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FRANKFORT, Ky. – The stretch between Christmas and New Year's Day can be a time to relax, reflect and make resolutions for the year ahead.
The Wildlife Division of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is well into its planning for the 2015-16 hunting seasons, and one word keeps coming up in the discussions.
The focus is not limited to one species, but plans pertaining to deer, elk and small game stand out.
Here’s a look at some of what’s in store for 2015.
At its December meeting, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission recommended several proposals for legislative approval that would expand or create new opportunities for deer and elk hunters.
In Kentucky, a county is assigned to one of four deer management zones. Some zones have move liberal harvest restrictions to thin or maintain the herd while others are more restrictive to help grow the herd.
Deer populations in Hopkins, Larue, Green, Nelson and Bullitt counties have reached the point where more antlerless deer need to harvested, according to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologists. Under the proposal, those counties would shift from Zone 2 to Zone 1 status. The change would give hunters an opportunity to harvest an unlimited number of antlerless deer in those counties provided they have the appropriate number of Additional Deer Permits.
"You'll see a significant harvest increase going from a Zone 2 to a Zone 1, which is what we want," said Chris Garland, acting Wildlife Division director for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "When we go to a Zone 1, we're basically trying to knock back the population."
Deer numbers in Grayson, Ohio and Breckenridge counties have rebounded since the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease outbreaks in 2007 and 2010 and can withstand moving from Zone 3 to Zone 2, biologists said. Zone 2 status allows for a 16-day modern gun deer season as opposed to a 10-day season in Zones 3 and 4.
There are other proposed changes to deer regulations on several Wildlife Management Areas to follow as well, including the creation of a new antlerless-only quota hunt in December on Veterans Memorial WMA in Scott County and a November firearms quota hunt on Kentucky River WMA in Owen and Henry counties. Also, residents 65 and older will be allowed to use crossbows during the entire deer archery season without being required to obtain a crossbow exemption permit under a proposal forwarded by the commission.
"We're really looking at providing as much opportunity as we can without negatively impacting the population base," Garland said.
A new Landowner Voucher Permit System could pave the way for private landowners to earn an elk permit by opening their land for elk hunting.
"We're trying to increase opportunity by opening up new lands and give people the motivation to open up their private land," Garland said. "We realize the elk are moving into the woods and moving off the public lands they've been hunted on. They're wiser and more wary and acting like a truly hunted elk herd."
Under the system recommended by the commission, a landowner or lessee with at least 100 acres in the elk zone would be eligible to enroll.
Landowners would set the number of hunters, by weapon type, allowed on their land. Two points would be awarded for the harvest of a bull elk and one for a cow elk. After accruing 20 points, the landowner or lessee of the property would receive one voucher elk permit, which would be transferrable and valid for either sex on any land the landowner or lessee owns or leases in the elk zone.
A progress report on the 10-year plan for restoring the northern bobwhite is due out in early 2015.
“We reviewed our progress over the first five years; what we did well and what we can improve on,” said Ben Robinson, small game biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
One of the highlights of the past five years’ work is the success achieved in quail focus areas.
“Every focus area that we worked on experienced an increase in bobwhite populations,” Robinson said. “The work differs a little bit for all the regions, but all in all they’ve been under pretty intensive habitat management. Everything from getting rid of cool season grasses like fescue and establishing native warm-season grasses down to managing existing habitat to make it better through controlled burning, herbicide applications and disking. It’s really starting to pay off.”
Opportunities abound for hunters in Kentucky, and more are on the horizon in 2015. The new license year starts March 1, and licenses and permits for the 2015-16 season are on sale now. Visit the department’s website at fw.ky.gov for more information.
Kentucky wildlife officials on Wednesday said it could be weeks before they know whether the first confirmed mountain lion in the state since the Civil War is wild or had been living in captivity and either escaped or had been released.
