This is a summary of hunting laws, intended solely for informational use and is applicable March - June, 2017. The exact wording of Kentucky's spring turkey hunting laws can be viewed here.
Youth Turkey Season FAQ
NEW THIS YEAR
- Slingshots may be used with manufactured ammunition to hunt small game.
- New acreage has been added to
Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area
(WMA) and State Forest in Crittenden
County, Boatwright WMA in Ballard
County, Clay WMA in Bath County,
John A. Kleber WMA in Owen County
and Kentucky River WMA in Henry and
- Rolling Fork WMA in Nelson and
LaRue counties is open under statewide
regulations for all species in accordance
with the counties in which it is located.
LICENSES AND PERMITS
General Hunter Licensing
Q: Does a non-resident who owns land in Kentucky have to buy non-resident licenses and permits?
A: Yes. All nonresidents must purchase nonresident licenses and permit.
Persons who take or attempt to take
game are considered hunters and therefore subject to licensing requirements.
Unless license exempt, hunters
must obtain and carry while in the field
proof that they have met the license requirements for the kind of hunting they
are doing. This proof can be either a paper license/permit or a license authorization number.
Persons who can’t show they are
licensed properly while hunting risk being issued a citation.
Each hunter must have his or her
own license or permit. Paper licenses
and permits must be signed and the
hunter information portion (signature,
address, eye and hair color, sex, height
and weight) completed before going
In some cases, a resident hunter
may not be required to buy a hunting
license, permits to hunt deer, bear or turkey, or a Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit.
Here are those situations:
- Resident and nonresident children younger than the age of 12 are not required to purchase licenses and permits, except the elk hunt drawing application.
- Kentucky resident owners of farmlands, their spouses and dependent
children hunting upon their own
farmlands during an open season.
- Tenants, their spouses and dependent
children hunting on farmlands where
they reside and work.
- Kentucky residents on military leave
of more than three days in this state
who carry identification and papers
verifying their leave status.
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces
based in Kentucky engaged in sport
hunting or fishing on the following
Kentucky National Guard properties: Hidden Valley Training Area in
Powell County and the Wendell H.
Ford Regional Training Center in
HOW TO BUY LICENSES AND PERMITS
WHICH LICENSE OR PERMIT DO I NEED?
LICENSE AND PERMIT FEES
Q: Can more than one youth turkey permit be purchased?
A: Yes. Multiple youth turkey permits may be purchased, but season bag limits must be followed.
A resident is any person who has
established permanent domicile and
legal residence, and has resided in Kentucky for 30 days prior to buying a license, full-time students enrolled in an
educational institution for at least six
months, or military service personnel on
permanent assignment in Kentucky.
A person who does not meet the
definition of a Kentucky resident is considered a nonresident and must purchase
nonresident licenses and permits. Nonresident youth hunters are subject to the
same license and permit requirements as resident youth hunters. A nonresident who owns land in Kentucky must purchase nonresident licenses and permits.
Resident and nonresident hunters
under the age of 12 are not required to
purchase licenses and permits, except for
the elk drawing application.
Resident and nonresident hunters ages 12-15 are eligible to purchase
discounted licenses and permits, which
are valid for the entire license year, if they are purchased before the youth is 16.
Persons 15 years of age
and under who hunt turkey, elk, deer or
bear with a firearm must always be accompanied by an adult.
Persons under 12 years old, who have passed a hunter education course, may hunt small game and furbearers without being accompanied by an adult.
The Annual Youth Hunting license authorizes the holder to hunt all
small game species and migratory bird
The Youth Turkey Permit allows
the hunter to harvest one turkey. The
Youth Turkey Permit may be used during any turkey season. The resident-only
Youth Sportsman’s License includes the
Annual Youth Hunting license, two (2)
Youth Deer permits and two (2) Youth
Resident Senior or Disabled Combination Hunting and Fishing Licenses
Please go to http://fw.ky.gov/Licenses/Pages/Resident-Senior-and-Disabled-Licenses.aspx for information about resident senior or disability licenses.
Sportsman's License - Save $55
Available to Kentucky residents
only, the Sportsman’s License includes
a combination hunting and fishing license, spring and fall turkey permits,
statewide deer permit, state Migratory
Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit and trout
A federal duck stamp (available at
post offices and online at
) is required for waterfowl
RECORDING, CHECKING and TAGGING
All successful turkey hunters must follow the steps for recording, checking and tagging their harvest. See the Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transporting page for all info. View the County Code Numbers for Telecheck here.
GENERAL HUNTING REGULATIONS
A person shall not enter upon the
lands of another to shoot, hunt, trap,
fish or for other wildlife-related recreational purposes without the verbal or
written permission of the landowner,
tenant, or person who has authority to
Those who fail to obtain permission
are subject to arrest and prosecution.
