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Kentucky Hunting Guide

With a diverse selection of game species and a large amount of huntable land, Kentucky has become a popular destination for hunters. The state supports dense, stable populations of many popular game species. Permissive regulations and firearm laws make hunting in Kentucky an accessible, straightforward process.

What to Hunt

Kentucky supports a wide variety of game species, but the state is best known for its big-game hunting opportunities.



Kentucky offers a high population of huntable deer, including top-end trophy bucks. There is statewide a bag limit of one antlered deer per person, though some areas (including Fort Campbell and Fort Knox military reservations, Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, and Blue Grass Army Depot) allow a bonus antlered deer. Zones set their bag limits for antlerless deer, ranging from one antlerless deer to unlimited antlerless deer.



Kentucky offers elk hunting in the fall and winter months. While elk hunting cannot be found statewide, elk-zoned areas exist throughout the state. To ensure the long-term success of the elk population, Kentucky offers only limited elk permit drawing. Permits are given for bull firearm, cow firearm, archery/crossbow, and youth-only permits. Elk hunters should be aware of the Elk Zone, a 16-county area in Kentucky where special regulations may apply. There is a season bag limit of one elk per hunter per season.



Kentucky presents a wide variety of ideal habitat for its 220,000 Eastern turkeys, including big timber and rolling valleys. There is a general spring season, while the fall season is divided into dates for shotgun, archery, and crossbow. The spring season has a bag limit of one male or bearded turkey per day and two for the season; the fall season has a bag limit of four birds, with a limit of two taken by shotgun and one with a beard longer than 3”.



Kentucky is not generally known for its waterfowl opportunities, but pockets of waterfowl hunting can be found along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Kentucky also has plentiful public lands, making waterfowl hunting readily accessible. Hunters can find ducks, coots, merganser, falconry, sandhill crane, brant, and several subspecies of geese. Waterfowl can generally be hunted from September through February, depending on the species. Nontoxic shot is required for hunting waterfowl and sandhill crane.

Other Kentucky game species include: American Woodcock, Bear, Beaver, Bobcat, Bullfrog, Coot, Coyote, Crow, Dove, Duck, Fox, Gallinules, Goose, Groundhog, Grouse, Merganser, Mink, Muskrat, Opossum, Quail, Raccoon, River Otter, Sandhill Crane, Squirrel, Striped Skunk, Virginia and Sora Rail, Weasel, Wilson's (Common) Snipe, etc. found in the "Hunting Seasons" section at bottom of the page.

Where to Hunt

Kentucky offers residents and nonresidents several different options for hunt-friendly areas.

Wildlife Management Areas

Most of Kentucky’s significant huntable public land is on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). These areas are maintained by the state for the long-term benefit of various species. Hunting is generally permitted on Kentucky WMAs.

State Parks and Forests

Some of Kentucky’s state parks and forests offer limited hunting opportunities. Most notably, Kentucky state parks have quota-set deer hunts on an annual basis. Permits for these hunts are either first come-first serve or drawn, depending on the park.

Licensing Fees

A hunting license is required for both residents and nonresidents to hunt in Kentucky. Additional fees and permits may be required depending on the species and the method of take.

License Resident Nonresident
​Annual Hunting ​$27.00 ​$150.00
​Statewide Deer Permit ​$35.00 ​$185.00
​Spring Turkey Permit (statewide) (two turkeys) ​$30.00 ​$85.00
​Fall Turkey Permit (statewide) (four turkeys) ​$30.00 ​$85.00
​Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit ​$15.00 ​$15.00
​WMA User Permit ​$15.00 ​$15.00

Hunter Education

Although a hunter’s education card is not required to obtain a license in Kentucky, all hunters born on or after January 1, 1975 must carry a valid hunter education course completion card while hunting. Children under 12 years old are exempt from this requirement, but they must be accompanied by an adult hunter over 18 while hunting.

Hunters may apply for a Temporary Hunter Education Exemption Permit, which exempts the hunter for one year from the education card requirement.

Youth Hunting

Kentucky offers a youth-only deer hunting weekend. Youth ages 15 and under may use modern firearms, crossbows, and longbows to hunt deer during these weekends. Youths age 12-15 must have a deer permit and a hunting license to participate. Youths age 11 and younger are not required to have a permit but must be accompanied by a licensed adult who can immediately take control of the firearm.


A trapping license is required to operate any traps for taking wildlife in Kentucky. The following animals are considered trappable furbearers: river otter, muskrat, mink, beaver, red fox, gray fox, weasel, striped skunk, bobcat, coyote, opossum, and racoon. Trapping these species is subject to restrictions and regulations separate from those when they are being taken by a firearm.

Raccoon and opossum hunters may not hunt during daylight hours during modern gun deer season. These species may not be taken using light from a boat. Coyotes may be hunted during day or night all throughout the year, though night vision equipment is only permitted from December-May. It is permitted to use hand or mouth calls as well as electronic calls.

Hunting Seasons

Game Season Begins Season Ends
American Woodcock Oct 28 2023 Dec 13 2023
Bear* Jun 1 2023 Dec 11 2023
Beaver Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Bobcat Nov 18 2023 Feb 29 2024
Bullfrog May 19 2023 Oct 31 2023
Common Moorhead and Purple Gallinule Sep 1 2023 Nov 9 2023
Coot Nov 23 2023 Jan 31 2024
Coyote Year Round Year Round
Crow Sep 1 2023 Feb 29 2024
Deer* Sep 2 2023 Jan 15 2024
Dove Sep 1 2023 Jan 14 2024
Duck Sep 16 2023 Jan 31 2024
Wood Duck and Teal Sep 16 2023 Sep 20 2023
Elk* Sep 9 2023 Jan 3 2024
Fox - Gray* Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Fox - Red Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Gallinules Sep 1 2023 Nov 9 2023
Goose - Canada Sep 1 2023 Feb 15 2024
Goose - Snow Ross Nov 23 2023 Feb 15 2024
Goose - White Fronted and Brant Nov 23 2023 Feb 15 2024
Groundhog Year Round Year Round
Grouse Nov 1 2023 Feb 29 2024
Merganser Nov 23 2023 Jan 31 2024
Mink Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Muskrat Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Opossum Oct 1 2023 Feb 29 2024
Quail* Nov 1 2023 Feb 29 2024
Rabbit Nov 1 2023 Feb 10 2024
River Otter Nov 16 2023 Feb 29 2024
Sandhill Crane Dec 7 2023 Jan 31 2024
Squirrel - Fall Aug 19 2023 Feb 29 2024
Squirrel - Spring May 20 2023 JJun 16 2023
Striped Skunk Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Teal Duck Sep 16 2023 Sep 24 2023
Turkey - Fall*r Sep 2 2023 Jan 15 2024
Turkey - Spring May 20 2023 Jun 16 2023
Virginia and Sora Rail Sep 1 2023 Nov 9 2023
Weasel Nov 13 2023 Feb 29 2024
Wilson's (Common) Snipe Sep 20 2023 Jan 28 2024

*Hunting dates for this species may vary by zone, method of take, or subspecies of animal. Visit the state’s website here to find out more.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice or acted upon as if it is legal advice: it is provided for informational purposes only. While we strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or currency of the information.