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News Articles

13
More elk mean more hunting permits

STATE WILDLIFE COMMISSION SAYS GROWING HERD COULD REACH 8,000 BY 2007

By Art Lander Jr.

HERALD-LEADER OUTDOORS WRITER


Next year 100 permits will be issued for elk hunting in Kentucky, and elk hunters will have access to 50,000 more acres of privately owned lands.

At its recent quarterly meeting, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to increase the number of elk permits by 58, from the 42 issued this year, and the trend of more hunting opportunities seems likely to increase.

Kentucky's elk herd now numbers about 4,600 animals, roaming 2.2 million acres in 16 Eastern Kentucky counties.

In 2005 hunters will draw for 50 bull elk tags and 50 cow elk tags.

The department's director of wildlife, Jon Gassett, said the number of elk permits issued is going to increase every year as the herd grows and could reach 800 by 2007.

"Once the target goal of 8,000 elk is reached, 1,600 elk will need to be harvested annually to maintain a stable population."

Hunters will have two new hunting areas in 2005 -- some 50,000 acres, including land adjacent to the 15,000-acre Starfire Limited Entry Area in Breathitt, Knott and Perry counties, where elk were first hunted in Kentucky.

Also new for 2005: Hunters will be required to purchase a $10 permit to be able to hunt elk outside the 16-elk zone. So far, 19 elk were taken outside the elk zone this fall, Gassett said, including seven in Estill and Laurel counties, and one each in Wolfe, Owsley, Bath, Wayne, and Jackson counties.

2006 wild turkey season extended

Beginning in 2006, wild turkey hunters will get a longer season with four weekends to hunt bearded turkeys during the spring season.

The 2006 spring turkey season will open on Saturday, April 15, and extend for 23 consecutive days, through Sunday, May 7. In 2005, the spring season will be just 21 days long and start on Friday, April 15.

"Only time will tell if adding another weekend of hunting to the end of the season will have an impact," said Jim Lane, wild turkey biologist. "It could put added pressure on the birds (gobblers and nesting hens)."

Beginning in 2005, it will be illegal to possess an electronic or digital calling device while hunting. The palm-sized units, which are operated hands-free, sell for about $20.

Bear research continues

Bears are expanding their range into Kentucky, and biologists are learning more about their habits and wanderings as time passes.

In a written update to the Commission, department biologists noted that five nuisance bears were captured last summer, and eight "new" bears (previously unknown animals) were instrumented (fitted with transmitter collars).

Since 1987 department biologists have handled 75 bears, but only 16 percent were females, which indicates an early stage of re-colonization.

Telemetry studies have shown that a female's home range is about 11 square miles, while a male's home ranges is about 124 square miles.

For the third year, hair samples were collected and sent for genetic analysis, to better assess population levels.

Antlerless deer opportunities rise

Kentucky's last firearms season of the year continues through Sunday, Dec. 19, and biologists are asking hunters to take an antlerless deer during the late muzzleloader season.

"Zone 1 and Zone 2 counties are the most densely populated," said deer biologist Jonathan Day. "But the late muzzleloader season may be the most important in Zone 4 counties because it's the only time during the deer season that antlerless deer can be harvested with a firearm."

Day said even though herds are being managed in Zone 4 for growth, it's important that it be a controlled growth, with a balanced sex ratio of does to bucks.

"We gradually increase the opportunity to take antlerless deer to avoid an explosion in the population, while at the same time this allows hunters to benefit from bigger herds," said Day.

The late muzzleloader season was lengthened this year, and now gives hunters two full weekends, and five weekdays to hunt. The weather is typically cold and deer are concentrated on winter food sources, which makes for good hunting conditions.

The late rut is also a factor in hunting success. According to a study of deer conception dates, the period between Dec. 16-26 is a secondary peak of mating activity in Kentucky.

"We'd really like to see our season's total harvest go up to around 125,000, with a hard push on the antlerless segment of the herd as the season winds down," said Day. "Taking antlerless deer is what assists in herd control, and that's what we'd like for our hunters to focus on after they take a buck, or while waiting for one to show up."

Last season muzzleloader hunters bagged 16,410. So far this season they've taken 9,515.

Hunters killed a record 89,000 deer in November. Archery hunting continues through Jan. 17, 2005.

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