All About Hunting In Kentucky

Kentucky is a breathtakingly beautiful southeastern state bounded by the Ohio River in the north and by the Appalachian Mountains in the east.

It is a home to a variety of species of exotic species of both animals and birds to keep you on the hook. Kentucky has about five percent of the state land for hunting.

Not only is there an abundance of deer and land to hunt on, but Kentucky is also known to have friendly people who offer trips and hunting excursions to outsiders.

A substantial proportion of nonresident visitors also use public lands and waters for hunting, fishing and boating because of their accessibility.

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1.What Species To Hunt

While visiting field trips in Kentucky your hunting experiences won’t be just limited to just a few wildlife species of animals, Kentucky offers you a wide variety of both animal and bird wildlife species.

There is something for everyone. There are species like Deer, Elk, Beer, Coyote, Bobcat, Raccoon, Opossum, Bullfrog, Fall Turkey.

Various migratory birds like Dove, Virginia & Sora Rail, Woodcock, Snipe, Common Purple Gallinule and sandhill crane; aquatic bird species like Early Teal & Wood, Canada Goose Ducks, Coat, Merganser.

Species like Rabbits, Squirrels, Quail, Grouse and Falconry are also present under the category of small hunting animals.

Various other common wildlife like crows, Turtles, Groundhog are also found here to enhance your hunting experience here.

Deer Hunting FAQs

2. Seasons

Hunting seasons determine when it is the right time to hunt a specific animal species. It is decided or determined depending upon various factors like breeding times, conservation efforts and population of the species.

In Kentucky, hunting starts around early September and lasts till the end of February.

2.1 Big Game

Big game hunting in Kentucky consists of wildlife species like Deer, Beer, Fall turkey, Elk and various migratory bird species.

Hunting season for Deer starts around early September and lasts around end of December. For beer it begins around late October and goes up till mid-December.

For fall turkey the hunting season is slightly short; it usually starts from the first week of September and ends in mid-December.

Elk hunting season starts around early September and gives hunters a good time to hunt and explore as it lasts till the end of December.

2.2 Migratory Birds

 Migratory birds within themselves have a very special time period to visit and in Kentucky there is a variety of them like Dove, Virginia and sora rail, woodcock, snipe, Coyote, sandhill crane to name a few.

The hunting season starts around early September and lasts till the end of January except for coyotes it can be hunted all year long.

2.3 Waterfowl

Waterfowl species like Early Teal, Wood Duck, September Canada Goose, coat, Merganser and various species of Ducks.

The season for hunting starts in September and lasts for a month for most of the species except for Ducks, Coat, Merganser the hunting season starts around early November and is till the end of January.

2.4 Other Species

This basically consists of various species that are widely available like crows, Bullfrog, Groundhog and turtles.

Crows, Groundhog and Turtles have a same hunting season and are been hunted year around but for Bullfrog the hunting season usually starts around mid-October goes on till end of October.

2.5 Small Game Animals

Animals like Quail, Grouse, Squirrel, Rabbits and falconry. Rabbits and Squirrels are considered small game hunting animals; they usually have the same hunting season which starts around mid-November and lasts till the end of January.

Whereas others like Quail, Grouse and Falconry have a similar hunting time starting from November and goes around till the end of February. Raccoon & Opossum has the same hunting starting from mid-October ends around end February.

Fall Hunting Guide

3. Where Can You Hunt

3.1 Wildlife Management Areas

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife owns, leases or manages more than 85 wildlife management areas for public use. In some areas permits are required.

It also has the facilities to provide public access on various privately-owned lands, known as hunting access areas. Several public use areas have special rules and aim hunting season dates that are different from statewide seasons.

3.2 State Park And Other Open-Door Deer Hunts

Open deer hunts are offered in the following mentioned places:

3.2.1 Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort

Archery and Crossbow which starts on the first Thursday in November for four consecutive days. Modern guns usually start from the second Saturday in January for two consecutive days.

3.2.2 Lake Barkley State Resort Park

Archery and crossbow only on the first Monday in November for five consecutive days; Modern gun starting the first Tuesday in January for two consecutive days.

