carry proof of completion of an accepted hunter education course. That said, the State does offer an exemption permit which allows hunters to sport in Kentucky for one year before completing the course. Upcoming hunter education courses in Kentucky, as well as their locations, can be gleaned via this website. Course instructors can also be contacted directly by telephone or email via the KDFWR’s Hunter Education website. The hunter education course can either be taken in-person or online.
Where to Hunt in the State of Kentucky
The KDFWR has made over 80 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) available to hunters. Information on each WMA can be ascertained by downloading individual PDF documents via the KDFWR’s Wildlife Management Areas/Public Hunting Areas website, and links to directions for each, provided by Google Maps, can be accessed through their Wildlife Management Area & Public Lands Search webpage.
There is also additional acreage open to the hunting public via the KDFWR in collaboration with private landowners. This is known as the Hunting Access Areas program, and just recently the KDFWR proudly announced that they had secured an additional 35,000 acres under this initiative. There are also a number of public sites run by the federal government, such as Daniel Boone National Forest, which provide public access to hunters.
However, the overwhelming majority of land in the State of Kentucky is privately-owned. If a hunter finds the desire or need, such as if wounded game or hunting dogs stray, to enter private land, he or she must first obtain permission from the respective landowner. Please note that many WMAs share borders with privately-owned lands, so it is imperative that hunters know boundaries to avoid potential prosecution. Also, landowners themselves, as well as their immediate families, can hunt on their own land during open seasons without the need for a license.
General Hunting Regulations in Kentucky
Below are a few of the general regulations governing legal hunting activities in the State of Kentucky. This information was ascertained from the Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide available on the official website of the KDFWR, so hunters are strongly encouraged to peruse this document in its entirety before setting forth on expeditions.
- During certain deer (modern gun, muzzleloader, youth firearm), elk (firearm) and bear (firearm) seasons, all hunters (with the exception of those pursuing waterfowl or doves), as well as their companions, are required to wear hunter orange on their upper bodies that is visible from 360 degrees.
- The abovementioned hunter orange cannot be of the camouflaged variety, nor can hunters remove such while using a stand.
- Legal shooting hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise ‘til 30 minutes after sunset.
- Firearms, crossbows, etc. cannot be used within the vicinity of public roads.
- Hunting from vehicles is generally prohibited, except in the case of pursing small game and furbearers using boats.
- Bears cannot be fed, not even indirectly.
- Turkeys cannot be taken when they are roosting or in their domicile.
- Deer and elk cannot be hunted using electronic calling devices or decoys. However, calling devices that are operated using the hunter’s hand or mouth can be used in pursuit of all species.
- Bears and wild turkeys cannot be taken using bait.
- In general, artificial lighting cannot be used directly during hunting.
- Dogs cannot be used to hunt deer or elk.
Hunting Seasons in Kentucky
Below is a summation of hunting seasons of the more-prominent games species available in the State of Kentucky. For more comprehensive information, including a list of all species obtainable, interested parties are encouraged to visit the KDFWR’s Season Dates Search webpage, which happens to be one of the best-organized and easy-to-read displays of hunting seasons for any State.
- Bears have a number of hunting seasons depending on zones and method of taking. In general, these seasons encompass all of Fall and include the latter parts of Summer as well as the early parts of Winter.
- Beavers can be hunted (and trapped) from the latter part of the year into the early part of the proceeding one. The same goes for bobcats, foxes, minks, muskrats, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, and river otters.
- Coyotes have no closed season or bag limits. They can also be hunted at night using artificial lighting during the early part of the year, with the only permissible means of taking during these times being shotguns.
- Deer seasons are generally held during the Fall and also include the earlier portions of Winter.
- Doves can be hunted during the last third of the year, going into the very beginning of the next one.
- Ducks can be hunted for a limited time from the latter part of the year going into the early part of the next.
- All of the hunting seasons for elk are within the Fall months.
- In general, geese can be taken from the last third of the year until the first third of the next. However, there are some exceptions, like if the hunter has a Goose Conversation Order permit.