Railroad tracks and rights of way
are privately-owned property and permission to hunt, trap or fish must be obtained prior to entry.
Landowners are under no obligation to allow hunters to retrieve game or
hunting dogs from their property.
Persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1975
must carry a valid hunter education card
or hunter education exemption permit
while hunting. Persons not required to
have licenses or permits are exempt from hunter education certification.
Hunter education courses are held
throughout the state. Pre-registration
must be done online at
information about the registration process is available here.
Children must be at least 9 years
old to take the hunter education course.
People who complete the course are is
sued an orange certification card. Hunter education cards issued by other states
are valid in Kentucky.
Children younger than 12 years old
are exempt from hunter education certification, but must be accompanied by an
adult who meets the hunter education
requirement. The adult must be in a position to take immediate control of the
bow or firearm at all times while hunting. One adult cannot accompany more
than two hunters under 12 years old at
the same time.
Apprentice Hunting Opportunity
Persons new to hunting who have
not taken the hunter education course
may buy a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit online for $5.
This apprentice hunting opportunity allows new hunters in Kentucky to
hunt for up to one year (from date of
purchase) without a hunter education
card. The permit requires its holder to
hunt with a licensed, adult hunter (at
least 18 years old) who meets the hunter
education requirement. The adult shall
be in a position to take immediate control of the exempted hunter’s bow or
firearm at all times while hunting. This
law applies even if the exempted hunter
is an adult.
After the hunter education exemption permit expires, the hunter is no longer exempt and must successfully complete a hunter education course.
The temporary hunter education exemption permit is valid only in Kentucky. It is not accepted at Blue Grass Army Depot or Fort Campbell.
Resident landowners, spouses
and dependent children, tenants, their
spouses and their dependent children are
only hunter education exempt on property they own, or the property where
they reside and work. When hunting
elsewhere, they must comply with Kentucky’s hunter education law.
Replacement Hunter Education Cards
Free replacement hunter education cards can be printed here online.
Hunting Method Exemptions
The department grants exemptions
to hunters with certain physical disabilities
to hunt with a crossbow during archery-
only seasons, or to use a stationary vehicle
as a hunting platform. However, persons
with qualifying physical disabilities must
first have an exemption form completed
and signed by a licensed physician certify-
ing why the exemption is necessary.
Forms are available online or by
calling the department. Go to Hunting Method Exemptions page for more information. A completed
exemption form serves as the hunter’s
exemption permit. It should not be re-
turned to the department. Persons who
obtain an exemption are still required to
have the appropriate hunting license and
permits, and must carry the signed ex-
emption form with their hunting license
and permits while in the field.
Concealed Carry Deadly Weapons Permits
Anyone who may legally possess firearms may carry firearms while hunting, but any firearms carried concealed must be done so pursuant to KRS 527.020.
A person convicted of a felony is
prohibited from possessing or hunting
with a firearm in Kentucky. The prohibition on handguns applies to those
convicted after Jan. 1, 1975. The prohibition on other firearms applies to those
convicted after July 15, 1994. See KRS527.040 for more details.
Report Game Law Violations
Anyone may report wildlife law violators anonymously by calling 1-800-25-ALERT (1-800-252-5378).
WILD TURKEY HUNTING
Spring Hunting Seasons
General Season - April 15 - May 7, 2017
Youth-Only Season - April 1-2, 2017
Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Hunters may be in the field before and after shooting hours.
Feeding of Wildlife
From March 1 through May 31, it
is illegal to feed wildlife with grain, seed
or manufactured animal feed outside the
curtilage of the home (the area immediately surrounding a home or group of
homes). This regulation does not apply
to normal agricultural practices or food
plots, or municipal areas not open to legal hunting or trapping.
A person shall not mimic the
sound of a turkey in an area open to
turkey hunting and where turkeys
are reasonably expected to be present
from March 1 until the opening of the
youth-only turkey season, and from
the close of the youth-only turkey
season until the opening of the state-wide turkey season.
However, locating turkeys with an owl, crow, coyote,
or woodpecker call is permitted when scouting.
Adult Hunters: Unless exempt, all spring turkey hunters ages 16 and older must carry with them in the field proof of purchase of a valid Kentucky hunting license and a valid Spring Turkey Permit. Short-term (1- or 7-day) hunting licenses are not valid for turkey hunting. The Spring Turkey Permit is valid for the general spring season and allows a hunter to harvest up to the spring season bag limit of turkeys.
Youth Hunters: Children ages 15 and younger may hunt turkeys during the youth-only hunting weekend and the general spring season.
