Average hunting sounds like a negative, but it isn't in Kentucky. "Our average years are still good," said David Yancy, a deer biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "Although we were down a little from last year, we still had one of the better October muzzleloader seasons we've ever had in the last several years."
This year, hunters took 7,215 deer during the Oct. 17-18 early muzzleloader season. Last year, Kentucky hunters reported taking 8,384 deer during the same season. The total harvest this year so far is about 18,000 deer.
Soft mast, such as wild berries and tree fruits, abounds this year in the woods as a result of the rain, but the acorn crop is spotty across the state.
"The acorn crop is all over the place this year," Brunjes said. "It is totally localized; it's farm to farm. No area of the state is one way or another. I don't know if it was the ice storm, a late freeze or wet weather, but acorns this year are highly variable."
If you have acorns on the farm or public area you plan to hunt, expect good hunting. Brunjes said deer gorge on acorns and devour food plots as the weather cools.
"They think less about food and more about breeding as the season wears onward," she said.
The Bluegrass Region has led the state's deer harvest so far this year, with nearly 7,000 deer taken. The Green River Region produced the second-most deer taken, with nearly 3,600 reported.
Hunters looking for large, mature bucks during this gun season should concentrate their efforts where does (female deer) lounge. Does like areas that provide food and protection from the elements such as creek bottoms, draws or a brushy gulch.
"Hunters should also target deer travel routes during modern gun season," Brunjes said. "Deer are moving in November. Saddles, draws, ridgelines and logging roads all should be productive. Where you would walk, the deer walk. When you are scouting any area, think about how you would get from point A to point B. That is where the deer trails are located."
Hunting during modern gun deer season will improve if we can avoid a repeat of what we've had nearly all year: cold and wet weather. "That kind of weather keeps hunters out of the woods," Brunjes said.
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Modern gun deer season opens Nov. 14 statewide and closes Nov. 29 in Zones 1 and 2, and Nov. 23 in Zones 3 and 4. Consult the 2009-2010 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting licenses are sold, for more details on deer hunting in Kentucky.
Lee McClellan is an associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.