Field & Stream magazine named Kentucky its Top Spot and Up-and-Comer state for trophy deer in its August issue.
Why is Kentucky gaining recognition from a national hunting magazine? Last year, hunters took a state record 68 trophy bucks big enough to qualify for recognition by the Boone and Crockett Club, the world’s pre-eminent recorder of hunting trophies.
Tina Brunjes, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, is upbeat about the 2012 season. “I think this deer season is going to be a good one,” she says. “I like the things that we’re hearing.”
Food will be a key to hunting success in many areas of the state this year. Mast, which can include berries or tree nuts such as acorns, is pivotal in determining whether deer stay deep in the wood or will roam. If oaks are dropping heavy amounts of acorns, deer tend to stay in the woods because they don’t have to wander far to find a source of high-energy protein.
When acorns are sparse, however, deer have to move to find food. That increases the odds that a hunter will see bucks and does.
This summer’s drought will affect hunting in other ways this season. Farmers planted their biggest corn crops in decades this spring. Soybeans were planted at high levels as well. The lack of rainfall, however, especially in western Kentucky, means many farmers will not be harvesting their corn and soybeans.
“The drought could leave a lot of waste corn and soybeans out there,” Brunjes says. “Hunters should pay attention to these areas.”
Brunjes notes that many farmers plowed more acreage for corn this year due to the high price the grain is fetching on the market. “Hunters need to consider what their neighbors did,” Brunjes says. “If their neighbors plowed up more ground, they may have taken out areas deer use for refuge. That could be beneficial if you’re an adjoining landowner with a woodlot.”
More than a quarter million people hunt deer in Kentucky each year. This season is a good time to pick it up again if you haven’t been for a while, or take a youngster along for the experience.
“To the hunters, I’d say to enjoy what we have in Kentucky,” adds Brunjes. “Deer hunting is really good here right now.”
Don’t use moldy corn for deer bait. The fungus may contain toxins harmful to all wildlife. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t feed it to your cattle, don’t feed it to wildlife.