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Date: 11-22-2017

The season that contributes the greatest percentage of Kentucky’s annual deer harvest and fills many freezers with protein-rich venison is here.  Modern gun deer season opened statewide Nov. 11.The season that contributes the greatest percentage of Kentucky’s annual deer harvest and fills many freezers with protein-rich venison is here. Modern gun deer season opened statewide Nov. 11.

Harlan Daily Enterprise

FRANKFORT — A burst of fall colors, frosty mornings and an uptick in deer activity recently are encouraging and telling signs for hunters.

The season that contributes the greatest percentage of Kentucky’s annual deer harvest and fills many freezers with protein-rich venison is here.

Modern gun deer season opened statewide Nov. 11.

“Opening day should be spot on,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Our gun hunters should have some fantastic deer activity. The start of the season falls early this year. It touches on the end of the chase period and continues into the peak of the rut. We should see some good movement early and late in the season.”

Kentucky’s modern gun deer season is designed to coincide with the peak of fall breeding, known as the rut. It runs for 16 consecutive days in Zones 1 and 2 and for 10 consecutive days in Zones 3 and 4.

2017 deer zone map2017 deer zone map

County zone assignments are published in the annual Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available on the department’s website at fw.ky.gov and where licenses and permits are sold. The guide also provides information about license and permit requirements, hunter education and hunter orange requirements, bag limits and legal equipment for deer hunting. Also available on the department’s website is a detailed list of frequently asked questions about deer hunting in Kentucky. Type “Deer Season FAQs” into the search box on the homepage to access it.

Hunters in Kentucky have taken more than 130,000 deer annually over the past five seasons. The 2016-17 tally was the third highest on record with the modern gun season harvest accounting for more than 70 percent of that figure.

This year, the modern gun season harvest will provide biologists additional data to further assess the scope and impact of the outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in eastern Kentucky.

As of Nov. 2, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife had received reports of more than 4,500 sick or dead deer across the state since mid-July. The outbreak was confined primarily to counties east of Interstate 75 and along and south of Interstate 64.

EHD is a virus spread by small biting flies or midges. A recent cold snap effectively ended the outbreak since frost kills the insects that carry the disease.

The virus is not transmissible to people and the meat is safe to eat. In any year, hunters are advised to avoid eating the meat from animals that appear to be overtly sick.

Hunters concerned about hunting elsewhere in the state should have no reservations whatsoever, Jenkins said. The herd remains robust.

“We’ve got a lot of deer,” he said. “I look for it to be just as strong in the rest of the state as it has been in recent years. We had a good fawn year last year, good acorns last year, a mild winter and nice summer. All factors for good survival, good antler production. Lots of goods in there.”

The statewide deer harvest from September’s record opening weekend of archery season through October was up compared to 2016. Harvest reports from the youth-only gun and early muzzleloader seasons in October were down.

A middling mast crop could play to the hunter’s favor. This year’s statewide mast survey found about a third of white oaks with acorns. Red oak acorn production was better at 63 percent. White oak acorns are the first choice for deer because they are sweeter and more palatable to deer than red oak acorns, which have higher tannic acid.

“If you find a white oak with acorns, be on it,” Jenkins said. “During the early muzzleloader season, two does came right underneath me. There was a red oak tree and a white oak tree and one of the does was just sniffing around trying to find those white oak acorns and passing up those red oak acorns. She’d find one and crunch, crunch, crunch.”

In addition to the hunter orange and hunter education requirements, as well as following the guidelines for safe handling of firearms, hunter safety during the modern gun season also extends to the use of tree stands.

Serious accidents can be prevented by following the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, use and maintenance of tree stands.

Hunter education classes offered by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife cover the basics of tree stand safety. Olivia Dangler, a conservation educator with the department, said hunters must not let their guard down.

“Do not let your excitement cause you to forget about safety,” she said. “It does not matter how good of a climber you are, or if you think it will never happen to you, always wear a harness and stay clipped into the tree because it can save your life.

“Inspect your equipment prior to use and wear a full body harness whether you are hanging, practicing or hunting from a tree stand. Once you leave the ground, your harness should be connected to the tree. According to the International Hunter Education Association, 99 percent of fall victims injured were not attached to the tree.”

Tree stands and harnesses are rated to support up to their stated weight capacities.

Keep your hands free and never carry equipment while climbing up to or down from a tree stand. Use a haul line to raise or lower equipment instead.

