Early waterfowl opportunities next week will merge with ongoing hunting activity in Kentucky.
The annual Mourning Dove season has been in full swing since opening day September 1, and the first weekend in September ushered in the long deer and turkey hunting season. The senior/youth crossbow season for deer opened at the same time as the archery hunt.
In far eastern Kentucky, hunters who have applied and been vetted for the proper permits by now can hunt elk at the start of archery and crossbow season for these creatures of native big game re-established.
Still, Friday of next week marks the opening of Canada goose hunting season across the state. This passage from September 16 to 30 is an opportunity for warm season waterfowl to capture non-migratory, locally nesting Canada geese.
Migratory geese, interior Canadas, barely reach Kentucky these days due to a general shortening of their annual migratory route, but even that can be ruled out during the expected hunting season in September. Hunters can rest assured that geese encountered during the season beginning in late summer are residents of Canada.
The season has a double objective. It provides hunters with non-traditional waterfowl hunting opportunities. Additionally, it gives wildlife managers a way to exert some control over the burgeoning numbers of locally nesting geese. In recent decades, non-migratory honkers have multiplied liberally and with minimal natural controls in the environment, in some cases have expanded their ranks to pest status. The September season offers a way to moderate those numbers.
September goose hunting rules are the same as the regular season except for the daily bag limit. The maximum harvest is five Canada geese per day per hunter. However, this amounts to a rather modest harvest due to the low participation of waterfowl in the September season.
More interest is being shown in a first season which begins next Saturday and takes place over five days, September 17-21. This is the special season for wood duck and green-winged teal. Hunters in Kentucky have a rare opportunity to hunt local wood ducks, the state’s native ducks, before the first migratory birds fly off to places farther south each fall. Kentucky’s own woodies are mostly gone and unavailable to hunters during the regular waterfowl season that begins on Thanksgiving Day. The opportunities offered by the wood duck are combined with the ability to shoot the early migrating blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon teals that can sometimes be intercepted moving across Kentucky latitudes during the September season. . After the five-day season when wood ducks and teals can be taken, hunters in Kentucky are offered four more days, Sept. 22-25, during which only teals and teals can be taken.
General waterfowl regulations must be followed during wood duck/teal and teal seasons only. The daily bag limits are six birds, of which no more than two may be wood ducks, during the wood duck and teal season, and six teal during the teal season.
The start of Canada goose season overlaps with the wood duck and green-winged teal hunt starting on the second day of honker season, so hunters have the opportunity to have a mixed bag in habitats where these varied species mingle.
At a recent meeting, the Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commission voted to address hunter concerns and observations of wild turkey population declines by reducing the seasonal bag limit for fall hunting of turkeys of both sexes.
The reduced bag limit is expected to take effect from the 2023 fall hunt. The change will not affect the current season’s fall hunt. This, in part, is already underway with the deer and turkey archery hunting season starting last week on the first Saturday in September, September 3. The existing bag limit on turkeys during the fall hunt is four birds for the fall period regardless of weapon or weapon-specific season (archery, crossbow or shotgun ). Of these four birds, not more than one may be a bearded turkey with a beard of three inches or more. This stipulation limits the harvesting of mature gobblers.
The bag limit that will come into effect in the fall of 2023 will effectively reduce the number of female turkeys that will be taken. It will set a limit of two birds, of which only one can be a hen (or a hairless turkey) and only one can be a turkey with a beard of three inches or more.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say hunters reported taking 1,577 turkeys during the fall seasons last year. Of this total, just over 1,000 birds, or about 64%, were hens.
Biologists say Kentucky’s turkey population — like the population of surrounding states today — has been declining for the past few years due to less successful breeding seasons and poult survival. Reducing the hen harvest is seen as a way to stimulate breeding, hopefully leaving more hens, and therefore breeding birds, in the population.
Steve Vantreese is an outdoor freelance writer. Email outdoor news to email@example.com or call 270-575-8650.