Season Dates - Searchable application
Chase-Only - August 1-31 and Sept. 9-30 and during the Quota Hunt with Dogs season
Archery/Crossbow - Seven consecutive days starting the fourth Saturday in October in bear zones 1 and 2*
Modern Gun - Seven consecutive days starting the third Saturday in December in bear zones 1 and 2*
Quota Hunt with Dogs - Fourteen consecutive days starting third Saturday in October in bear zones 1, 2 and 3*
Muzzleloader - Nine consecutive days starting the second Saturday in December in bear zone 3*
* Seasons will end earlier if quotas are met before scheduled closing dates.
Where to Hunt Bears
There are three bear zones in Kentucky. Season dates and quotas vary by zone.
ZONE 1 Counties
Bell, Harlan and Letcher, and private land in McCreary County
ZONE 2 Counties
Breathitt, Clay, Clinton, Floyd, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Leslie, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Wayne and Whitley
ZONE 3 Counties
Adair, Bath, Boyd, Carter, Casey, Clark, Cumberland, Elliot, Estill, Estill, Fleming, Garrard, Greenup, Lee, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Powell, Rowan and Wolfe
2017 Bear Harvest Quotas
QUOTA HUNT WITH DOGS
Zone 1 - Three bears or two female bears, whichever is reached first.
Zones 2 and 3 - Eight bears or three female bears, whichever is reached first.
Zone 1 - Five bears or two female bears, whichever is reached first.
Zone 2 - Ten bears or four female bears, whichever is reached first.
Zone 3 - Closed.
Zone 1 - Five bears or two female bears, whichever is reached first.
Zone 2 - Fourteen bears or four female bears, whichever is reached first.
Zone 3 - Closed.
Zone 1 - Closed.
Zone 2 - Closed.
Zone 3 - Five bears or three female bears, whichever is reached first.
Bear Hunting Season FAQ
Black Bear in Kentucky Frequently Asked Questions
Chase-Only Season with Dogs
Unless license exempt, participants must purchase a bear chase permit or youth bear chase permit and an annual hunting license. Bear chase permits can be purchased online from July 1 – December 31.
In any bear zone, a dog can be used to chase a bear on private land with permission of the landowner except the chase-only and quota hunt with dogs seasons are closed in McCreary County.
Orange is the Law!
Kentucky’s Hunter Orange Clothing Law requires ALL HUNTERS and persons accompanying them, hunting for any species during the modern gun, muzzleloading, and youth fire - arm deer seasons, or a firearm elk or bear season to wear solid, unbroken hunter orange color visible from all sides on the head, back and chest.
Unless license exempt, hunters must purchase and possess proof of the appropriate valid bear permit(s) in addition to an annual hunting license.
Hunters who harvest a bear during any bear hunting season must telecheck it by 8 p.m. Eastern time, and also call 1-800-858-1549 within 24 hours of harvest to arrange for a physical check of the animal and receive a tag issued by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Bears physically checked during any hunting season must include a carcass or an intact hide that contains the skull, and proof of sex.
Hunters must call 1-800-858-1549 after 9 p.m. Eastern time on each day of a bear hunting season to check if the quota for that season has been reached. If the quota has not been reached, the season will continue through the next day.
If a harvest quota limit is reached, the season will close 30 minutes after sunset that day.
Legal Bear Hunting Equipment
- A modern rifle of .270 caliber or larger, with a magazine capable of holding no more than 10 rounds
- A muzzle-loading rifle of .50 caliber or larger
- A muzzle-loading or breech-loading shotgun no larger than 10-gauge, and no smaller than 20-gauge, firing a single projectile (slug, round ball, conical bullet or saboted bullet) only
- A handgun loaded with centerfire cartridges with a case length of 1.285 inches or larger, firing bullets of .270 caliber or larger designed to expand upon impact
- Firearms may not be fully automatic (capable of firing more than one round with one trigger pull)
- Full metal jacketed or tracer bullet ammunition is prohibited
- Archery and crossbow equipment that is legal for deer hunting
Q: Is it legal to shoot a bear that is feeding at a trash can or dumpster?
A: No. Garbage is considered bait.
- Hunters and houndsmen may not disturb or take bears from dens.
