Buck in field, credit Chase Wininger, 2022

Deer Hunting

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​HUNTING DEER IN KENTUCKY


Zero to a million in 100 years. While that may sound slow to SpaceX, the story of Kentucky’s rocketing deer herd growth is an amazing success story. Today, Kentucky is a top-10 state for hunters seeking that trophy buck. The herd also is substantial enough to support the harvest of more than 130,000 deer each year. That’s a lot of venison for the table. Buy a license here.

This success story is brought to you by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s long and storied history of sound, science-based deer management. Nowadays, hunters are the primary managers of the state’s deer herd. The department’s guidelines maximize opportunities for hunters while helping to balance deer herd numbers through carefully considered zones and bag limits. Read on for more information about deer hunting in Kentucky.

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DEER HUNTING SEASONS

Hunting Guide Buy LICENSES/PERMITS

DEER​ Early Season Late Season
Archery Sept. 7, 2024  - Jan. 20, 2025
Youth/Senior Crossbow
Crossbow Sept. 21, 2024 - Jan. 20, 2025
Youth-only Gun Oct. 12 - 13, 2024
Muzzleloader Oct. 19 - 20, 2024
Dec. 14 - 22, 2024
Modern Gun Nov. 9 - 24, 2024
Free Youth Weekend Dec. 28 - 29, 2024
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​WHAT LICENSE DO YOU NEED?

Buy LICENSES/PERMITS

The tables below provide a quick overview of current licensing requirements. See the rest of this section for exemptions and complete residency, licensing and hunter education requirements. Licenses and permits for species below are not required for children younger than 12.

KENTUCKY RESIDENTS Ages 12-15 Ages 16-64 Ages 65 and older OR Disabled
Deer ​Youth Hunting License* +Youth Deer Permit*
​Annual Hunting License† +Statewide Permit† ​Senior/Disabled  or Senior Lifetime Sportsman's License
​​​*Included in Youth Sportsman's License
†Included in Resident Sportsman's License​
NONRESIDENTS
(Must buy nonresident licenses/permits)
Ages 12-15 Ages 16 and Older
Deer Youth Hunting License* +Youth Deer Permit*
​Annual Hunting License† +Statewide Permit†

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COMMON QUESTIONS



HUNTER OBSERVATION SURVEY

Observed interesting wildlife, such as a Bobcat, while out deer hunting? Use the Hunter Observation Survey to record your wildlife sightings during Kentucky's deer hunting season (Sept. 7, 2024 - Jan. 20, 2025).​

OBSERVATION SURVEY


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WANT TO LEARN TO HUNT?

Check out our Learn to Hunt page for a quick start on hunting deer in Kentucky.

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​GENERAL INFORMATION

  • The statewide deer permit and youth deer permit allow for the harvest of up to four deer. Hunters may take up to one antlered deer and three antlerless deer, or four antlerless deer using the statewide deer permit or youth deer permit.
  • The statewide season limit for antlered deer is one per hunter
  • A hunter may take as many deer as allowed for each zone. In order to take more than four deer statewide, an additional deer permit must be purchased.
  • An additional deer permit allows a hunter to take up to two additional deer beyond the four deer allowed by the statewide or youth deer permits.  Zone bag limits apply. Hunters who did not harvest an antlered deer using their statewide or youth deer permits can take one antlered deer and up to one antlerless deer, or up to two antlerless deer with the deer management permit.
  • Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunri

​HUNTER ORANGE REQUIRED!​

Hunters and people accompanying them must wear solid, unbroken hunter orange color visible from all sides on the head, back and chest when hunting for any species during the modern gun, muzzleloader, and youth firearm deer seasons, or a firearm elk or bear season. 

However, hunter orange is not required when hunting waterfowl or doves during a gun deer, elk or bear season, or when hunting furbearers at night during a legal furbearer season.​

Father-daughter-modern-gun-hunt-Sieyason-Chantavong-photo-webedit.jpeg ​Stay fun and safe! Wear hunter orange!​​​​

​SCOUTING​

Hunters usually fare better if they spend some time exploring the area(s) they will hunt before hunting season.

BUCK OR DOE?

Depending on when and where you’re hunting, there may be restrictions on the sex available for harvest.   Be sure to check the bag limits below. 


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NEED YOUR DEER SCORED?

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has about thirty employees across the state who are certified official Boone and Crockett Measurers. To find one, visit the Boone and Crockett Official Measurer Locator.​


PUBLIC LANDS

If you don’t have a place to hunt or want to try a different place, Kentucky has over 1.5 Million acres of public hunting lands. Maps are available for these areas. It is vital that you are aware of public lands regulations for the area you will hunt on. Some public lands have “quota” hunts, which involve an application process for a limited number of hunter slots and hunting periods. Other public lands are open for some or all seasons within the hunting regulations for the prevailing county.

