More public hunting land in Clay, Bell, Knox and Leslie counties
By Hayley Lynch
Fifteen thousand additional acres are now open for public hunting in southeastern Kentucky, thanks to an agreement between the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and landowner Tommy Graham. The land adjoins the Daniel Boone National Forest, Begley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Ataya WMA.
“The area has a lot of rugged terrain and a lot of reclaimed mine lands,” said Steve Beam, southeast regional coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ wildlife division. “The landscape is typical of Begley and Ataya. It has a lot of elk and other wildlife typical of southeastern Kentucky, like deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels and songbirds.”
Graham WMA’s reclaimed mind lands provide strip benches that make hunting easier. A common hunting strategy in eastern Kentucky is to get on a bench and walk it. “You have a relatively flat walk this way,” said Beam. “It’s popular with grouse and turkey hunting, and any kind of hunting where you have to do a lot of walking.”
Hunting the new area won’t be a walk in the park, however. The area is heavily forested, with steep mountainsides and elevations ranging from 1,040 to 2,440 feet.
“It’s timberland except where they’ve mined,” said Graham. “The mined areas make for great deer, turkey and grouse hunting.”
Graham said he also benefits from the agreement with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to open his land to public access. “It’s a good deal for the landowner, because it keeps poachers out, not only for the game, but because there is a lot of good timberland,” he said.
The area is open under statewide regulations for deer, turkey and small game hunting. Some areas where active mining is taking place are off limits to the public, so visitors should be sure to follow all signs.
Graham WMA is an especially important addition to Kentucky’s public hunting land because it holds a large number of elk. “Access to the elk herd is very important, for viewing opportunities as well as hunting,” said Beam. Quota elk hunters have already taken several elk on the new area.
“This is part of our ongoing commitment to provide more hunting access to the public,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett. “We are extremely grateful that Tommy Graham made this happen. People like Mr. Graham share our love of the outdoors and recognize the importance of preserving our hunting heritage by allowing more public access to large tracts of property.”
How to get there
From Manchester, take the Hal Rogers Parkway 13 miles east to exit 34 (Redbird). Go south on KY-66 for 16 miles to Gardner. Coal offices and facilities are on left and right; the next haul road on the left is entrance to the property. Alternately, take KY-66 for 13 miles and turn left on KY-1850. Go to the top of the mountain, entrance to property is on both the left and right.