Hunting Deer In Kentucky Early Season

Hunting Deer In Kentucky Early Season
Kentucky Early Season Velvet Buck. Ron Foltz

Tips On Where and How To Hunt Early Deer In Kentucky

Hunting Deer in Kentucky early provides an opportunity of harvesting a buck in velvet. With the season opener being the first Saturday in September this year the archery season opens September 1st here in Kentucky. According to Gabe Jenkins, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources deer program coordinator, Kentucky bucks can still have velvet through the first week of September giving hunters the maximum time this year to harvest that velvet buck of a lifetime.

Jenkins said that the way to harvesting an early season deer, whether a doe or a buck, is by targeting food sources. “September and October can be one of the most stressful times for the deer population,” said Jenkins. “A wet summer can take a lot of the stress off the deer with abundant browse; however, if it’s a dry summer then there is less browse and therefore more stress as the bucks experience rising testosterone and the does are still feeding their young of the year. Both these situations demand a lot of nutrients so expect early deer to congregate near vital food sources.”

Early food sources can include corn, soybeans and other agricultural crops, but if you hunt properties without agriculture learning the browse that deer prefer during the early season can help you be more successful. Kentucky deer season usually opens before the acorns begin to drop and too early for soft mass like persimmons to be ripe. Deer must forage for what is available during the early Kentucky deer season. Here is a few highly favored food sources for early season whitetails that are often overlooked by hunters.


Hunt Honey Locust For Deer

The honey locust is one of these early season food sources favored by the whitetail deer. The honey locust produces large seed pods that are not only nutritious, but also tasty to the deer. You will find them in moist soils near river beds or creeks bottoms in open areas like along old logging roads or fields. The honey locust will attract deer early and can be a great place for a stand, especially if it has been a dry summer. Anytime you are in the woods be sure to mark any honey locust trees you find. You never know when it might pay off with an early season harvest.

Mushrooms For Early Deer Hunting Kentucky

Another prime food source for early velvet deer season is mushrooms. Mushrooms grow in damp soil and prefer shady areas. This is also where deer like to bed during the early season to escape the heat. Mushrooms grow fast. Deer will travel through an area with a lot of mushrooms to see if any new ones have sprouted. A great place to find mushrooms is in pine groves, this is especially true after a good rain shower. Pine groves are also great bedding areas so finding mushrooms could mean a lot of deer in the area. Deer will move more throughout the day because of the shade so stay put where you find mushrooms, you never know when one might get up to stretch its legs and grab a bite to eat.

Hunt Early Deer Near Food Sources

“Hunting near the food source is vital for early season success for two reasons,” Jenkins said. “During the early season it’s usually hot and the deer just prefer not to travel too far from their food source to bed. Deer haven’t been pressured going into the season opener. They will often bed within sight of their food. There is no need to leave. It is vital, when hunting near known food sources, to be as stealthy and scent free as possible when approaching these areas during the early season. The deer are probably nearby whether it be a bean field or a honey locust tree.” Jenkins added.

Hunt Early Dropping Acorns For Early Season Deer

As the season progresses of course the acorns will begin to drop. Locating the first trees to drop their acorns should be dynamite during the early season. White oak is the preferred acorn and noting the location of the trees dropping early could help you locate more trees to hunt over. This is a great time to back away from the open fields and cutovers. “Deer will move off these areas as soon as the acorns start to drop,” said Jenkins. “Early season bucks begin to crave the high protein food source in preparation for the rigors of the coming rut.”

Kentucky is known for big bucks as well as great public lands to hunt them. The early season is also a great time to harvest a doe for the freezer. Get the season started with some great venison dinners for the family. Check out these hunting properties for this season and try to explore a new one or two and experience what Kentucky has to offer.

Kentucky WMA Properties To Hunt The Early Deer Season

Kentucky River WMA

Located in Henry and Owen counties, Kentucky River Wildlife Management Area is 3,643 acres of prime whitetail habitat. The property owned by the KDFWR, consist of flood plains, old fields as well as oak and hickory forest. The low land and old fields create the perfect bedding areas for deer while the oaks and hickory trees supply plenty of hard mast later in the season and help the deer flourish at Kentucky River WMA.

