Record Harvest for Modern Gun Deer Season

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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FRANKFORT — Kentucky deer hunters harvested a record 107,039 deer during the 16-day modern gun season that concluded Nov. 24.

“Season timing and weather conditions before opening day made us think we should have a good season,” said Kyle Sams, acting Deer and Elk Program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “We had a poor mast crop this year, which puts deer on the move. We also had perfect weather: not too cold and not too warm.”

Last year, Kentucky hunters harvested 106,804 deer during the modern gun season, which was a record until this season. (Online Telecheck results for modern gun harvest are different, as they include deer taken during youth season as well.)

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Sams said hunters harvested 35,143 deer on opening weekend of the modern gun season, 19,234 on the second weekend and 11,576 on the third weekend.

“Those are harvest records for both the second and third weekends,” he said.

Some of the increased antlered deer harvest during modern gun deer season over the past two seasons relates to regulation changes that increased modern gun deer season in Zone 3 and Zone 4 counties from 10 days to 16 days, so that all zones had the same season length. This change had been requested by many deer hunters and had strong support as documented in a recent deer hunter survey and an online questionnaire used to collect public input from hunters.

“Those six extra days includes a weekend and that is big for those hunters,” Sams said. “It is one reason why that third weekend harvest was so high. Zone 4 hunters had six extra days to harvest an antlered deer.”

Hunters may be concerned about possible overharvest of deer with two consecutive record modern gun season harvest totals. However, the statewide one-buck limit, coupled with a reduction in the bag limit of antlerless deer in Zone 4, ensure that this will not adversely affect the herd.

“With bag limits for deer in place, overharvest is not a concern,” Sams said. “Biologists monitor deer harvest numbers annually to ensure the herd remains in good shape.”

If deer season or bag-limit changes may be needed, evidenced by a trend in harvest data over 2-3 years, the department can evaluate relevant data and make such changes through the regulatory process.

Sams expects the good hunting to continue during the December muzzleloader season that opens Dec. 14 and closes Dec. 22.

“This season should be a good time to get an antlerless deer,” Sams said. “The last three days of the December muzzleloader season is important for Zone 4 counties because that is the only time they have to harvest an antlerless deer with a gun.”

If current trends hold, the 2019-2020 deer season could be the second highest harvest total ever. The current record is 155,730 deer taken by hunters in the 2015-2016 season.

For more information on deer hunting, visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife webpage at or consult the Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available free wherever hunting licenses are sold.