Spring Turkey Hunting

This is a summary of hunting laws, intended solely for informational use and is applicable March - June, 2015.  The exact wording of Kentucky's spring turkey hunting laws can be viewed here.

NEW THIS YEAR

Wild Turkey Hunting

A person may use a breech-loading or muzzle-loading shotgun no smaller than .410 and no larger than 10 gauge to take a wild turkey.

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 open - ing of the youth turkey season, and from the close of the youth turkey season until the opening of the general turkey season.

Public Lands

The Boone tract of Kentucky River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is open under statewide regulations for the spring turkey and squirrel seasons.

Ping-Sinking Valley WMA (Pulaski County) is open under statewide regulations for the spring turkey and squirrel seasons.

GENERAL INFORMATION

LICENSES AND PERMITS

General Hunter Licensing

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 re quirements 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 afield.

License-Exempt Hunters

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:

  • 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 Muhlenberg County.

Resident and nonresident children under the age of 12 are not required to purchase licenses and permits, except the elk hunt drawing application.

HOW TO BUY LICENSES AND PERMITS 

Buy Licenses Online, By Phone, or In Person

WHICH LICENSE OR PERMIT DO I NEED?

Find out which license or permit you need to hunt here.

LICENSE AND PERMIT FEES

Resident and Nonresident license and permit fees

LICENSE REQUIREMENTS

All turkey hunters, unless license exempt, are required to purchase and carry with them in the field proof of purchasing an annual Kentucky hunting license and spring turkey permit.

Short term (1- or 7-day) hunting licenses are not valid for turkey hunting.

All squirrel hunters, unless license exempt, are required to purchase and carry with them in the field proof of purchasing a Kentucky hunting license.

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 afield.

Resident Licensing

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.

Nonresident Licensing

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.

Youth Licensing

Resident and nonresident hunters under the age of 12 are not required to purchase licenses and permits, except for the elk drawing application.

Persons under 12 years old, who have passed a hunter education course, may hunt small game and furbearers without being accompanied by an adult.

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’s 16th birthday. Persons 15 years of age and under who hunt turkey, elk, deer or bear with a firearm must always be accompanied by an adult.

The Annual Youth Hunting license authorizes the holder to hunt all small game species and migratory bird species.

The Youth Turkey Permit allows the hunter to harvest one turkey. The Youth Turkey Permit may be used dur - ing 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 Turkey permits.

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 permit.

A federal duck stamp (available at post offices and online at www.duckstamp.com ) is required for waterfowl hunting.

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.

GENERAL HUNTING REGULATIONS

Landower Permission

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 grant permission. 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.

Hunter Education

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 fw.ky.gov . More information about the registration process is available on the website or by calling Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

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. Hunt - er 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 po - sition 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 huntereducation exemption permit online. 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

Go to Hunting Method Exemptions

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.

Convicted Felons

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 18 - May 10, 2015
Youth-Only Season - April 4-5, 2015

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 imme - diately 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.

Pre-Season Calling

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.

Permit Requirements

A hunting license and spring turkey permit are required, unless the hunter is license exempt.

Youth-Only Season

The youth-only hunting weekend is open to children 15 years of age or younger, but 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 at any time with a shotgun must be accompanied by an adult who is at least 18 years old. The adult must remain in position to take immediate control of the child’s shotgun at all times. Adults who accompany youth hunters during the youth-only season are not required to have a hunting license or turkey permit. All youth hunters must use their Social Security number when telechecking a turkey.

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 youth during the youth-only season count toward the spring turkey bag limit.

Harvest Recording

All harvested turkeys must be logged and telechecked.  See the Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transporting section of our site.

Caller/Assistant

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.

Hunter Orange

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.

GOBBLER/HEN IDENTIFICATION

 

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.

SQUIRREL HUNTING

Spring Hunting Season

Season - May 16 - June 19, 2015
Bag Limit - Daily limit is 6 squirrels; possesion 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 guns, or .22 caliber handguns.
  • 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.
  • Muzzle-loading rifles.
  • Archery or crossbow equipment.
  • Pellets fired from .177, .20, .22 or .25 caliber air guns.
  • Dogs may be used to aid in the hunt.

Prohibited Methods of Taking Squirrels

  • Trapping squirrels during the spring season, or hunting squirrels at any time with slingshots or blowguns is prohibited.

COYOTES AND OTHER WILDLIFE

Hunting Seasons

Coyote - Year-round, day or night (exceptions apply)
Groundhog - Year-round
Bullfrog - Noon, May 15 - Midnight, Oct. 31, 2015
Turtles* - Year-round, day or night

*Alligator snapping turtles may not be harvested.

COYOTES

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 used.

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 wildlife management areas (WMAs).

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 to hunting.

Coyotes may only be trapped during furbearer trapping seasons.

GROUNDHOGS

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.

BULLFROGS

Bullfrog season opens at noon on the third Friday in May and runs through the end of October. 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.

TURTLES

Snapping turtles and soft shell turtles may be taken year-round with no bag limit. Alligator snapping turtles cannot be harvested. 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

Wild pigs may be hunted year-round, with no bag limit, except on Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area ( www.nps.gov/biso ).

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 license exempt.

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.

BIRDS

  • Some species of exotic, non-native birds (pheasant, chukar, and Eurasian collared dove) may be hunted year-round, with no hunting license required and no bag limit.
  • 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.

HOOFED STOCK (OTHER THAN WHITE-TAILED DEER AND ELK)

  • Exotic, non-native hoofed stock may be hunted year-round.
  • No license required.
  • No bag limit or checking requirement.
  • Fallow deer are not legal to hunt on Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.

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.