Kentucky Fish and Wildlife opens two new tracts of public land just in time for spring turkey season

​​​​​​FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 2, 2024) — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has opened two new tracts of land for public access in eastern and north-central Kentucky just in time for spring turkey hunting. The spring gobbler seasons kick off with the youth-only season (April 6-7) followed by the general hunting season (April 13-May 5, 2024).

Located entirely in Morgan County near West Liberty, Kentucky, Horse Mill Branch Wildlife Management Area (WMA) now provides nearly 640 acres for hunting and outdoor recreation in eastern Kentucky. In Owen County, John A. Kleber WMA has expanded by 225 acres, bringing its total size to 4,689 acres.​​​​

Using funds from the Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Program for stream restoration projects on Horse Mill Branch, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife purchased more than 520 acres to improve aquatic habitat in the watershed. Another 119 adjoining acres were donated to the department for conservation and public use, together allowing for the creation of a new WMA.​​​​

​​​​The Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Program, also known as the Fees-In-Lieu-of Mitigation Fund or “FILO” for short, uses monies paid by developers who choose to pay into a restoration fund rather than directly mitigate their impacts made to streams or wetlands regulated under the U.S. Clean Water Act. These monies are held in a dedicated fund in the state treasury and used solely for wetland and stream mitigation projects like this.

“FILO allows Kentucky to purchase desirable properties to restore and conserve, providing beneficial habitat for a wide variety of important aquatic and land animals and plants,” said Mike Hardin, assistant director of the Fisheries Division of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Utilizing funds procured from modern development projects, we can help protect natural wildlife areas for future generations.”​​​​

Horse Mill Branch WMA consists mostly of upland hardwood forest with some scattered old-field habitat and will provide good opportunity for deer and turkey hunting, as well as hunting for small game species such as squirrel and rabbit, and the possibility to flush grouse. The terrain has moderately steep slopes leading to upland oak forests on the ridge tops. Horse Mill Branch WMA is open under statewide regulations.​​​​

“We wanted to open these properties as soon as possible to allow turkey hunters more opportunities,” said Derek Beard, assistant director of the Wildlife Division with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “These newly opened properties will be of benefit for hunters and anglers now and all year.”​​​​

​​​​Horse Mill Branch WMA is located between West Liberty in Morgan County and Sandy Hook in Elliott County. To access the property, take Kentucky Highway 7 or US Highway 460 into West Liberty and head east onto Prestonsburg Street/Highway 460 E. Travel 1 mile and turn left onto Kentucky Highway 172. Take Highway 172 north for approximately 9 miles and turn right onto Kentucky Highway 589. Continue south on Highway 589 for 2.5 miles to Gilliam Branch Road. A new parking area for the WMA is located on the right side of the road at the intersection of Highway 589 and Gilliam Branch Road.

The additional acreage on John A. Kleber WMA adjoins the House tract located on the east side of US Highway 127. This addition improves access to the WMA and provides an additional parking lot. This is a mostly forested area consisting of mixed hardwoods and interspersed cedar stands with some open early successional fields. John A. Kleber WMA is open for turkey hunting under statewide regulations.​​​​

​​​​Updated WMA information and mapping is available on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at Type in “Horse Mill Branch WMA” or “John A. Kleber WMA” in the search box in the top right corner of the homepage.

Licenses and permits are sold online through Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website on the License Sales portal and at vendor locations​ across the state. A list of license agents by county is available on the department’s website.​​​​

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