- Bear hunting is prohibited on the following areas within bear zone 1: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Kingdom Come State Park, and the Hensley-Pine Mountain WMA. Additionally, bear hunting within the 12,094 acres surrounding Hensley-Pine Mountain WMA and Kingdom Come State Park is limited to landowners, their spouses and dependent children hunting on their own property.
- The chase-only and bear quota hunt with dogs seasons are closed in McCreary County.
- All archery, crossbow and modern gun hunting for bears in McCreary County is limited to private land.
- Hunters may not take female bears with cubs, or any bear weighing less than 75 pounds.
- Hunters may not use bait during any bear season.
- Dogs may not be used to hunt bears during the archery/crossbow, modern gun or muzzleloader seasons, but leashed tracking dogs may be used to recover wounded bears.
- Hunters 15 years old and younger who use a firearm must be accompanied by an adult, who shall remain in a position to take immediate control of the youth’s firearm.
Hunter Orange Requirement
Bear hunters and those who accompany them, or any other person hunting on public or private lands in the bear hunting zone during a firearm season for bears, must comply with the hunter orange clothing law. This requirement also applies to any person chasing bears during the Bear Quota Hunt with Dogs season.
PUBLIC HUNTING AREAS
In Bear Zone 1: Asher Hunting Access, Boone Forestlands WMA (Bell and Harlan county portions), Cambrian Coal Hunting Access Area (Letcher County portion), Corrigan WMA (Bell County portion), Cranks Creek WMA, Daniel Boone National Forest (Harlan County portion), Elk Forest WMA (Bell County portion), Fortner-Davis WMA, Jefferson National Forest (Letcher County portion), Kentenia State Forest, Kentucky Ridge State Forest WMA, Kentucky Ridge State Forest, Martins Fork Lake WMA, Martins Fork Lake WMA and State Natural Area, Revelation Energy Hunting Access Area (Harlan County portion), Shillalah Creek WMA, Stone Mountain WMA and State Natural Area.
In Bear Zone 2: Beaver Creek WMA (Pulaski County portion), Boone Forestlands WMA (Leslie County portion), Buck Creek WMA, Buckhorn Lake WMA, Burchell-Beech Creek WMA, Cambrian Coal Hunting Access Area (Pike County portion), Cane Creek WMA, Carr Creek Lake WMA, Corrigan WMA (Knox and Leslie county portions), Czar Hunting Access Area, Dale Hollow Lake WMA (Clinton County portion), Daniel Boone National Forest (Clay, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, Owsley, Perry, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Wayne and Whitley county portions), Dewey Lake WMA, Ed Mabry-Laurel Gorge WMA, Elk Forest WMA (Clay, Knox and Leslie county portions), Fishtrap Lake WMA, Grayson Lake WMA, Hidden Valley Training Area, Jefferson National Forest (Pike County portion), Lake Cumberland WMA (Clinton, Pulaski, Russell and Wayne county portions), Meadow Creek WMA, Mill Creek WMA, Paintsville Lake WMA (Johnson County portion), Paul Van Booven WMA, Ping-Sinking Valley WMA, R.F. Tarter WMA (Russell County portion), Redbird WMA, Revelation Energy Hunting Access Area (Breathitt, Floyd, Knott, Leslie, Martin and Pike county portions), Robinson Forest WMA, Wells Hunting Access Area, Yatesville Lake WMA.
In Bear Zone 3: Ashland WMA, Cedar Creek Lake WMA, Clay WMA (Bath and Fleming county portions), Dale Hollow Lake WMA (Cumberland County portion), Daniel Boone National Forest (Bath, Estill, Lee, Menifee, Morgan, Powell, Rowan and Wolfe county portions), Dennis-Gray WMA, Dix River WMA, Fleming WMA, Green River Lake WMA (Adair County portion), Marrowbone State Forest and WMA (Cumberland County portion), Miller Welch-Central Kentucky WMA, Mud Camp Creek WMA, Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Paintsville Lake WMA (Morgan County portion), Pioneer Weapons WMA, R.F. Tarter WMA (Adair County portion), South Shore WMA, Tygarts State Forest.
Note: Some areas listed above may have special regulations. Please consult the Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, Public Lands Hunting section on this website or contact Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for additional information.