Young guns after the whitetails arrive.
Next Saturday, as is customary on the second Saturday in October, Kentucky youth will have the first gun hunting opportunities of the year of the deer.
That weekend, Oct. 8-9, is the state’s juvenile deer season, which means kids under the age of 16 can use modern firearms when hunting deer. Each youth hunter must be accompanied by a supervising adult who must remain in position to take control of the youth’s firearm.
Any participating child hunter ages 12-15 must have a youth hunting license, a youth deer permit, and certification of completion of a hunter education course. An alternative to hunter education documentation is a one-year, one-year hunter education exemption permit, which is sold only online at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife website, www.fw.ky.gov.
Children under the age of 12 may hunt without a license, deer permit, and hunter education requirements, but must be closely supervised by an adult at all times.
Both young deer hunters and their accompanying adult supervisors must wear solid fluorescent orange clothing on their head, back, and chest while out in the field. Because it is gun deer season, during the juvenile hunt, other hunters such as bow and crossbow deer hunters or squirrel hunters out in the field during the day should also wear fluorescent orange during the weekend season. of week. Pigeon hunters are exempt from the orange dress requirement, as are raccoon and opossum hunters who may be active at night.
As in more recent years, young deer permits, like regular deer permits, are valid for up to four deer. Zone 1 counties, like all counties in the far west, are open to harvesting an unlimited number of antlerless deer, beyond four, through additional antlerless deer permits. Additional permits, $15 each, are good for two more antlerless deer.
Kentucky still has a limit of one antler per hunter per hunting year. In Zone 1 counties, a hunter, young or not, may take any number of antlerless deer, but only one buck with antlers.
Young deer hunters are still in effect under special regulations in place for hunters in Calloway, Graves, Marshall, Fulton and Hickman counties, the current Kentucky CWD Watch Zone. Parts of those five counties moved them into a zone of heightened alert and precautions against the possible spread of debilitating chronic diseases. The ever-fatal disease affecting deer and other animals in the deer family was confirmed in a whitetail in Henry County, Tennessee, eight miles from the Kentucky border south of Murray.
Among the precautionary regulations that went into effect immediately, hunters in those five designated counties can no longer hunt with bait: no grain or other food can be placed to attract and concentrate deer. Likewise, salt or other minerals cannot be placed.
Successful hunters in CWD Watch Zone counties are prohibited from transporting whole deer carcasses (or bones, spines, or skull contents) out of the zone.
Boneless deer as well as antlers, antlers attached to a clean skull plate, or finished taxidermy work may be moved from within the zone to counties outside the zone.
An alternative for successful hunters in the surveillance zone is to take their deer to meat processors either in the same county or in one of the five counties within the zone.
All hunters should study current CWD surveillance, but those hunting in Calloway, Graves, Marshall, Fulton and Hickman counties should check the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website for details, www.fw.ky.gov.
While the young gun deer season is upon us, the Kentucky archery and crossbow seasons for whitetails continue, both entering their second month.
Meanwhile, today brings the first of the wild turkey crossbow hunt. Archery hunters can hunt deer and turkey beginning the first Saturday in September, opening day. The regular deer crossbow season opened on September 17 and now crossbow hunters can add turkeys to their quests.
Small game hunting options expanded today with the start of raccoon and opossum hunting seasons. Those species and other fur bearers are still weeks away, starting Nov. 14 after the first weekend of the modern gun hunting season for deer.
The first waterfowl hunting opportunities are now over, as Kentucky’s Sept. 16-30 Canada goose season, the season for non-migratory birds that nest locally, closed at sunset Friday. The early teal and wood duck season ended last week, while the teal-only holdover season ended Sunday.
Next on the waterfowl front will be the real thing, the Thanksgiving opening of the regular duck and goose seasons on November 24.
Markedly cooler weather should see the slippery migration peak on southern Illinois’ famous Shawnee National Forest’s Serpent Trail.
An annual two-month closure of vehicular traffic is at its midpoint on Forest Service Road No. 345 in the LaRue-Pine Hills Natural Area. The road is closed to drivers twice a year to allow snakes and amphibians to migrate between summer habitat in LaRue Swamp and the immediately adjacent limestone bluff of Pine Hills.
The fall migration brings a closure for vehicles along the 2.7-mile route from September 1 to October 1. 30. During this period, there is usually a gradual movement of the meandering wetland dwellers to elevated habitats in the rocky terrain across the road where the cold-blooded creatures will seek out a sheltered hibernaculum where they will spend the next winter.
The gravel road remains open to pedestrians during the migration, and numerous people are drawn to the Snake Road to watch the reptiles crossing during the period.
Biologists say that 56% of all reptiles and 57% of amphibians found in Illinois are found in the Larue-Pine Hills Condensed Area.
Among these is what is believed to be the northernmost population of cottonmouths. However, 23 species of snakes have been documented there. Due to the proximity of the habitats, it is one of the few places in America where so many species can be seen in one area.
For more information on the LaRue-Pine Hills and the infamous Snake Road, check out the Shawnee National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoor writer. Email outdoor news to [email protected] or call 270-575-8650.