The Kentucky River WMA offers a diverse landscape with abundant wildlife. It is located in the middle of Kentucky’s “Golden Triangle,” where a large portion of Kentucky’s population resides. This makes the WMA a popular destination for many early season deer hunters. Do your research and plan on a hike to get to places most hunters will not travel. Gabe Jenkins, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources deer and elk program coordinator, told me that boat access is an option. “Expect a climb in most of the areas that have river access.” Jenkins said. “The river runs through a lot of bluffs. A pre-season scouting trip would be wise if you plan to use a boat to locate entry points before the season opener.”

Kentucky River WMA is an active property with prepared dove fields and other activities that can help the early season deer hunter. Look for early season browse and grasses along the edges of these fields. With dove season opening the same day as bow season try locating escape routes leading to thick bedding areas. These beds can be several hundred yards off the fields. Be in position for the dove hunters to push deer to you. These areas could be void of any sign but be patient. The deer will be in there once the human activity increases around those fields.

Kentucky River WMA consist of 6 tracts. The Boone Tract, Chesney Tract, Gilbert Tract, Roberts Tract, Acree Tract and the Welch Tract and Hardin Bottoms is mobility impaired accessible with a permit. Be sure to check the KDFWR website for more information.

Higginson-Henry WMA

Higginson-Henry WMA is located in Union county and according to Mr. Jenkins is the most bowhunter friendly properties on this list. It is one of the better properties in the state especially for the early season. “Higginson-Henry is traditionally the most popular area we have in the state for deer. It is a fantastic place with a lot of food and managers do a wonderful job with the habitat and food sources at Higginson-Henry.” Jenkins said. “The deer numbers are great at Higginson-Henry WMA and it has a good number of quality deer as well.”

Higginson-Henry has 5,450 acres available. It is mostly forested with hardwoods. It also has numerous small clearings with wildlife plantings that are popular with archery hunters. Higginson-Henry is also under a quality deer management program and restrictions do apply so be sure to check the regulations before you go. This restriction helps improve the trophy size bucks that live at Higginson-Henry and another reason it’s so popular.

Livingston County WMA

Livingston County WMA is located in Livingston county near the Ohio and Cumberland River confluence with bluffs towering above the river creating a unique area to hunt. “The Livingston County WMA is a well-managed property. The deer numbers are pretty strong there,” Jenkins stated. “The property has increased in size and managers have done a lot of habitat work on the area providing ample opportunities for Kentucky deer hunters.”

Livingston County WMA consist of three tracts. Newman’s Bluff is 461 acres with limestone bluffs overlooking a heavily forested valley. The Reynolds tract is 873 acres and has moderate to good deer populations according to the KDFWR website. The Bissel Bluff tract is 562 acres of mature forest and bottomlands along the Cumberland River. The area usually floods with spring rains creating very rugged terrain for wildlife to flourish.

Sloughs WMA

Sloughs WMA is 11,111 acres with 6 units along the Ohio River near Henderson Kentucky. The Sloughs WMA is very popular among duck hunters. The Sloughs WMA property is also a great place for early season deer hunters. “About a 1,000 acres of the WMA is planted in a corn and soy bean rotation,” said Greg Buckert. Greg is the Wildlife Management foreman for Sloughs WMA. “Sloughs WMA is a great archery season opportunity because of the more popular WMA’s nearby. They seems to attract more hunters during the early deer season taking some of the pressure off of Sloughs, at least during the archery season.”

According to Mr. Buckert, Sloughs WMA has great access throughout, but it does flood from time to time. “We are located near the Ohio River and flooding can occur anytime,” Buckert added. “September is usually dry. Flooding is rarely an issue during the early season. Be aware of the possibility and be sure to check the regulations for Sloughs WMA. There are variances throughout the property.”

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About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.