3.2.3 Taylorsville Lake State Park

Archery and Crossbow only on the first Thursday in November for four consecutive days; Modern gun usually starts on the first Sunday in December for two consecutive days and lastly for Muzzleloader it is the second Saturday in January for two consecutive days.

3.2.4 Yatesville Lake State Park and Lawrence Country Recreation Area

Muzzleloaders start from the second Monday of December for three consecutive days.

Kentucky Public Land Hunting Opportunities

3.3 Other Open Deer Hunts

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park: opens on the second Saturday of January for two consecutive days, limit is up to two deer out of which one may be antlered. It is limited impaired hunters who check in at the park the day before the hunt

3.4 Mobility Impaired Hunting Area Access

Kentucky offers special exceptions to hunting for the mobility -impaired and want to have the experience of hunting.

A Mobility impaired person gets the facilities like discharge of firearm or other legal hunting device, motor vehicle shall be used to wait or watch the game, facilities of wheelchair and other transportation facilities are also provided.

Vehicular access is not permitted near the fields, opening roads, paths or the agricultural crops. It is recommended for them to wear all the safety equipment like a helmet, safety glasses and is designated with a qualified assistant.

Track and dispatch wounded animals are also available according to the rules and laws.

4. Licenses Requirements

People attempting to take game are considered hunters and hence license is required to carry on with all sorts of activities. If people cannot show proper license while hunting might risk them citation. Paper license and permits must be signed before the hunter goes on field.

4.1 License Requirements and Exemptions

  • All the residents and non-residents must fill out and carry the proper license and permit to fish any Kentucky waters or to hunt in Kentucky.
  • A trapping license is a must have for all the resident and nonresident trappers ages 12 and older, including all the landowners and tenants unless otherwise provided by law.
  • Landowner/tenant trapping licenses are only valid for landowners, tenants or their dependents who are trapping on their own property.
  •  A youth trapping license is available for resident trappers between the age group of 12-15. Trappers under the age group of 12 are not required to purchase a trapping license.
  • A person who does not meet the criteria of being a Kentucky resident which is any person who has established permanent and legal residence in Kentucky, and resided in Kentucky for 30 days prior to applying for a license, full-time students enrolled in an educational institution for at least six months, or military service personnel on permanent assignment in Kentucky will be considered a nonresident and must purchase nonresident licenses and permits.
  •  Nonresident youth hunters are subjected to the same requirement criteria as other resident youth hunters. A nonresident who owns land in Kentucky must purchase nonresident licenses and permits.
  • Resident and nonresident children under the age group of 16 are allowed to do fishing without any license or permit. Resident and nonresident hunters under the age group of 12 are not required to purchase hunting licenses or permits, except if it’s for the elk lottery application, elk quota hunt permit, out-of-zone elk permit and bear permit.
  • Resident owners of farmlands, their spouses and dependent children hunting or fishing on their lands. This also applies to tenants actually engaged in work and residing on farmlands, their spouses and dependent children. To be classed as a tenant, a person must both live and work on a farm.
  • This allows new hunters in Kentucky to hunt for an entire year (from date of purchase) without getting a hunter education card. The permit requires its holder to hunt with a licensed, adult hunter (at least 18 years old) who meets the hunter education requirement. The adult shall be in a position to take immediate control of the exempted hunter’s bow or firearm at all times while hunting. This law applies even if the exempted hunter is an adult.
  • After the hunter education exemption permit expires, the hunter is no longer exempted to hunt without a license and should immediately complete a hunter education course.
  • The temporary hunter education exemption permit is only valid in the State of Kentucky. It is not accepted at other places like the Blue Grass Army Depot or Fort Campbell.
  • Resident landowners, spouses and dependent children, tenants, their spouses and their dependent children are only on hunter education exempt on the property they own, or the property where they reside and work. While hunting elsewhere, they must comply with Kentucky’s hunter education law.

4.2 How to Buy Licenses and Permits

4.2.1 Online

All Kentucky hunting and fishing licenses and permits can be issued through the official hunting and fishing website of Kentucky. licenses can be printed online for free.

Payments for the online permits and license can be done with a Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover card, or a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife gift certificate. Gift certificates are also sold here online.

Online license will not be mailed to you, instead you will receive an authorization number. you will have to get a print out along with a picture ID to the hunting and fishing field activity.

