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Dec 29th, 2017

ART LANDER’S OUTDOORS: A LOOK BACK AT 20 YEARS SINCE INCEPTION OF KENTUCKY’S ELK RESTORATION PROJECT

The return of elk to the mountains of eastern Kentucky has had an immense social, economic and cultural impact, and is the realization of the vision to create hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities, with economic benefits from tourism to rural communities in the region. (Photo provided)The return of elk to the mountains of eastern Kentucky has had an immense social, economic and cultural impact, and is the realization of the vision to create hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities, with economic benefits from tourism to rural communities in the region. (Photo provided) 

This is the first in an occasional series of articles on elk in Kentucky, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the elk restoration project.

The end-of-the-year holiday celebrations have a special significance this year as it was 20 years ago this December 18th that Kentucky’s elk restoration project began.

The return of elk to the mountains of eastern Kentucky has had an immense social, economic and cultural impact, and is the realization of the vision to create hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities, with economic benefits from tourism to rural communities in the region.

The resounding success of this largest wildlife restoration project ever attempted in the eastern U.S. has garnered national attention and kudos for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), who financed a majority of the project.

Here’s some insight into the beginnings of elk restoration in Kentucky, with some quotes from a taped interview that aired recently on Kentucky Educational Television (KET):

• In Colonial America elk were common east of the Mississippi River.

The eastern elk (Cervus canadensis canadensis), which was native to Kentucky, was one of six subspecies of elk that inhabited the northern and eastern U.S., and southern Canada.

Unregulated hunting and habitat loss wiped out elk in Kentucky by the mid-1800s. Naturalist John James Audubon observed that by 1851 a few elk could still be found in the Allegheny Mountains but that they were virtually gone from the remainder of their range.

The last eastern elk was shot in Pennsylvania on September 1, 1877. The subspecies was declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1880.

The elk that were stocked in Kentucky during the six-year restoration project were Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni), a subspecies found in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent ranges of western North America.

• In 1996 wildlife biologists and administrators with KDFWR, and members of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission, began to discuss, then study the feasibility of re-introducing elk to reclaimed coal mined lands in eastern Kentucky.

On December 18, 1997 a crowd of more than 3,000 persons gathered at CyprusAmax WMA, near Ary, Kentucky, in Perry County, to witness the release of the first seven elk. It was a historic moment in wildlife conservation in Kentucky. (Photo provided)On December 18, 1997 a crowd of more than 3,000 persons gathered at CyprusAmax WMA, near Ary, Kentucky, in Perry County, to witness the release of the first seven elk. It was a historic moment in wildlife conservation in Kentucky. (Photo provided)

Tom Bennett, who was KDFWR commissioner, said that it seemed like “a crazy idea at the time.”

There was many unanswered questions, including: 1) How would the project be financed? 2) Was there enough suitable habitat? and 3) Would the public support the idea?

SEE REST OF STORY HERE

 

December 15, 2017 

Lawrence deer harvest down 63% from previous year mostly caused by disease

With a month of hunting left in the 2017-18 deer season let’s take a look at the harvest, impacted somewhat by weather, and a severe outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in eastern Kentucky.

The 16-day modern gun season, which ended on November 26, is deer season’s main event, and constitutes the bulk of the harvest.

During the 16-day modern gun season, which ended on November 26, hunters bagged 98,199 deer, seven percent above the 10-year average (Photo provided)During the 16-day modern gun season, which ended on November 26, hunters bagged 98,199 deer, seven percent above the 10-year average (Photo provided)

“Overall the season harvest numbers were pretty good,” said elk and deer program coordinator Gabe Jenkins, of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). “We had the fifth highest harvest on record over the last 19 seasons. The 10-year average modern gun harvest is 92,153, and we were seven percent above that average at 98,199.”

