Kentucky Adds Hunting Opportunities as Bear Numbers Increase

Many of the bruins are located on public land, with nonresident tags now available.

Kentucky's burgeoning bear population means additional hunting opportunities for both locals and out-of-staters. (Photo: Carol Thacker/iStock)

 

Thanks to conservative harvesting of its core population and a large number of boars, Kentucky has expanded its black bear hunting opportunities. Beginning with the 2017 season, the state’s two distinct populations will be managed via three zones. Also new this year will be nonresident tags available for $250 a pop.

Black bears are experiencing a resurgence in the Bluegrass State in large part due to aging forests. After a century or so of logging, overhunting, and expanding urbanization, the bears were left in isolated pockets of the Appalachians. The cut-over forests have since regrown, providing new habitat for the bears remaining in the state and those immigrating from the surrounding ones.

As a result, five bear seasons will be observed in 2017: chase-only, archery/crossbow, muzzleloader, modern gun, and a quota hunt with dogs. Residents will pay $30 for a permit; youth hunters, $10. No nonresident youth permits will be available, and no out-of-staters may participate in dog drives.

Forty-seven counties will be open, either partially or totally, to bear hunting in 2017. Fifty bears will be taken in total—a somewhat modest figure, but an uptick from 2016’s quota of 35. According to the Northern Kentucky Tribune, the seasons have only been in place since 2009 and the record for a yearly harvest was 46, taken in 2015.

Zone 1 incorporates four of the counties and comprises the core of the state’s bear population. Three males or two females, whichever is reached first, can be taken with dogs, five or two with archery equipment, and five or two with modern guns. The zone is closed to muzzleloaders.

Zone 2 is made up of 21 counties and includes portions of Daniel Boone National Forest, much of it public land open to hunting. The zone also features a higher quota than Zone 1: eight boars or three sows, whichever is reached first, with dogs, ten or four with archery equipment, and 14 or four with modern guns. Zone 2 is also closed to muzzleloaders.

Zone 3 is 22 counties strong but holds fewer bears than the others, most of them youngsters traveling through in search of their own territory. It also allows eight boars or three sows to be taken with dogs, but in a reversal of the other two zones, it is closed to archery equipment and modern guns but open to muzzleloaders (five boars or three sows).

For a full rundown of Kentucky’s new bear hunting regulations, click here.