4.2.2 In-Person

Licenses and permits can also be purchased throughout the state including country stores, at a few county clerks’ offices, local hunting and fishing businesses, and some other chain stores that sell outdoor sporting goods.

4.2.3 On Phone

Licenses and permits can be purchased through phone calls by simply calling at 877-598-2401 lines are available for 24 hours. All licenses and permits, except for the disability license, elk drawing application and youth licenses and permits, can be purchased through phone calls.

Those who purchase licenses and permits by phone will be charged a small convenience fee, and it can be paid through a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card, or an e-check. an authorization number will be issued which serves as the license or permit. On the request of the purchaser a paper license or permit can also be mailed. It is the responsibility of the caller to know what type of license or permit is needed before calling.

5. Rules and Regulations

5.1 Landowner Permission

A person cannot not enter premises of others land to shoot, hunt, trap, fish or for any other wildlife-related purposes without any oral or written permission from the landowner, tenant, or person who has authority to grant permission. Those who fail to obtain permission will be subjected to arrest and further prosecution.

You need to have a permission beforehand to hunt, trap or fish on privately owned property. Landowners are not compelled to allow hunters to retrieve game or hunting dogs from their property.

5.2 Hunter Education

People who are born on or after Jan. 1, 1975 should carry a valid hunter education card or hunter education exemption permit while coming to the field.

Hunter education courses are held throughout the state, Ever since March 1, 2014. pre-registration should be done online in order to receive the hunter education card.

Children should be the age of 9 to take the hunter education course. People who successfully complete the course are issued with an orange certification card.

Hunter education cards issued by Kentucky are not applicable for any other state.

Children younger than the age of 12 are exempted from hunter education certification, but should be accompanied by an adult who meets the hunter education requirement.

The adult must be in a position to take immediate control of the bow or firearm at all times while hunting. One adult cannot accompany more than two hunters under the age of 12 at the same time.

5.3 Apprentice Hunting Opportunities

People who are new to hunting and have not yet taken the hunter education course may buy a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit online, this allows all the new hunters to hunt without a hunter’s card for up to a year (from date of purchase).

The permit needs its holder to hunt with a licensed, adult hunter (at least 18 years old) who meets the hunter education requirement. The adult should be in a position to take immediate control of the exempted hunter’s bow or firearm at all times while hunting.

This law applies even if the exempted hunter is an adult. After the education exemption permit expires, you are no more allowed to hunt and will have to wait till the completion of the hunter education course. The temporary hunter education exemption permit is valid only in Kentucky.

Resident landowners, spouses and dependent children, tenants, their spouses and their dependent children have the hunter education exempt only on their own property or the property where they reside or work. While hunting elsewhere, they must comply with Kentucky’s hunter education law.

5.4 Replacement Hunter Education Cards

Free replacement hunter education cards can also be printed online.

5.5 Orange Hunter Clothing Law

All hunters, and people accompanied by them, must wear garments of orange color visible from all sides on the head, back and chest when hunting during daylight hours for any species using the modern gun, muzzleloader, and youth firearm deer seasons, or a firearm elk or bear season.

Waterfowl and dove hunters are exempted from this rule. Hunter orange garment is a mesh like material, in which the mesh weave is no wider than one-quarter inch by measurement. Garments may have a small portion of another color also.

Hunter (Blaze) Orange Requirements in Kentucky

5.6 Spotlighting

No one can deliberately cast spotlight or any other artificial light into any field, pasture, woodlands or forest, whether public or private, where wildlife or domestic livestock may reasonably be located.

Shining artificial lights into private residences or other structures also is prohibited.

This rule does not apply to:

  • Headlights of vehicles engaged in a normal course of travel
  • Lights being used in legitimate agricultural activities
  • Anyone involved in activities legitimate to his or her business or occupation
  • Circumstances including lawful hunting activities
  • Any landowner, his or her immediate family, or any paid employee while working on his or her land at that time.

No person should take wildlife, except raccoons, opossums, frogs and fishes, using lights, or other means designed to blind wildlife or make wildlife visible at night. Exceptions apply for coyotes.

5.7 Sunrise and Sunset Tables

Sunrise and sunset tables are usually provided by USNO.