​CHECKING AND TAGGING

All deer must be telechecked. Hunters must call 1-800-245-4263 or complete the online check-in process through My Profile. See the “Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transportation” portion of this guide's "General Information" section for full details.

If the hide or head is removed before the harvested deer is checked in – to quarter the animal, for example – it is necessary to demonstrate proof of sex by retaining the head or keeping the genitalia attached to the carcass. In such cases, it is still necessary to fill out the harvest log immediately after harvest and telecheck the animal before midnight on the day the deer is harvested or recovered.

A carcass tag is required if a harvested deer leaves the hunter’s possession for any reason.

TEST YOUR DEER​​

​Consider submitting your deer for CWD sampling at one of our conveniently located collection stations across the state.

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​The Deer Program is sponsored in part by:

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Important Info

  • Wear surgical gloves when field dressing and handling raw meat.
  • Telecheck (check-in) requirements for deer and other big game.
  • Transportation Restrictions
    NOTE: Because of disease risks, entire carcasses and intact heads of deer, elk, moose and caribou from other states may NOT be transported into or through Kentucky. Please see TRANSPORTATION RESTRICTIONS section on this page.
  • Help Kentucky Fish and Wildlife monitor the health of the state’s deer herd by reporting animals acting strangely or appearing ill.
  • Submit Images of Your Deer's Jaw Bone for Aging
    side_view_deer_jawbone.jpgHelp Us understand our Kentucky deer herd better! Submit photos of your harvest’s jawbone through the Jaw Bone Submission Survey to see how old your harvest was.​
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​​​​Stay Informed

​​Sign Up to Receive Updates about Future Field to Fork Opportunities

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​​BAG LIMITS

Bag limits and harvest restrictions apply to all hunters. A person may take no more than one (1) deer with visible antlers, excluding male fawns (button bucks), regardless of zone, method or season. 

However, on some federally controlled areas, including Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Campbell and Fort Knox military reservations and Blue Grass Army Depot, a bonus antlered deer may be taken, as determined by the governing agency for each area.

Only one antlered deer per hunter may be harvested statewide, regardless of zone, method or season.​

Deer Zones map

Only one antlered deer per hunter may be harvested statewide, regardless of zone, method or season.


DEER BAG LIMITS

Only one antlered deer may be harvested statewide,
regardless of zone or method

​ZONE 1
A hunter may harvest an unlimited number of antlerless deer in Zone 1 using the statewide deer permit and additional deer permits.
ZONE 2
A hunter may harvest no more than four deer in Zone 2.
ZONE 3 A hunter may harvest no more than four deer in Zone 3. A firearm or air gun cannot be used to take more than one antlerless deer.
ZONE 4 A hunter may harvest no more than two deer in Zone 4. Only one can be antlerless. Antlerless deer cannot be harvested during the modern gun season, the early muzzleloader season or the first six days of late muzzleloader season. The statewide bag limit of one antlered deer still applies.
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​CAR​​​​RY PROOF

Hunters who buy their license or permit by p​​hone or the Internet must carry a picture ID and proof of purchase (an authorization number, paper license, or computer printout) while hunting. Paper licenses/permits must be signed and all information completed before hunting.

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STATEWIDE DEER PERMIT

Unless license-exempt, all deer hunters age 16 and older must first buy and carry proof of purchasing an annual hunting license and a statewide deer permit while hunting. The permit allows a hunter to take four deer: one antlered and three antlerless or four antlerless. It does not matter if the antlered or antlerless dear is taken first.​

​ADDITIONAL DEER PERMIT

An additional deer permit must be purchased to take more than four deer. The additional deer permit allows a hunter to take up to two additional deer beyond those allowed by the statewide permit in the following combinations: one antlered and one antlerless or two antlerless. Regardless of what permit a deer hunter carries, the statewide season limit for antlered deer is one per hunter. The additional deer permit is not valid unless the hunter has first purchased an annual hunting license and statewide deer permit and is able to show proof of that in the field. A statewide or additional deer permit may be used on public and private lands and during some quota hunts. ​​​​Additional deer permits can only be used in counties with unlimited antlerless harvests (Zone 1).

LEGAL HUNTING EQUIPMENT

MODERN GUN EQUIPMENT

  • ​Any caliber centerfire rifle or centerfire handgun.
  • Rifle or handgun magazines may not be capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
  • Rifles or handguns 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.
  • Shotguns, no larger than 10-gauge, shooting slug ammunition only (includes saboted bullets).
  • Muzzle-loading rifles, handguns, or shotguns shooting round balls, conical bullets, or saboted bullets.
  • Air guns of .35 caliber or larger charged by an external tank, shooting single projectile ammunition designed to expand upon impact.