“Firearms should be unloaded with the safety on,” Dangler said. “Attach the haul line to the sling or stock so the muzzle is pointed down when pulling it up to you or lowering it to the ground. If using a bow while hunting, make sure it is unloaded before attaching the haul line and have arrows secured in covered quiver.”

An online tree stand safety course can provide a good introduction or refresher. A free, interactive course is available through the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association website at tmastands.com.

Hunters should choose trees that are straight and large enough to adequately support their tree stands. Avoid ash trees. The emerald ash borer has decimated the ash tree population in recent years. Any ash trees still standing should be considered unsuitable. Knowing where ash trees are in proximity to your location is another important consideration. Dead limbs can break under their own weight without warning.

Hunters who are still looking for a place to hunt can find information about public lands on the department’s website. On any wildlife management area that allows gun deer hunting, anyone hunting from inside a ground blind must now attach a hat or vest made of solid, unbroken hunter orange material to the outside so it is visible from all sides. Hunter orange clothing requirements still apply for anyone inside the blind.

Once you know where you will be hunting, it’s always a good idea to let a family member or friend know where you will be that day and when you expect to return.

“Get out there and go,” Jenkins said. “The full-swing rut is definitely here.”

 

Date: 11-16-2017

Disease outbreak spares western Kentucky deer

One of the worst outbreaks in 10 years of a fatal disease affecting Kentucky’s deer has effectively ended with the first frosts of the year, but its absence in the western part of the state has created questions for wildlife biologists.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is virus contracted by deer from a biting midge — a small fly-like insect — that affects blood vessels, causing animals to hemorrhage and eventually succumb to infection.Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is virus contracted by deer from a biting midge — a small fly-like insect — that affects blood vessels, causing animals to hemorrhage and eventually succumb to infection.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is virus contracted by deer from a biting midge — a small fly-like insect — that affects blood vessels, causing animals to hemorrhage and eventually succumb to infection.

Almost 4,600 deer died between June and the end of October this year, but the majority of the infected animals were in only five counties in eastern Kentucky. In 2007 — the year of the last major outbreak — the nearly 4,000 deceased deer were more evenly distributed throughout the state, with some of the highest rates of infection being found in western Kentucky, where there is a denser deer population per square mile.

Iga Stasiak, wildlife veterinarian at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the department can only speculate at the change in pattern and has a lot of research ahead of it following the outbreak.

“Usually EHD is more widespread across the Midwest, but this year, the outbreak followed a regional pattern across the Appalachian Plateau into Ontario,” Stasiak said. “We’re still trying figure out why it distributed the way it did and the effects on population, but we should know more after (deer season).”

EHD can occur in most parts of North America, but outbreaks are more common away from warmer climates in the South where animals are less likely to come in contact with large populations of infected midges. The virus can also affect cows but only brings about acute symptoms while being highly fatal to most deer.

Kyle Sams, a deer biologist with Fish and Wildlife, said thorough research of several contributing factors in the outbreak would have to be conducted before any conclusions would be reached, but a trend in more mild and rainy winters in eastern Kentucky could explain the odd concentration.

Sams said dryer conditions in western Kentucky could also explain why fewer deer were infected in the area, but there was no conclusive evidence.

While the outbreak may be one of the worst Kentucky has ever seen, Stasiak said hunters and environmentalist don’t have cause for alarm just yet.

“We might make some adjustments for hunting season potentially next year, but any significant losses in the population are expected to rebound as usual,” Stasiak said. “We’re going to watch and see how things go this season, but EHD has never caused a serious die-off to justify a season change.”

Sams said he’s been advising concerned hunters in eastern Kentucky to consider holding back this deer season if they are worried about deer populations in their area. He also said property owners could contact him for advice on how to make their land more likely to receive deer.

Sams can be reached at 502-564-7109 ext. 4523. Deer suspected of having succumbed to EHD can be reported to Fish and Wildlife online at www.research.net/r/SickorDeadDeerKY2017.


By Jacob Dick
Messenger Inquirer

 

Date: 11-06-2017

Luxury houseboat owners get a big tax break in Kentucky. Fishermen pay 30 times more 

 State property tax rate on fishing boats is 30 times higher than the tax rate on $250,000 houseboats State property tax rate on fishing boats is 30 times higher than the tax rate on $250,000 houseboats

Dozens of high-end houseboats float at Burnside Marina on this sunny October afternoon, not far from where Mark Lunsford loads his 21-foot Skeeter bass boat after a few hours of tournament fishing.

