Gee, it sounds like poor, dumb, toothless, barefoot, sister-lovin' Kentucky might not be so ignorant after all.
A Message to Kentucky Deer Hunters
From the KDFWR Deer Program
First, the good news. Kentucky hunters harvested 116,540 deer last year; another record high. Kentucky continues to produce 20 to 30 Boone & Crockett Record Book deer each year. Our buck to doe ratio in the harvest is nearly 1:1 and only 1:1.7 in the standing population. The percent of the male harvest that is yearlings continues to decrease and is now about 60%. Our system is working to produce quality animals and hunting experiences.
Now the bad news. Our deer hunter base is not increasing. The average number of deer harvested per successful hunter is less than 1.5 and only 30% of hunters are successful. This is not for a lack of deer, as evidenced by the increasing number of animals harvested each year. The problem is a lack of new hunters being recruited, a lack of old hunters being retained, and the fact that hunters see hunting as recreation provided to them rather than a responsibility.
Hunters have a thousand reasons why they hunt and why hunting is important to them. But as you take to the woods this year, realize that there is an overlooked reason to hunt: it is necessary. Humans have done much to disturb the natural environment. We have fragmented the landscape and created urban and suburban areas. We have eliminated large predators from the food chain. We inflict upon deer populations a social carrying capacity that the humans can tolerate. Because deer are so adaptable however, these events have caused explosions in both their actual and relative numbers. Sport hunting is the single most effective and widely accepted method for reducing and maintaining deer numbers within biological and social limits.
Wildlife managers want to have deer forever. We want hunting to continue forever. We want successful and happy hunters. We also want deer to be healthy and viewed in a positive way by the general public. Hunters are very important to these goals, but we cannot allow deer populations to grow beyond our control simply to provide an unnatural surplus of deer for hunters to pursue. Without hunters controlling the growth of the deer herd, serious consequences will occur in the form of deer-vehicle collisions, urban deer problems, crop damage complaints and/or disease outbreaks.
Deer hunting is not just about trophy antlers or meat. It is about sound biology and management, too. The KDFWR’s commitment to our hunters is to ensure the future of the hunting lifestyle and to maintain high-quality deer herds to enjoy. Our commitment to the general public and to the deer themselves is to maintain deer numbers at biologically and socially appropriate levels. The deer hunter’s commitment should be to help us achieve these goals for the benefit of deer and our society.
You need help to achieve your goals. Hunter numbers are not increasing, but deer numbers are. Individual hunters need to harvest more does per person. We need more hunters in the woods. Take a youth hunting. Take a buddy who doesn’t hunt. Get an ex-hunter back out there. Create a positive image of hunters and show that you are passionate about more than just antlers.
Deer hunters carry a heavy responsibility. The general public needs you. Kentucky’s habitat needs you. The deer need you. The KDFWR needs you. The good news is deer hunting is fun. You love to do it. Through deer hunting, you have the chance to do what you love while fulfilling a very important social and biological need. Do it well, and do it with pride. We thank you for your help.