As of December 12, the total number of deer reported taken was 126,575, with a sex ratio in the harvest of 56.4 percent male, to 43.6 female. Archers had bagged 16,399 deer, muzzleloader hunters, 7,555, and firearms hunters 98,860.

Take a long look at the top 10 counties in deer harvest as of December 12: Crittenden, 3,226; Hardin, 3,197; Pendleton, 3,135; Christian, 3,054; Owen, 2,987; Breckinridge, 2,662; Hopkins, 2,648; Graves, 2,539; Grayson, 2,520, and Ohio, 2,491.

The numbers are a bit surprising.

In 38 counties in eastern and south-central Kentucky, the deer harvest declined compared to the five year average during the modern gun season. Hardest hit were the counties in far eastern Kentucky, the epicenter of the EHD outbreak. (Click for larger image)In 38 counties in eastern and south-central Kentucky, the deer harvest declined compared to the five year average during the modern gun season. Hardest hit were the counties in far eastern Kentucky, the epicenter of the EHD outbreak. (Click for larger image)


For decades Owen County led the state in deer harvest. Now’s it’s in the middle of the pack. Last season Pendleton county was the harvest leader, right now it’s third in the top 10 list, with a month of archery hunting to go.

“Deer populations are exploding in the west-central part of the state, and the western coalfield counties,” said Jenkins. “And in a lot of these counties the zone status was increased (to allow longer seasons and more liberal harvest).”

Jenkins said if the current harvest trend continues, by season’s end the total should be somewhere around 135,000.

Last season the total number of deer reported taken by hunters was 139,450.

EHD Outbreak Impacts Deer Harvest in 38 Counties

Jenkins said he expected to see low harvest numbers in the counties affected by the EHD outbreak but there are a lot of unanswered questions. The harvest numbers per se don’t tell the entire story.

“It’s not easy to determine how many people decided to hunt outside their home county because of the EHD outbreak,” said Jenkins. “Or how many hunters passed on a deer that they would normally harvest, because the deer population in their county was down.”

In 38 counties in eastern and southcentral Kentucky, harvest reports declined compared to the five year average in deer harvest during the modern gun season.

As of November 21, the total number of dead or dying deer reported to KDFWR had climbed to 4,625. Reports were received from 91 Kentucky counties. (Click for larger image)As of November 21, the total number of dead or dying deer reported to KDFWR had climbed to 4,625. Reports were received from 91 Kentucky counties. (Click for larger image)


Hardest hit were the counties in far eastern Kentucky, the epicenter of the EHD outbreak. The percentage declines in harvest were: Floyd, 72 percent; Morgan, 69 percent; Wolfe, 68 percent; Lawrence, 63 percent; Johnson, 63 percent; Magoffin, 61 percent; Letcher, 59 percent; Owsley, 58 percent; Breathitt, 57 percent, Pike, 56 percent and Martin, 55 percent.

As of November 21, the total number of dead or dying deer reported to KDFWR had climbed to 4,625. Reports were received from 91 Kentucky counties.

The nine-day late muzzleloader season, which ends Sunday, December 17, will give the deer program another opportunity to further assess the impact of the EHD outbreak on specific counties.

Many of the counties affected by the EHD outbreak are Zone 4 counties, where antlerless deer (does) can’t be taken with firearms until the last three days of the late muzzleloader season, December 15-17.

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Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

 

Date: 11-24-2017

Click for short video storyClick for short video story

A man shot and killed his hunting partner Thursday morning in Breckinridge County, police said.

Christopher B. Stone, 43, of Irvington, was deer hunting with Nicholas Lee Ford, 39, of Brandenburg, Thursday, when Stone discharged his rifle into an overgrown field surrounded by woods off JE Haynes Road in Irvington, according to Kentucky State Police.

Ford happened to be standing in the area and he was shot in the back, KSP said. He was taken to Breckinridge Memorial Hospital, where he died, police said.

The shooting remains under investigation by KSP.


By Mike Stunson
Lexington Herald Leader

 

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