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Art Lander’s Outdoors: State’s 225th anniversary recalls Kentucky’s early bountiful resources, native peoples

First of two-part series, in honor of Kentucky’s 225th anniversary of statehood, explores the flora and fauna of early Kentucky, Native American cultures, and human use of natural resources during pre-history. The research for this article is courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Just as the giants of the Pleistocene Era (Ice Age) were dying out, a primitive stone age culture was emerging in what would become Kentucky.

The American mastodon (Mammut americanum), stag moose (Cervalces scotti), woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) and other “mega-fauna” were headed to extinction, as the glaciers north of the Ohio River were receding, and the climate was warming.

Archeologists, anthropologists, and historians can only guess how Kentucky’s prehistoric peoples lived in the stream valleys, mountain ridges and coves (rock overhangs), where evidence of their existence was found in stone artifacts, cliff hieroglyphics, and grave sites.

Kentucky’s past is divided into at least four periods by archeologists:

* The Paleo-Indian is the time of the earliest known human occupation. These hunters-gatherers migrated from Asia across the Bering land bridge some 12,000 years ago, near the end of the last ice age.

The Woodland Period, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000 years was characterized by mound building, pottery making, agriculture, textile and twined fabric. Late in the period, the bow and arrow replaced the atlatls. (Photo Provided)The Woodland Period, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000 years was characterized by mound building, pottery making, agriculture, textile and twined fabric. Late in the period, the bow and arrow replaced the atlatls. (Photo Provided)

The Woodland Period, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000 years was characterized by mound building, pottery making, agriculture, textile and twined fabric. Late in the period, the bow and arrow replaced the atlatls. (Photo Provided)
They hunted large mammals in the developing forests, and knapped long, beautiful spear points from flint.

* During the Archaic Period, 8000 to 1000 B.C., humans became established throughout the state, and the first settlements appeared in the Green River Valley. Early plant cultivation began about 7,000 years B.C., with squash and gourds. Near the end of the Archaic period, Native Americans were cultivating sunflowers, goosefoot, and knot weed.

Staple foods included white-tailed deer and hickory nuts, supplemented by small mammals, birds, seeds, fruits, and nuts. River mussels also became an important food in some regions.

* The Woodland Period, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000 years was characterized by mound building, pottery making, agriculture, textile and twined fabric. Late in the period, the bow and arrow replaced the atlatls. Corn and tobacco were added to the crops cultivated. Early agricultural practices were likely based on slash and burn techniques of forest clearing, where small plots used for a few seasons then abandoned and other plots cleared.

* During the Mississippian Period or Late Prehistoric Period (A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1750), Native Americans developed more complex farming techniques, using large plots of land and growing fewer crops in larger quantities. Maize agriculture is one of the fundamental cultural changes associated with the Mississippian era.

In some cases extensive forests were cleared along river terraces and floodplains and on flat, fertile plains. Large agricultural fields may have been maintained for extensive periods. Agriculture became a more important source of food than hunting.

Fire Transformed Landscape

The land early Colonial explorers encountered was not a virgin forest untouched by humans, but a “dynamic mosaic of life, still adapting to post-glacial changes and the effects of thousands of years of human disturbance.”

About 3000 B.C. Native Americans learned that fire promoted habitat diversity, so they in effect became Kentucky’s first wildlife managers. They used fire to clean weeds off crop fields, open up woodlands by burning away understory, and creating the “edge effect,” to the benefit of wildlife species that thrived in early successional habitat.

When glacial ice began to recede about 12000 B.C., the climate was cool and moist, and forests were boreal, dominated by spruce, fir, tamarack, and northern pine.

(For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.)

By the time European white explorers arrived, a temperate broadleaf deciduous forest had developed, composed of trees that lose their leaves every fall, such as oak, hickory, elm, maple, walnut, basswood, sweet gum and beech.

Dark and Bloody Ground

While Kentucky was never claimed by any one tribe, it was visited by many, namely the Shawnee, Delaware, Iroquois, and Cherokee. Violent wars between tribes gave rise to the description of Kentucky as a “Dark and Bloody Ground.”

Wars over the developing fur trade ran some tribes out of Kentucky, and disease wiped out many more indigenous people decades before Kentucky’s exploration period.

When Europeans and Africans came to the New World they brought with them many diseases that the Native American population had little resistance to, and had not been previously exposed to, including smallpox, typhus, measles, influenza, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, mumps, yellow fever and whooping cough, which were chronic throughout Europe and Asia.

Native American Settlement

The last known major Native American settlement in what was to become Kentucky was Eskippakithiki, a one-acre palisaded village established around 1718. A Shawnee word meaning “place of blue licks,” Eskippakithiki was built in proximity to a salt lick near the present town of Oil Springs, Ky.

Inhabited by as many as 200 families, the village was located on a 3,500-acre plain drained by the Upper Howard and Lulbegrud creeks in southeastern Clark County, near the foothills of the mountains located to the east.

Most of what is known about the settlement is based on legend, and a 1736 French Canadian census. By 1754 the village had been abandoned.