5.8 Shooting Hours

Shooting hours for various species are usually listed in the guides except raccoons, opossums, and frogs can be hunted during daylight hours only – 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. However, hunters can stay in the field or stand before and after the shooting hours.

Raccoons and opossums may be hunted during both day or night, except during modern gun deer season when raccoon and opossum hunting is only permitted at night. Exceptions also apply for coyotes.

5.9 Hunting Method Exemptions

The department provides exemptions to hunters having certain physical disabilities to hunt with a crossbow during archery-only seasons, or to use a stationary vehicle as a hunting platform.

However, people with qualifying physical disabilities should first have an exemption form completed and signed by a licensed physician certifying why the exemption is necessary.

Forms are available online or by calling 1-800-858-1549.

A completed exemption form serves as the hunter’s exemption permit. It should not be returned to the department.

People who have an exemption are still required to have the appropriate hunting license and permits, and are needed to carry the signed exemption form with their hunting license and permits while in the field.

5.10 Convicted Felons

A person convicted of a felony is restricted from possessing or hunting with a firearm (Breech, muzzle- loading rifles, shotguns and handguns are considered as firearms), in the state of Kentucky.

The prohibition on handguns applies to those who were convicted after Jan. 1, 1975. The restriction on other firearms applies to those who were convicted after July 15, 1994.

5.11 Transportation And Holding Of Live Native Wildlife

A person may not take or possess live wildlife without first obtaining a permit when prescribed by regulation.

A person shall not hold live native wildlife captive that was not legally taken or possessed. A person shall not buy or sell, offer to buy or sell, trade, or barter native wildlife or parts obtained from the wild. Wildlife acquired prior to obtaining the proper permits may be confiscated and the holder fined.

Orphaned wildlife animals can only be possessed by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Persons transporting live deer or other types of cervids (members of the deer family) without proper documentation or permits, or holding live deer captive in un-permitted facilities or pens, are subject to severe fines and may have their animals confiscated or destroyed.

5.12 Bag Limit

Bag Limit is defined as the number of a particular species that an individual angler can harvest and possess in a given day. Bag limit and limits apply to all individuals who are present at the field for hunting. At least one person must be 18 years of age or older.

Bag Limit for popular hunting animals like Deer, beer and Elk is one animal per year per person regardless of the season. Whereas for species like wild turkey the limit is up to four in total out of which two of them should be taken down by shotgun.

6. Game Calling

Hand or mouth-operated calls can be used for hunting all species. A hunter can attract furbearers during the furbearer season with the use of electronic calls.

Mechanical or electronic calls can also be used to attract crows but only during crow season. Deer, turkey and elk hunters should not use or possess any electronic calling devices.

7. Prohibited Hunting Methods

  • No one should discharge any firearm, bow and arrow, crossbow or other similar device over or across any public roadway.
  • Hunting is strictly prohibited in highway or interstate medians.
  • No person should attempt to take wildlife, protected or unprotected, from an automobile, or any other vehicle, except as prescribed by regulation.
  • Hunting from boats is permitted for small game and furbearers.
  • A person should not pursue, chase or take a deer, elk, or turkey (during the spring turkey season) with the aid of dogs; while on horseback; or when a deer, elk or bear is swimming.
  • Dogs may be used to locate and flush turkeys during the fall turkey seasons only.
  • It is illegal to feed bears directly or indirectly for any reason.
  • No person should take wildlife with the aid of fire, smoke, explosives or gas.
  • Baiting is prohibited on all WMAs, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Jefferson National Forest, land between the lakes and state parks open to hunting.
  • Deer and elk/ beer hunters should not use electronic decoys or calls.
  • No person shall take a turkey when the turkey is roosting.
  • Anybody hunting wild turkeys should not use live turkeys as decoys.
  • Wild turkey or bears shall not be hunted by the aid of bait, nor shall areas be hunted where bait is present. This includes private lands that are being baited for deer.
Crossbow and Bow Shooting Safety


Kentucky provides plethora of opportunities for casual as well as serious hunters. Its diverse wildlife and terrain has something to offer to everyone.

Whether it be big game, or small game, Kentucky will leave you with a satisfied hunting experience:


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