Record Year for Trophy Whitetail Bucks
No matter how you measure it, in 2003-04, Kentucky hunters had the most successful deer-hunting season ever recorded.
The number of whitetails taken last season set a single-season record for Kentucky, with 116,450 reported to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).
Likewise, a phenomenal 43 hunter-taken trophy bucks that qualified for listing in the Boone & Crockett Club trophy records were reported taken from the Bluegrass State from last season. The highest number of trophy bucks from a single season before 2003 was 30.
Countless bow hunters that qualified for listing in the Pope & Young Club trophy records also took other high quality whitetail bucks. The Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young clubs are the two most prestigious and respected big game record-keeping organizations in the world. Harvesting game animals that qualify is rare. Less than one percent of the whitetail buck population harvested carries the quality-size antlers that it takes to gain this recognition. Kentucky’s herd quality is truly among the elite in the world.
In the past five deer seasons alone, Kentucky has yielded 141 white-tailed bucks that qualified for Boone & Crockett Club listing and were reported to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). It is likely others were taken and not reported, or remain unmeasured. The highest scoring typical and non-typical bucks in Kentucky ever recorded were harvested in the last five years. They were Robert Smith’s 2000-season buck from Pendleton County that scored 204 2/8 typical, and Ben Brogle’s nontypical that scored 262 1/8 from Garrard County in 2002. Kentucky’s typical state record whitetail currently ranks among the top 10 whitetail typicals in the world.
This suggests Kentucky’s deer management plan has been highly effective in keeping the state’s herd balanced and healthy. Opportunities for hunters to take a deer in the commonwealth, and have a higher than average chance of encountering a trophy class buck, continues to be a very real possibility.
“One of the most beneficial things about how our approach has worked is that now, more than ever, the average deer hunter who’s just out there hunting for any deer or buck, has as good a chance as the experienced trophy-geared hunter to see a high quality buck of a lifetime,” said KDFWR Big Game Coordinator Jonathan Day.
“There are some places better suited with good deer habitat than others, but we’ve seen record-book deer come from every corner of Kentucky, and the truth is, one could show up anywhere right now and that excites us for the hunting public,” said Day.
“It is the hunter who has helped mold our herd quality,” Day continued, “and the hunter’s role in management is critical to the continued success of our program.”
Last season alone, 25 different counties were represented on the Kentucky trophy deer list, and multiple record-book bucks were taken in some counties. Even Kentucky’s most urban county, Jefferson, now has a Boone & Crockett Club trophy whitetail to its credit. Since the 1999-2000 season, well over half (68) of Kentucky’s counties have produced a Boone & Crockett-class buck.
Residents of Kentucky required to have a hunting license can deer hunt for $40 and take two deer. Non-residents can take two deer in Kentucky for $140. Resident and nonresident hunters under 16 can hunt deer for less than $25 in license fees. Resident landowners in Kentucky hunt free and seniors for only $5. Kentucky license rates are very comparable with surrounding states, and the recent boon in trophy buck production makes the Bluegrass State an excellent choice for hunters nationwide when selecting a hunting trip destination.
KDFWR deer resource managers would like to see the state’s deer harvest continue to increase in future years. Increasing the harvest, especially of does, is one key to maintaining the high quality buck reputation Kentucky has earned in the last decade.
“We know, though, that a significant majority of hunters have only been taking one deer, regardless of what equipment they can use or how long they can use it,” said Day.
“Many also have the opportunity, but choose not to take any animal for various reasons.
“We have more than 200,000 deer hunters in Kentucky, and our harvest was just above half that number last season,” Day said, “and as our herd continues to expand in some areas, we would like to see the harvest expand as well.”
For it’s landmass, few other states have kept pace with Kentucky in trophy deer production. Kentucky wildlife managers have earned the right to be proud of that fact, and they encourage state hunters to help keep the commonwealth at the top of the list.
Deer hunting in Kentucky has an economic impact of more than $ 400 million annually.
The value of the deer resource continues to play an incredibly important role in Kentucky for its citizens and businesses.