FRANKFORT -- As September draws to a close, so does the quota hunt application period in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources administers quota hunts across the state for deer, pheasant, quail, upland birds and waterfowl. Throughout September, hunters can apply for these opportunities online at fw.ky.gov or by calling 1-877-598-2401. The minimum charge to apply is $3.
"People should consider applying to be able to hunt new areas that they've never hunted before," said Chris Garland, assistant wildlife division director with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "They're also great for people who don't have access to private lands to hunt.
"Every year you'll see pictures of some pretty nice deer taken during quota hunts. They're not behind every tree by any means but there are some very good deer on public lands."
There are 30 quota deer hunts scheduled and each has a set number of available slots. A handful of hunts are set aside for mobility-impaired hunters. Others are limited to antlerless deer or bucks with a 15-inch minimum outside antler spread.
For the first time, drawn hunters will be allowed to bring one non-hunting person along on their quota deer hunt. That person must check in and check out with the drawn hunter and abide by hunter orange requirements.
There is a new opportunity this year with an archery and crossbow-only quota hunt on Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and State Forest in Crittenden and Union counties. The hunt is capped at 130 hunters. It starts the Monday following the October youth-only firearms season, closes for the two-day firearms quota hunt that starts the first Saturday in November, then reopens and continues through November 30. The archery and crossbow seasons will be open under statewide regulations before and after the quota hunt.
Department staff recommended this new kind of quota hunt as a way to rein in harvest on an area that has become a popular destination for hunters.
Waterfowl quota hunts are on Ballard WMA and Sloughs WMA roughly from around Thanksgiving into January. This year, the application process will include a new choice that mirrors the "no hunt" option afforded deer hunters. It works this way: if a waterfowl hunter cannot hunt this season, they can still put in for a quota hunt and maintain their preference points without the chance of being drawn. The $3 application fee still applies. Hunters forfeit any accumulated preference points if they do not apply or are ineligible to apply for a quota hunt or the "no hunt" option.
Starting this year, the Crenshaw and Duncan tracts on the Sauerheber Unit of Sloughs WMA will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to improve the quality of quota waterfowl hunts.
Hunters applying for a quota waterfowl hunt at Sloughs WMA also will be asked if they are open to accepting a blind that requires boat access. One new blind on the area will be accessible only by boat.
Pheasant quota hunts are scheduled Nov. 18, 19 and 20 on Green River Lake WMA, Dec. 2, 3 and 4 on Clay WMA and Dec. 9, 10 and 11, 2016 on Yellowbank WMA. Quail quota hunts on Peabody WMA are scheduled Nov. 29, and Dec. 20, 2016 and Jan. 7, Jan. 14 and Jan. 24, 2017. Clay WMA will host upland bird quota hunts on Nov. 9, Nov. 20, Dec. 17 and Dec. 27, 2016. Hunters may take bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse and woodcock during upland bird quota hunts when the seasons for all three species are open. Woodcock season closes Dec. 7.
Complete dates for all quota hunts appear on the online application and through the "Quota Hunts" page on the department's website. When the drawing is completed, results will be posted on the department's website, typically in early October. Those without internet access may also call 1-800-858-1549 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time) and provide their confirmation number, order number or Social Security number to find out if they were drawn.