- Sandhill cranes can be pursued for a relatively brief period during the turn of the year.
- Squirrels can be hunted in the Fall and are one of only two species to also have a Spring season, the other being Turkey, who also have a Fall season.
- There is no closed season on the hunting of feral hogs.
Other species available to gamesmen in Kentucky include the American woodcock, bullfrogs, coot, crows, gallinules, grouse, mergansers, rails, and weasels. Once again, related documentation should be consulted for information on their season dates.
Hunting Guides & Outfitters in the State of Kentucky
Anyone, including the most-experienced hunters, should consider hiring a reputable hunting guide or outfitter, especially if they are venturing into new terrain or hunting a dangerous species. Below is a select list of such professionals located in Kentucky, some of whom may fit the bill in providing a hunter with desired assistance.
- Guidefitter (directory)
- Jonathan Creek Outfitters
- Kentucky Lake Outfitters
- Kentucky Whitetail Outfitters
- Licking River Outfitters
- OMM Outfitters
- River Valley Farms
- Riverbend Whitetails
- Salt River Outfitters
- Silver Creek Outfitters
- Tad Ladd West Kentucky Whitetails
- Ultimate Deer Hunting (directory)
- Whitetail Crossing
- Whitetail Heaven Outfitters
- Worldwide Trophy Adventures
Hunting Lodges in The State Of Kentucky
Many outfitters also have their own lodges, which creates an environment in which a hunter is likely to be more successful if he or she is engaged in a multi-day expedition. Below is a list of a few outfitters that you can contact if you are interested in hunting in their respective areas.
Reporting Hunting Harvests in the State of Kentucky
Big game kills such as bears, bobcats, deer, and elk, as well as river otters and sandhill cranes, must be promptly reported to the KDFWR through their Telecheck system. There is two ways to go about doing this. First is online through their My Profile application. Second is by calling a toll-free telephone number as provided in their Hunting & Trapping Guide.
Bobcats, deer, and elk must be telechecked by midnight of the day the carcass is recovered and before processing of the animal has commenced. Bear kills, however, must be reported by 8:00 pm. Afterward, hunters must call a separate phone number (also provided in the Hunting & Trapping Guide) and arrange to have a KDFWR official come out and physically check and tag the carcass of the bear.
In addition, as per federal regulations, hunters who successfully take migratory birds must mandatorily register their kills into the Harvest Information Program (HIP) for surveying purposes.
The State of Kentucky is one of the best locations in the United States for deer hunting. However, they also have many other attractive and huntable species, including coveted big game such as bears. We hope that this document has been of assistance in guiding you down to the path of pulling off a successful hunting expedition in the Bluegrass State.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Q. Is it necessary to get a permit to hunt in one of Kentucky’s WMAs?
A. Some WMAs require a user permit in order to gain legal access. This also goes for some of the Hunting Access Areas.
Q. I’ve recently moved to Kentucky and acquired land yet don’t know if I qualify as a resident. Do I need to get a license in order to hunt on my own land?
A. Yes, if you have not lived in Kentucky for at least 30 days prior to when you intend to hunt, a license is required even if you are hunting on land that you own.
Q. Who is considered a resident of Kentucky by the KDFWR?
A. A resident is anyone who is permanently or legally domiciled in Kentucky, and when purchasing a license such person would have also had to live in Kentucky for at least 30 days prior to application to be considered a resident. Full-time students who are attending school or military personnel stationed in Kentucky are also considered residents.
Q. I have been unable to attend a hunter education course and as such has acquired a temporary exemption permit instead. Are there any stipulations attached to this special status?
A. Yes. If you are hunting using an exemption permit, regardless of your age you must also be accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 18 years of age. You must also remain in the immediate vicinity of such hunter while out on the field.
Q. Is falconry permissible in the State of Kentucky?
A. Yes. And there is also a relatively-long falconry season that spans over six months. However, falconers must first purchase the applicable permit before practicing their craft.