Hunters have a new area in western Kentucky to pursue wild turkeys this spring.
The 2,500-acre Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area and State Forest in Union County opened to the public today. This unique wildlife management area (WMA) and state forest is located at the Tradewater River's confluence with the Ohio River near Sturgis.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources jointly manages this new area with the Kentucky Division of Forestry.
"Hunters, anglers and people who appreciate unique areas with a diversity of wildlife will make this a destination location," said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett. "People will enjoy visiting Big Rivers for generations to come."
Kentucky's youth-only turkey season is April 7-8. The statewide wild turkey season runs from April 14 through May 6.
Hunters and visitors to the area will find upland hardwoods, bottomlands and an uncommon forest type in Kentucky: post oak flatwoods. Big Rivers, which was previously managed as a sustainable forest, is primarily wooded with a good number of mast-producing trees. Approximately 600 acres of the open fields will be planted with corn and soybean crops; several wildlife habitat improvement projects will also begin this year on the property.
Big Rivers is an important area for federally-endangered bats and mussels. Migrating waterfowl use the area when coming through the state. Hunters should note the area includes excellent numbers of deer, squirrels and turkey.
"The turkey numbers are great; the toms are out in the fields strutting now," said Wildlife Regional Coordinator Scott Harp. "It should be an awesome experience for the kids during youth-only season."
Deer hunting on the property will include the statewide archery and crossbow seasons, youth firearms seasons and a quota firearms hunt on the weekend of Nov.10-11. Furbearer trapping will be by permit only. Big Rivers will be open under statewide seasons for all other species.
Access to the area is available off KY 1508 in the northern section of the WMA. Locust Lick Road and Lover's Lane Road branch off of KY 1508 and lead to the interior of the area. Access beyond gated areas on these roads is by foot only.
Visitors also have the option to access southern portions of the WMA via boat on the Tradewater and Ohio rivers. The WMA has a boat ramp located in the northeast corner of the property off Tradewater Road. A second Voluntary Public Access ramp is located approximately 200 yards east of the first ramp.
Visitors can also use another ramp located at the end of KY 1508. This provides access to the Ohio River just upstream of the property.
Some areas of the property are steep. No area on the property is more than a mile away from an access point, either along a road or by the river. A map of the area is available online at fw.ky.gov.
In addition to hunting, Big Rivers will provide public recreational opportunities for fishing, hiking, canoeing and wildlife viewing.
The entire property was purchased in early 2009 by an investment fund managed by The Forestland Group with cooperation from The Conservation Fund and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. The Forestland Group's investment fund purchase enabled Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the Kentucky Division of Forestry to acquire the property.
State Forestry and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife assembled nearly $6.7 million to purchase the property. Kentucky's congressional delegation helped secure $3.25 million in federal money through the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, the most significant share of the project.
The necessary non-federal matching funds were supplied from a variety of sources. The Nature Conservancy, one of the nation's largest environmental non-profit organizations, assisted in obtaining funds from Duke Energy and the Crounse Corporation.
Duke Energy, a generator and distributor of electric power and natural gas, provided $1.75 million. Its funds became available as part of a consent decree requiring it to fund supplemental environmental mitigation projects. Crounse Corporation, an industry leader in river transportation, contributed $50,000.
The Kentucky Division of Forestry utilized $1 million of its Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Funds. These funds are derived from nature license plate sales, environmental fines and a portion of the unmined minerals tax.
The Indiana Bat Conservation Fund supplied $580,000 because this forested tract provides valuable habitat for this federally-endangered species. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife paid the various administrative fees.