A year after establishing an overall deer harvest record, Kentucky deer hunters did it again.
The 2013-14 deer season in Kentucky ended Jan. 20 with a total of 144,404 animals reported killed. That represents a gain of more than 9 percent over the previous record set during the 2012-13 season.
“This year we were ahead of the curve,” said David Yancy, deer biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Hunters harvested more deer in September than they ever had, the October youth weekend was the best it had been since 2008, there was a slightly better than average muzzleloader season and then modern gun season was way better than it normally is. It sort of held throughout.”
A spotty crop of acorns and other hard mast across Kentucky had deer on the move, and made them more vulnerable to hunters.
An increase of about 9,000 deer permits sold — about one third of those coming through youth sportsman’s licenses — also meant there were more hunters in the field.
“The poor acorn crop was a major factor in getting those deer out into the open and into the harvested corn fields and the food plots,” said Tina Brunjes, deer program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The weather during the modern gun season and during the muzzleloader season was not as wonderful as it was last season, but we didn’t have any epic ice storms or some sort of huge flood. Hunters were able to get out.”
Harvest totals for firearms, archery, muzzleloading and crossbow were up across the board. A record 104,619 deer were taken by firearms hunters. Archery hunters killed 20,833 whitetails while muzzleloader hunters killed 15,641 deer and crossbow hunters reported killing 3,311 deer.
Male deer accounted for nearly 54 percent of the deer killed. Out of the 77,719 male deer taken, 9,962 were antlerless, according to telecheck data.
Three of the top five counties in terms of estimated deer densities produced the top harvest totals. Hunters in Owen County took 4,069 whitetails to lead the state followed by Pendleton County with 3,464 and Crittenden County with 3,033.
Kentucky’s deer herd was estimated at approximately 900,000 prior to the season. Herd estimates are derived through computer modeling that takes into account harvest and age structure data.
Brunjes tempered her expectations for this past season, thinking it might be average compared to the record harvest of 131,395 deer posted in 2012-13.
“We ended up with a huge, record-breaking year,” she said.
After a second record harvest in as many seasons, deer are looking at a landscape that has more to offer, Brunjes said.
“The potential is there for the does that make it through this cold winter to have really high fawning success, and those bucks that make it through this cold winter, they’re going to be the best of the best,” she said. “If we can get a good spring, we might not see the numbers next year, but we’ll see a lot of quality deer out there.”