Lunsford and many of the other fishermen competing on Lake Cumberland know that these luxury houseboats — some 100 feet long with hardwood floors and full kitchens — might cost more than $250,000 to buy or more than $500 a night to rent.

What these anglers don’t realize is that the state property tax rate on their fishing boats is 30 times higher than the tax rate on documented houseboats — meaning they’re registered with the U.S. Coast Guard. That means the state allows people to pay less state property tax on a $150,000 houseboat than on a $25,000 fishing boat.

“I’m shocked,” says Lunsford, who lives in Lexington. “Something don’t seem fair.”

The state property tax rate on bass boats, runabouts and pontoons is 45 cents per $100 of value, while the rate on documented houseboats and cabin cruisers is just 1.5 cents per $100.

So, the state property tax bill on a $25,000 bass boat would be $112.50, while the state would receive $22.50 on a documented houseboat worth $150,000.

“That’s unbelievable,” Lunsford says. “I believe in paying my taxes, but it should be the same across the board.”

In 2016, the total assessed value of documented boats in Kentucky was $139.1 million, according to the state Department of Revenue, but the owners paid just $20,869 in property taxes to the state.

The owners would have paid the state $626,056 if taxed at the same rate as undocumented boats.

Local officials, though, think even that is a low-ball number.

That’s because they suspect that many owners aren’t filing any tax returns on their floating vacation homes.

State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan is one high-profile example. The Richmond Republican acknowledged to the Herald-Leader in August that he had not paid state or local property taxes on his luxury houseboat for more than a decade.

One court document put the value of the 112-foot-long boat at $350,000.

Morgan said the manufacturer who sold him the boat in 2004 told him that if he filed paperwork on the vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard, he wouldn’t owe property taxes on it.

In fact, owners must either register houseboats with the Coast Guard or get a state title on them, and pay taxes on the value of the vessel in either case.

But local tax assessors in several counties on Kentucky’s lakes and rivers told the Herald-Leader that some houseboat owners avoid paying property taxes.

Christie Cruce, the PVA in Lyon County, said that when state Department of Revenue officials helped her check on the number of documented houseboats moored in her county in 2011, only 10 percent to 15 percent of the owners were filing tangible property tax returns.

Cruce said compliance with the law among houseboat owners in her county is no more than 25 percent, based on the number of tax returns she received this year.

“The rest are not paying anything,” she said.

The compliance rate in Clinton County is probably less than 90 percent, said Pat Campbell, the PVA there.

When houseboat owners fail to file tax returns, it costs local governments far more than it does the state.

Counties and local taxing districts, such as school boards and libraries, typically set tax rates on documented boats far above the state rate.

“It is costing the counties, the local governments,” Cruce said.

Hard-to-find houseboats

There is not an easy system to catch owners of houseboats and cabin cruisers who don’t file tax returns on their boats, according to state and local officials.

Unlike with smaller boats, there is nothing on the outside of a houseboat to show whether the owner has paid taxes.

On smaller boats, which must have a state title, there is a number and a sticker on the hull that shows whether the registration is current, similar to the stickers on vehicle license plates. Officers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources can see whether a registration is expired.

Coast Guard rules require a documented houseboat to have a name and a hailing port on the outside of the hull, but not an exterior identification number.

The Coast Guard maintains a database of documented boats in the United States, but the hailing port listed in the database doesn’t have to match the location of the boat, and there isn’t a way for tax authorities in Kentucky to search and find all documented boats on a lake or river, officials said.

“It is extremely hard to find these boats,” said Jeff Feese, the PVA in Adair County and a former regional field representative for the state Department of Revenue.

State revenue officials can compare tax returns to see whether a person filed one year but not the next, but if the owner has never filed a tangible return on the boat, it wouldn’t show up.

“There’s so many of them that never file the first one,” Feese said.

Some marina operators have pushed back hard at times when county tax assessors wanted to walk around the docks to look for documented houseboats not on their rolls.

The state Attorney General’s Office said in a May 2012 opinion that several marinas refused access to their docks to property assessors. The opinion said that in most cases, PVAs have the authority to go on docks to assess boats.

Boosting tourism?

Many houseboat owners argue that they face a high property tax burden, even with the state tax break, because of local taxes.

Wayne County PVA Bobby Upchurch said the total property tax bill there on a houseboat valued at $200,000 would be $2,312.