They also insisted that they don't have a "shoot-on-sight" policy for mountain lions, which have reclaiming lost territory in recent years and expanding their range from their stronghold in the western United States.
"It will be a case-by-case situation," said Mark Marraccini, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Wildlife Resources. "The circumstances will speak for themselves."
Wildlife biologists and veterinarian Iga Stasiak on Tuesday conducted a necropsy on the mountain lion, which was shot Monday in Bourbon County after state wildlife officers seemed it a risk. Genetic material from the big cat will be sent out of state to a wildlife lab to see whether the animals DNA matches any wild populations.
"They can determine the origin," said Marraccini, adding the investigation will take weeks to get answers.
Wednesday, however, Marraccini was downplaying the possibility that the animal was wild. He said it appeared to be too healthy "to have walked here from Nebraska."
But he also noted that Kentucky has a big deer population and a lot of potential suitable habitat.
The Courier-Journal on Tuesday reported that mountain lions have colonized in South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri, having moved in from the West. There have also been sightings in Indiana.
Kentucky's investigation will include looking into where the animal might have lived in captivity, Marraccini said, declining to elaborate. If it turns out to be a wild cat, he said it would prompt a discussion within the agency about the potential management of such a top-line predator in the state.
While biologists would be excited about the potential, he said Kentucky residents would likely be very wary, noting that state residents were opposed to reintroduction of the red wolf, another predator, to the state in the 1980s.
Some Kentucky residents have had a hard time adjusting to the return of black bears, Marraccini said. It means they have to change old patterns, such as not leaving dog food on the porch.
For now, he said, there is no policy on how field officers are to handle any mountain lion sightings, other than to give them the authority to do what is necessary for public safety. In this case, he said the animal was in a populated rural area within two miles of Paris, and the officer feared the cat could slip away into the night if it were not killed.
Wildlife advocates, however, have argued that mountain lions can be an important part of any ecosystem and that attacks on humans are very rare. In some states, they are also hunted.
The shooting was reminiscent of a similar action taken by Illinois wildlife officials in November 2013. That state had wiped out its mountain lion population by 1970, but when one showed up on a farm last year, game wardens quickly dispatched the animal as a threat.
"When the (officer) arrived at the farm, he made contact with the farm owner's wife, who was in the house, and checked a horse barn and lot where the landowner's horses were located," Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported at the time. "The cougar was discovered in a concrete tunnel beneath a corn crib."
Mountain lions are the largest cats found in North America and can measure up to eight feet from nose to tail and weigh up to 180 pounds. Also known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts, the cats are considered top-line predators other species rarely feed on them. (Photo: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources)
By James Bruggers
SALE! SALE!! SALE!!!
All men's and ladies logoed golf shirts are on sale for $25.00 each
T-shirts, $15.00 each
All outerwear, 25% off
Eagle Ridge logoed Hats, $8.99 each
Tervis Tumblers, The Big T and Thermas
Buy 1, $18.00
Buy a second one, $15.00
Buy a third one, $12.00
Cobra Bafflers, only 3 left in stock
retail price, $200
sale price, $75.00
(Regular 4H, Regular 3H, Ladies 4H)
Winter is HERE and I just wanted to remind golfers to please call ahead to check golf course conditions. With the colder tempts, frost and even chance of snow, we aren't really sure what to expect up here on the ridge some days! We also tend to run into a lot of problems with ice on the cart paths. Especially in areas that don't see much sun. Please call ahead before coming out! The golf course and pro shop is open all year around, WEATHER PERMITTING! Pro Shop hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., everyday.
See you at the course!
Missy Kennedy, PGA Head Golf Professional
Eagle Ridge Golf Course
Yatesville Lake State Park
(606) 673-4300 phone
Kentucky Press News Service
FRANKFORT – Wildlife biologists have confirmed the presence of five federally protected whooping cranes in Hopkins County and a sixth in Barren County. In addition to these confirmed reports, whooping cranes have been seen in more than a dozen counties across Kentucky in the last two weeks.
Biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources caution hunters to be vigilant for the possibility of whooping cranes being present in areas being hunted.
The whooping crane is a federally endangered bird that may not be hunted. The Eastern Population of whooping cranes migrates between Wisconsin and Florida with their main migration corridor taking them through west-central Kentucky. There are approximately 100 whooping cranes in this population.
Whooping cranes are solid white with black wingtips. They have a red crown. Adults may have a wingspan of 7 ½ feet and stand up to 5 feet tall on stilted legs. Juvenile birds are similar to the adults, but will have patches of brown or tan mixed in with the white. Both adult and juvenile whooping cranes are currently present in Kentucky.
Whooping cranes are similar in silhouette to sandhill cranes. However, sandhill cranes have gray bodies and are smaller than whooping cranes. Whooping cranes may associate with sandhill cranes so caution must be used while hunting sandhill cranes.
Kentucky’s sandhill crane hunting season begins Dec. 13 and continues through Jan. 11, or until 400 sandhill cranes have been taken.
Hunters should be aware of other large-bodied birds which may appear similar to whooping cranes.
Large flocks of snow geese may be present in western areas of Kentucky and small groups may be present statewide. Snow geese are white-bodied birds with black wingtips. They do not have stilted legs.
Tundra swans and trumpeter swans have also been reported across Kentucky. Swans are large, solid white birds with wingspans approaching 7 feet. They do not have stilted legs. Swans may not be hunted in Kentucky.
Hunters should always be sure of their target before firing a gun, regardless of the species being hunted.
OLIVE HILL, Ky. – Carter Caves State Resort Park will present a weekend of outdoor adventure with its sixth annual Winter Adventure Weekend, Jan. 23-25, 2015.
Guests will be able to enjoy hiking, kayaking, recreational tree climbing, cave tours including wild cave trips, winter survival, rappelling, archeological field trips, rock climbing, a zip line and other adventures.
Guests will be able to select from a list of trips they want to take – for beginners and advanced winter adventurers alike. All of the trips and events are led by guides.
Each trip level is based on the difficulty and skills required. The higher the level, the more skills and special equipment are needed. Guests will be responsible for appropriate dress, water, snacks and other items.The list of the trips, along with registration information and other details for the 2015 event are available at www.winteradventureweekend.com. All participants must register online at this site. The site can be viewed now and registration starts Dec. 12.
The nonrefundable fee for adults (age 13 and older) is $30, and the nonrefundable fee for children ages 6-12 is $20. Some of the trips have additional fees. (All participants must be at least 6 years old. Some trips have additional age requirements.)
Some new trips have been added for this year's event, including photography workshops and a wild cave trip called the Bat Cave Backdoor. Other wild cave trips being offered include a Cascade Gone Wild Trip, a Lantern Trip into Sandy Cave, and a 5-hour trek into Tar Kiln Cave. Because of their popularity, nine wild cave trips have been added for 2015.
The weekend will start with programs and workshops on Friday afternoon.
Evening entertainment each night includes a campfire social along with local Bluegrass music with Beau Lambert and Fire in Line on Friday night. On Saturday night, there will be a silent and live auction by the Friends of Carter Caves and a squeezebox competition; Kentucky’s own Heath & Molly will perform.
Participants will be able to submit photos in the Winter Photo Salon competition. Categories include winter adventure, caving and local nature-adventure photos. The images will be shown during the Saturday night program, and winners will be awarded ribbons.
Carter Caves State Resort Park is located at 344 Caveland Drive in Olive Hill. The park has a lodge with a restaurant, cottages and campground. Besides cave tours, activities include hiking, swimming, boating and fishing.The park is off Interstate 64 at exit 161. Take U.S. 60 east. Go approximately two miles and turn left on KY 182 north. The park entrance is three miles from the left turn onto KY 182 north. The phone number for the park is 1-800-325-0059.