Kentucky Afield Outdoors: 2011-2012 Deer Season Ends With Fourth Largest Overall Harvest

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Kentucky's 2011-12 white-tailed deer season ended Jan. 16 with hunters posting the fourth largest overall harvest ever recorded.

"The 119,656 deer taken was the highest total since the 2008-2009 season," said Tina Brunjes, deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "Good hunting weather may have been a contributing factor to the excellent harvest during the last two months of the season."

Hunters bagged a record harvest of 12,989 in December, which surpassed the previous record by 4,261 set in December 2004. "Muzzleloader hunters were responsible for that big jump, checking in 10,536 deer during their nine-day late season that ran Dec. 10-18," said Brunjes.

January's harvest was excellent, too with hunters telechecking 2,628 deer - just 73 short of last year's record harvest for the month.

Overall, hunters reported taking 55 percent male deer and 45 percent female deer. Modern firearms hunters bagged 83,357 deer, muzzleloader hunters 15,161 deer and archers 18,169 deer.

"For the last 10 years our harvest has gone up and down a bit, but overall the trend is stable," said Brunjes. "That's a good sign."

This past season, Kentucky had 90,247 successful deer hunters, but 77 percent (69,776 hunters) took just one deer. "Seventeen percent of our successful deer hunters (15,118 hunters) took two deer, and six percent of our successful deer hunters (5,353 hunters) took three or more deer," said Brunjes.

By zone, hunters harvested 52,664 deer in the 35 Zone 1 counties; 30,160 deer in the 27 Zone 2 counties; 25,324 deer in the 33 Zone 3 counties and 11,505 in the 25 Zone 4 counties.

The bulk of Kentucky counties are in deer management Zones 2 and 3. Brunjes said there's still work to be done in the Zone 1 counties, where deer densities are too high, and in the Zone 4 counties, where deer densities are below target levels.

Archers and muzzleloader hunters took 61 percent antlerless deer. Modern gun hunters bagged the lowest percent of antlerless deer – 38 percent.

Crossbow hunters posted the highest percent of antlerless deer in the harvest, 63 percent. They also established a new harvest record in the process. Crossbow hunters bagged 1,969 deer, which represents about 1.6 percent of the overall harvest.

For the third consecutive season, archers posted a harvest record by taking 18,169 deer, about 15 percent of the total harvest.

"Overall, the hunters we have are being more successful," said Brunjes. "We hope that all this success will help them in mentoring new hunters."