Youths younger than age 12 are
exempt from license and turkey permit
requirements. Unless exempt, all spring
turkey hunters ages 12-15 must carry
with them in the field proof of purchase
of a valid Kentucky hunting license and a
valid Spring Turkey Permit. Youths ages
12-15 are eligible to purchase a Youth
Turkey Permit, which is valid for the
harvest of one turkey during a license
year. Youth hunters must abide by season
bag limits and harvest restrictions. The
resident-only Youth Sportsman’s License includes two (2) Youth Turkey Permits.
Youth hunting licenses and permits
are valid for the entire license year if they
are purchased before the child’s 16th
birthday. Youths who hunt turkeys with a
firearm must be accompanied by an adult
who shall remain in a position to take immediate
control of the firearm at all times.
Spring Season Bag Limits
A hunter may take a male turkey or
a turkey with a visible beard. No more
than one (1) bird may be taken per day.
No more than two (2) birds may be taken per spring season. Any combination
of male turkeys, or turkeys with visible
beards, may be included in this two-bird
season limit. Turkeys taken by youths
during the youth-only season count toward the spring turkey bag limit.
All harvested turkeys must be logged and telechecked. See the Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transporting section of our site.
Anyone may call turkeys, or assist in the hunt. Callers and assistants are not required to possess a hunting license or turkey permit, and may carry equipment while in the field.
Hunters are not required to wear hunter orange clothing during the spring turkey seasons. However, wearing an article of hunter orange clothing while carrying a harvested turkey is a simple and effective way to help prevent hunting accidents that can occur when a hunter is mistaken for game.
Possession of Live Wild Turkeys and Eggs/Release of Wild Turkeys
Due o the potential for spread of
disease and genetic pollution, it is illegal
to possess live wild turkeys. For the same
reasons, domestic or pen-raised turkeys
should not be released into the wild.
It is also illegal to possess or attempt
to hatch wild turkey eggs. It is further
recommended that turkeys not be artificially fed during any time of the year.
Providing standing corn, wheat or clover
patches is a much better alternative.
Legal Spring Turkey Hunting Equipment
Hunters may only use the following to take turkeys during the spring seasons:
- Breech-loading or muzzle-loading shotguns no larger than 10
gauge and no smaller than .410.
- Breech-loading shotguns must
be plugged to hold a maximum
of three shells (two in magazine
and one in chamber).
- Lead or non-toxic shot no
larger than No. 4.
- Longbows, recurve bows and
compound bows of any draw
weight (no minimum).
- Crossbows of any draw weight
(no minimum) with a working
- Non-barbed broadheads with a
minimum cutting diameter of
7/8-inch, whether expandable
Prohibited Spring Turkey Hunting Methods
A person hunting wild turkeys shall not:
- Hunt over bait. An area is considered baited until 30 days after the
bait has been removed. However,
a person may hunt wild turkeys on
an area where grain, feed or other
substance exists as the result of a
bona fide agricultural practice or
manipulating a crop for a wildlife
- Use a dog during the spring
- Hunt from a boat, or from any
type of vehicle unless prescribed
by regulation (see “Hunting
Method Exemptions” in the
“General Information” section
of this guide).
- Use or possess an electronic or
digital calling device.
- Harvest a roosting turkey.
- Use live decoys.
TURKEY HUNTING SAFETY TIPS
Don't stalk a turkey. The chances of getting close enough for a shot are slim, and odds of becoming involved in an accident increase.
Eliminate the colors red, white and
blue from your turkey hunting outfit.
Red or white are the colors hunters
are looking for when differentiating a
gobbler’s head from the hen’s grayish-blue head. These colors not only put
you in danger, but they can be seen by
turkeys as well.
Don't move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. A quick movement may draw fire. Yell in a loud voice, "Hey, I'm here", and remain hidden.
Be particularly careful when using a gobbler call. The sound and motion may attract other hunters, and could draw fire.
When selecting your calling position,
sit at the base of a large tree, if one
is available, to protect your torso and
head. Position yourself so you can see
180 degrees in front of you.
Never shoot at a sound or movement. Be certain of your target. Assume that every sound you hear is made by another hunter.
When hunting with a turkey decoy,
place the decoy about 20 yards from
your calling position. To be safe, you
need a clear line of sight beyond the decoy of at least 80 yards. This will enable
you to see any approaching hunter and
keep you at a safe distance if another
hunter were to shoot at your decoy.
Keep your shotgun unloaded when not in the field, and open the action or unload your shotgun when climbing a steep hill, stepping over low fence wire, or fording a creek.
Spring Hunting Seasons
Season - May 20 - June 16, 2017
Bag Limit - Daily limit is 6 squirrels; possession limit is 12
Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Hunters may be in the field before and after shooting hours.
