Amid the worldwide pandemic, deer hunters in Kentucky turned to the woods and fields during the annual deer hunting season to lift their spirits and produced another top-five total deer harvest.
Deer hunters not only bring home healthy venison for their families and help keep the deer population in check, but they also contribute heartily to Kentucky’s economy.
Each year, hunting generates over $550 million in economic impact through retail expenditures, yields over $86 million in tax revenues to sustain public services, and supports more than 13,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.
“We’re very pleased with the 2020-21 harvest numbers,” said Ben Robinson, assistant director of the Wildlife Division at the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Despite rainy and windy weather during the November modern gun season, hunter turnout and number of deer taken were both outstanding.”
Deer hunters harvested 141,631 deer overall, making it the fifth-highest harvest total on record behind only the 2015-16, 2019-20, 2018-19, and 2013-14 seasons.
The 2020-21 season total surpassed the 10-year average of 137,008.
Deer hunters started the hunting season by setting a new record harvest for September by taking 7,980 deer, and they closed it out with the second highest January harvest at 3,229 deer.
“Deer hunting season began with a strong September archery harvest, including the highest archery opening weekend harvest on record,” Robinson said.
An expanded crossbow season combined with an already generous archery season also helped the season-end total. Deer hunters harvested more than 30,000 deer with archery and crossbow equipment.
Muzzleloader season saw a slight jump in harvest numbers, with the department’s Telecheck harvest reporting system tallying 4,670 deer during the October muzzleloader season and 8,402 during the December muzzleloader season. The nine-day December black-powder season ranked ninth overall in harvest numbers.
As for the modern gun season, Robinson noted, “A lot of the main factors that affect deer harvests have to do with the weather. The opening Sunday of the modern gun season had high winds and not a lot of people made it out.”
Still, on opening day, hunters achieved the sixth-highest harvest on record. Hunters harvested 94,683 deer overall during the 16-day modern gun season.
Deer Hunter numbers surged last year.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife sold more than 320,000 deer licenses in 2020, a significant jump from the previous year’s total of slightly less than 308,000 licenses. More than 20,800 new hunters purchased a license last year.
The 2020-21 license year runs through the end of February. Licenses for 2021-22 already are available online from the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov.
The next hunting season starts Sept. 4, with the opening of archery season, and continues through Jan. 17, 2022. Per state regulation, the archery season opens on the first Saturday in September then closes on the third Monday in January, on which Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated. Modern gun season, the most popular season for deer hunters, will be Nov. 13-28.