Some historians believe Eskippakithiki’s location may be the source of the name Kentucky, based on an Iroquois phrase kenta (level) and aki (a locative), or “place of level land.”


Next week: Thomas Walker, and a party of explorers, come through Cumberland Gap, and spent three months traveling throughout the region. What he wrote in a journal about the plants and animals observed, and what the party encountered, whetted the appetite of a generation of land-hungry Colonial Americans who would follow.


Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.


Eagle Ridge Golf League News Bill JacksonBill Jackson


League Results for May 30, 2017


Unlike the prior week that was canceled due to the rain, the Eagle Ridge Golf course was in excellent condition on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The course has reached its lush summer state, and the Tuesday’s temperature was perfect for playing golf. With all the rain that we’ve had, it's amazing how well the course has held up.

Next week will be the end of the 8-week session. New handicaps and total points will occur after the conclusion of next week’s play. The cancellation of the games this year due to the rain has played havoc with league calculations.

Now for Tuesday night’s results.


Low Net Score (34) Charlie Curnutte

Low Gross Score (36) Troy Hughes

Longest Drive (#7) Troy Hughes

Fewest Putts (13) Dan Preece

Skills Competition

Closest to the pin, 2nd shot (#11) Tom Copley

Longest Putt (#14) Dan Preece

Par 3, Closest to pin (#12) Bill Jackson

Par 3, Closest to pin (#8) No one hit the green

Skins Tom Copley

I’ll see you at the course on Tuesday, May 25 th.

Bill Jackson

Submitted, June 1, 2017


2017 youth-only and general seasons produced a total harvest of 33,061 turkeys 

Turkey hunters in Kentucky encountered wind, rain and wild temperature swings this past spring season but did not let factors out of their control keep them from posting impressive results.
The 2017 youth-only and general seasons produced a total harvest of 33,061 turkeys – a 6.5 percent increase over 2016 and the third highest on record for the state.
“We were expecting a pretty good harvest this spring because we had decent hatches in 2014 and in 2015,” said Zak Danks, wild turkey program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “We knew this would provide a bunch of 2- to 3-year-old gobblers for hunters to pursue. But seeing this spring’s big harvest was welcome news, and it’s a testament to the skill and passion of Kentucky hunters.”
Wild turkeys are found across the state thanks to an extensive restoration effort conducted from 1978-1997, and the spring turkey harvest has ballooned since hunters took 13,505 birds in the first modern day, statewide season in 1996.
The spring harvest has held steady since hunters bagged a record 36,097 birds in 2010 with an average of 31,814 birds taken in the seven seasons since 2010. By comparison, the average spring harvest in the seven seasons before 2010 was 26,982.
“Judging by our recent spring harvest totals, turkey populations are strong across the state,” Danks said. “I attribute this to our sound season timing and bag limit.”
Most counties show stable to increasing harvest totals while some have declined over the past five years. Danks believes any declines are due in part to a natural correction after high population years fueled by excellent poult production.Brood production has leveled off over the past decade, which Danks interprets as a sign the population is stabilizing with the habitat’s carrying capacity.
Carrying capacity is the number of animals the habitat can support and it can vary from year to year based on a variety of factors.
For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.
“Some states have seen population and harvest declines, so we want to be cautious and not put extra pressure on the population right now,” Danks said. “We are seeing pockets of counties with declining harvest, and several factors are probably impacting populations. Foremost is brood production and recruitment of young birds into the population during summer and fall."
“Weather and predators impact the hatch from year to year, but having enough nesting and brood-rearing habitat provides a strong buffer. We have biologists across the state who can help private landowners improve turkey habitat at the local level, so contact them for options.
But, again, our turkey population appears in good shape and we want to keep it that way.”The top five counties by total spring harvest in 2017 were Muhlenberg (682), Logan (663), Pulaski (610), Hart (606) and Ohio (556). When comparing the number of turkeys harvested per square mile in a county, Pendleton County was first in the state (1.76) followed by Campbell (1.56) and Bracken (1.53).
Kentucky ranks among the top among surrounding states in birds taken per square mile.
The final tally for the 2017 spring season was impressive considering the uneven weather encountered by hunters.
Average temperatures in April across Kentucky were among the warmest on record while most of the state was wetter than average.
The two-day youth season opened to below-normal temperatures and ended buffeted by wind. While the youth season harvest finished down 9 percent, it remains within 2 percent of the five-year average of 1,728 turkeys.
The 23-day general season opened on Easter weekend in April and closed May 7. Opening day weather was close to ideal but rain affected parts of the state that Sunday. Nevertheless, hunters posted the third highest opening weekend harvest behind 2010 and 2012. The 20,975 turkeys taken over the season’s final 21 days were a 4.9 percent increase over the previous year.
“This spring was just fantastic,” Danks said. “Now let’s cross our fingers for good weather over the next few weeks to help those broods survive and thrive. Let’s work to provide good habitat, too. Then let’s chase them again come fall.”
Kevin Kelly is a writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. An avid angler with a passion for muskellunge and stream fishing, his journalism career has included stops at daily newspapers in Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Charleston, S.C. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, click here.