Legal Spring Squirrel Hunting Equipment
Rimfire gun or rimfire handgun.
Muzzle-loading or breech-loading shotguns no larger than 10-gauge. Breech-loading shotguns must be plugged to hold a maximum of three shells (two in magazine and one in chamber).
Lead or non-toxic shot no larger than No.2.
Archery or crossbow equipment.
Pellets fired from .177, .20, .22 or .25 caliber air guns.
Dogs may be used to aid in the hunt.
Slingshots with manufactured hunting ammunition.
Prohibited Methods of Taking Squirrels
COYOTES AND OTHER WILDLIFE
Coyote - Year-round, day or night (exceptions apply)
Groundhog - Year-round
Bullfrog - Noon, May 19 - Midnight, Oct. 31, 2017
Turtles* - Year-round, day or night
*Alligator snapping turtles may not be harvested.
Coyotes may be hunted year-round with no bag limit.
They can be hunted after daylight hours using lights or night vision equipment from Feb. 1 – May 31.
Shotguns are the only legal firearm for
night coyote hunting but a shell containing a single projectile may not be
Night hunting for coyotes is prohibited on Kentucky lands managed
by Big South Fork National River and
Recreation Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, George Washington and
Jefferson National Forests, Land Between The Lakes National Recreation
Area, Clarks River National Wildlife
Refuge and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, including Beaver Creek,
Cane Creek, Mill Creek and Pioneer
Weapons and Redbird wildlife management areas
Hand or mouth-operated calls and
electronic calls that imitate wounded
prey or coyote calls are legal. It is legal
to hunt coyotes over animal carcasses.
Animal carcasses are considered bait.
A hunter shall not place or distribute
bait or otherwise participate in baiting wildlife on all WMAs, Big South
Fork National River and Recreation
Area, Daniel Boone National Forest,
Jefferson National Forest, Land Between The Lakes and state parks open
Coyotes may only be trapped during furbearer trapping seasons.
Legal Methods and Equipment for Hunting Coyotes:
- Centerfire or rimfire gun (daylight hours only)
- Muzzle-loading rifle or handgun
(daylight hours only)
- Muzzle-loading or breech-loading
shotguns no larger than 10
gauge. Breech-loading shot-
guns must be plugged to hold a
maximum of three shells (two in
magazine and one in chamber).
There is no limit on shot size.
Shotguns must be shoulder fired.
- Shot shells with a single pro
jectile may only be used during
Bow and arrow or crossbow
- Air guns with pellets that are at
least .22 caliber in size.
- Hand or mouth operated calls,
electronic calls, or attracting
- Dogs may be used to aid in the hunt
Groundhogs may be hunted year-round with no bag limit. A hunting license is required unless the hunter is license exempt. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
The daily limit (noon to noon) is
15. The possession limit is 30.
If bullfrogs are taken by firearm or
bow and arrow, a hunting license is required. If taken by pole and line, a fishing license is required. If frogs are taken
by gig or by hand, either a valid hunting
or fishing license is required. It is illegal
to possess a gig on a stream or lake, or in
a boat, from Nov. 1 – Jan. 31.
Snapping turtles (except alligator snapping turtles) and soft shell
turtles may be taken year-round with
no bag limit but may not be harvested for commercial purposes.
A hunting license is required if turtles are taken by gun or bow and arrow. Consult the Fishing and Boating Guide for information on other legal means of harvest.
Wild pigs may be hunted year-round, with no bag limit, except on Big
South Fork National River and Recreation Area (
Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
However, hunters may be in the field before and after shooting hours. A hunting
license is required unless the hunter is
Landowners are strongly encouraged to work with Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife to remove wild pigs from their
property. Trapping is the most effective
method of removal.
Tell your local conservation officer
about the use of snares and/or corral
traps on your property.
Wild pigs must be killed at the trap
site, and not released. It is illegal to possess,
sell or transport wild pigs in Kentucky.
To report sightings, illegal activities
related to wild pigs, or to get advice on
effective control, contact Kentucky Fish
and Wildlife at 800-858-1549.
- English sparrows and starlings may be
hunted year-round with no bag limit,
but a hunting license is required unless
the hunter is license exempt.
- Pheasants released during quota hunts
are not open to year-round hunting on
Green River Lake WMA, Yellowbank
WMA and Clay WMA.
- All birds of prey and native songbirds
are protected under state and federal
laws, and may not be taken.
MAMMALS AND OTHER WILDLIFE
- The spotted skunk, a rare species found in Eastern Kentucky, is a protected species and may not be taken.
- All federally threatened or endangered species are protected under state
and federal laws and may not be taken.