School taxes are a particular sore point. One reason is that they are considerably higher — ranging from 42.6 cents to 54.1 cents per $100 in the counties around Lake Cumberland, for instance.

Another is that many houseboat owners live in other states or in areas of Kentucky far from the lakes where their boats are moored, so they’re supporting schools they don’t use and feel they have no say in the rates.

Jerry Harden, who has a houseboat at Burnside Marina and has been involved in manufacturing houseboats, said the high taxes have been a factor in boats being moved from Lake Cumberland, hurting the tourism economy.

“In my view, the schools are stealing jobs and economic benefit from the local community and Kentucky tourism overall,” Harden said.

Raising state taxes on houseboats in Kentucky would cause some owners to take their boats to other states, said Michelle Edwards, executive director of the Kentucky-Tennessee Marina Association.

Marina operators in Kentucky look nervously toward Tennessee, which has no property tax on boats owned for individual use.

They say Kentucky’s reduced state tax rate on houseboats makes it easier for people to buy them and keep them, and that boosts tourism and helps the economy.

“Everyone looks at the cost of ownership,” said J.D. Hamilton, who owns Lee’s Ford Marina Resort in Pulaski County and is head of the marina association on Lake Cumberland.

“You do want to encourage people to buy houseboats,” Hamilton said. “They’re made here.”

Former state Sen. Chris Girdler, a Republican from Somerset who has been involved in the houseboat industry, said each houseboat owner spends thousands of dollars annually in the community where the vessel is moored.

“So, a lower tax rate is definitely a selling point to individuals and would help entice houseboat owners to choose Kentucky to spend that money, rather than say, Tennessee,” Girdler said.

‘There’s something unfair about that’

For some people, the much higher state tax rate on fishing boats and other watercraft raises an issue of fairness.

Owners of non-documented boats — sometimes referred to as registered boats — must get a state title on them, just like owners of cars and trucks.

“Nobody else that has a registered boat has that break,” said Campbell, the PVA in Clinton County, home to sections of both Lake Cumberland and Dale Hollow Lake.

Local officials also said that the tax rate for cars doesn’t change based on a vehicle’s size or value. Those who drive expensive sports cars pay the same tax rate as those who drive clunkers.

The legislature carved out the tax break for documented watercraft in 1998. Then, as now, the concern was over owners taking their expensive boats and money elsewhere.

Bill Gary, with Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina on Lake Barkley, told members of the House budget committee in March 1998 that he lost 15 percent of his slip-rental business after a county tax assessor began enforcing the levy more aggressively the year before.

Lowering the tax rate on houseboats would help his business and keep tourism dollars in Kentucky, he told lawmakers.

A lawmaker questioned Gary about the fairness of the proposal, since it would keep the higher tax rate on smaller boats that are more typically owned by Kentucky residents.

“It seems like we’re lowering the taxes on the people that got the money and keeping the higher taxes on Kentuckians,” said Harry Moberly, a Richmond Democrat who chaired the committee.

Moberly then joined in voting to approve the bill.

Some local officials are not convinced that there is any justification for the tax break.

“What’s the use of it?” said Tony Lindauer, the property valuation administrator in Jefferson County. “I think it’s just a way of getting out of paying taxes on your boat.”

Lawmakers also made local taxes optional on documented boats, unlike on smaller boats. So while many counties, schools and local taxing authorities levy a tax on documented boats, not all do.

Former state Sen. Ken Winters, a Republican from Murray, said he was troubled as a lawmaker by the state’s differing tax rates on boats that share the same waters.

“There’s something unfair about that, isn’t there?” Winters said.

‘A much smarter way’

Winters sponsored a bill in 2012 that local officials said would have made it much easier to catch houseboat owners who shirk their tax payments altogether.

The bill would have required marina operators to report information about who rents their slips, mirroring a state law that requires anyone who rents space for a mobile home to report the name of the homeowner and the type and size of the trailer to the county PVA annually so they can be assessed.

It would have required anyone renting space to dock a federally documented boat to give county PVAs a list of renters annually, with the names and addresses of boat owners and information on the vessel.

Winters said marina operators strongly opposed the bill, which died in the Senate budget committee.

Some marina operators, including Hamilton, think the state should do away with property taxes on houseboats and instead require every boat that uses a Kentucky waterway to pay an annual fee, perhaps based on the size of the boat, and require a state identification number. That would be more uniform and would create a way to enforce collections, Hamilton said.

“Everybody pays something. I think that’s a much smarter way to do it,” he said.

 

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