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Understanding deer hunting season in Kentucky

Not all of us are well versed in the sport of deer hunting, so here's the gist of how it works and how it can help people in need.

KENTUCKY, USA — It's officially deer hunting season in Kentucky, but for those of us who don't participate, we may not realize how it impacts the community and environment. 

Deer hunting in Kentucky brings in more than $550 million of total economic benefit annually, and about 300,000 Kentuckians hunt deer each year. Modern gun season alone typically produces 60 to 70% of Kentucky's total annual deer harvest. 

The deer herd in Kentucky is substantial enough to support the harvest of more than 130,000 deer each year. With over 1 million acres of public land available for hunting spots, fishing, and other outdoor activities, Kentucky is one of the top 10 states where hunters go to seek that trophy buck. 

There are several different types of deer hunting seasons, depending on the kind of weapon used. The longest season is Archery, which is open from Sept. 4, 2021 - Jan. 17, 2022. Crossbow season opens shortly after, on Sept. 18, and ends the same day as Archery season. Modern gun season opens on Nov. 13 and will go through Nov 28. 

Modern gun season is designed to occur around the same time as fall breeding, when deer are more active than usual. They also become more active and travel farther as food sources grow more scarce in the winter.

All deer hunters 16 years old and older are required to carry proof of purchasing an annual hunting license and a statewide deer permit while hunting. The permit allows a hunter to take four deer: one antlered, and three antlerless or four antlerless.


To help balance deer herd numbers, Kentucky has four zones that determine bag limits - a.k.a. how many deer hunters can legally harvest each hunting season.

Credit: Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife

To take more than four deer, hunters have to purchase an additional deer permit. This allows them to take up to two additional deer beyond those allowed by the statewide permit in the following combinations: one antlered and one antlerless, or two antlerless. 

Regardless of which permit a deer hunter carries, the statewide season limit for antlered deer is just one per hunter.


All successful hunters have to fill out a harvest log as soon as the deer is taken, before moving it. The info written in the log includes the species and sex of the animal, plus the date and county where it was taken. Then, the deer has to be telechecked to keep track of the number of deer being harvested in a season, to prevent the herd from being depleted too much. 

A carcass tag is required if a harvested deer leaves the hunter's possession for any reason. For example, a tag is required if a hunter drops the deer off to be processed, or takes it to a taxidermist. A harvested animal in a hunter’s possession is assumed to be theirs unless the carcass tag states otherwise. The carcass tag must include the hunter’s name, phone number and telecheck confirmation number. 

Due to the detection of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Tennessee near the Kentucky state border, there are special hunting regulations that apply to all deer hunting in the counties of Fulton, Hickman, Graves, Marshall and Calloway (the CWD Surveillance Zone). 

All deer harvested during modern gun or muzzleloader seasons have to be taken to a mandatory CWD check station to protect the health of the state's deer and elk herds.


After a hunter has harvested a deer, they can either keep it or donate it to an organization. 

Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry is a statewide hunger relief program that processes and distributes donated meat to those in need. It provides an outlet for hunters to help their communities and promote wildlife management.  

All Kentucky hunters can participate in the program, and help turn donated meat into nutritious meals for the less fortunate. 

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