ARCHERY EQUIPMENT

  • Longbows, recurves and compound bows of any draw weight (no minimum).
  • Wood, carbon or metal arrows, but arrows may not be chemically-treated.
  • Fixed blade or mechanical broadheads at least 7/8” wide (when blades extended), but broadheads may not be chemically-treated.

CROSSBOW EQUIPMENT

  • Crossbows of any draw weight (no minimum), with a working safety.
  • Wood, carbon or metal arrows (bolts), but arrows (bolts) may not be chemically treated.
  • Fixed blade or mechanical broadheads at least 7/8” (when blades extended), but broadheads may not be chemically treated.

MUZZLELOADING EQUIPMENT

  • Muzzle-loading rifles or handguns of any caliber, with flint or percussion ignition (including in-lines), shooting round balls, conical bullets or saboted bullets.
  • Muzzle-loading firearms equipped with open sights or telescopic sights (scopes).
  • Muzzle-loading shotguns no larger than 10-gauge, shooting round balls, conical bullets or saboted bullets.

HUNTING EQUIPMENT RESTRICTIONS​

ANTLER TRAPS

Devices designed to entangle or trap the antlers of deer cannot be used.

MODERN GUN SEASON

During modern gun deer season, hunters may hunt with modern guns, including air guns of .35 caliber or larger charged by an external tank, muzzleloaders, and archery and crossbow equipment, and must follow season restrictions, zone guidelines and other hunting requirements.

All hunters, including archery and crossbow hunters, and persons accompanying hunters, must wear hunter orange clothing during modern gun season.

Persons ages 15 and younger hunting deer with a firearm must be accompanied by an adult who shall be in a position to take immediate control of the youth's firearm at all times.

ARCHERY SEASON

Hunters using archery equipment during a deer firearms season must follow all firearm season restrictions, zone guidelines and other hunting requirements, and must wear hunter orange clothing.

The only exception is on state owned or managed WMAs where firearms hunting for deer or elk is prohibited.

CROSSBOW SEASON

Hunters using crossbows during a deer firearms season must follow all firearm season restrictions, zone guidelines and other hunting requirements, and must wear hunter orange clothing.

The only exception is on state owned or managed WMAs where firearms hunting for deer or elk is prohibited.

A legal resident hunter age 65 years or older or a youth hunter (resident or non-resident), age 15 or younger, may hunt deer with a crossbow from the first Saturday in September through the third Monday in January.

MUZZLELOADER SEASON

Muzzleloaders, archery and crossbow equipment may be used during this season.

All hunters must comply with the hunter orange clothing law.

Youths ages 15 and younger hunting deer with a muzzleloader must be accompanied by an adult who shall remain able and in a position to take immediate control of the youth’s muzzleloader at all times.

TREE STANDS

Construction and use of tree stands on private lands is regulated by landowners.


YOUTH DEER HUNTING

For More Information

Check out the FAQs found on our Free Youth Deer Hunting Weekend page or Youth-Only Firearms Deer page.

Important Dates

Free Youth Deer Hunting Weekend: Dec. 31 - Jan. 1

Free Youth-Only Firearms Season: Second Weekend in October.

Free Youth Small Game Hunting & Trapping Week: Dec. 31 - Jan. 6

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​​Can a hunter take a deer for someone else?
​​​​​ ​​​No. Hunters must claim any deer they take as their own. They must use their own license/permit and harvest log, and telecheck the deer using their own Social Security number.

Youths may hunt deer during any open season, including two special deer seasons for resident and non-resident hunters who have not reached their 16th birthday.

Adults accompanying youth deer hunters during either of these hunts may not use firearms to take deer.

Adults accompanying youth hunters are not required to possess a hunting license or deer permit if the adult is not deer hunting, but by law, the hunter and the accompanying adults must wear hunter orange clothing.


YOUTH-ONLY FIREARMS SEASON/FREE YOUTH DEER HUNTING WEEKEND

The first special youth deer season is on the second weekend of October. Youth hunters may take deer with firearms, or any other legal method, statewide. During the October youth-only firearms season, the appropriate hunting license and deer permits are required for hunters ages 12-15. Youth hunters under age 12 are not required to have a hunting license or deer permit.

On the first weekend following Christmas, resident and nonresident youth 15 years of age and younger, who are accompanied by an adult, are eligible to participate in the Free Youth Weekend. Youth hunters may hunt deer with firearms, or any other legal method, statewide without a hunting license or deer permit.

All bag limits, zone restrictions and deer hunting requirements apply during the special youth deer seasons.

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