It’s a great time for Bluegrass State sportsmen and women, as fall hunting and fishing opportunities abound throughout the state.
By Ken McBroom
Kentucky offers so many great outdoor pursuits that one could easily become overwhelmed by the choices and October just might be the month that offers the most choices of all.
With the changing of leaves to the cooling of the waters, there is a buzz among hunters and anglers alike.
Whether you’re in search of game or fish on those beautiful autumn days, Kentucky can provide a lot of options.
DEWEY LAKE WMA
Located in Floyd County, Dewey Lake Wildlife Management Area is 9,172 acres with a 961-acre lake. This Eastern Kentucky WMA is primarily steep and rugged forested terrain. The hardwood ridges offer some great white-tailed deer hunting during October.
The terrain is prime habitat, but can be challenging to access, which tends to keep hunting pressure low. Dewey Lake WMA is a Quality Deer Management Area, so special regulations apply.
The best way to access hunting areas at Dewey Lake is by boat, but hiking is available. Boats are preferred by most hunters to access the hardwood ridges along the shores of Dewey Lake; however, there will still be plenty of walking required and packing to remove harvested animals.
Dewey Lake also offers great angling, so if the hunting is slow, folks can wet a line and try for crappie, bluegills, catfish and bass; be sure to check out the fish attractors on the lake.
Camping is available at the Corps of Engineers maintained campgrounds. Lodging, as well as other recreational activities, are available at nearby Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. One great side trip would be the Middle Creek National Battlefield in nearby Prestonsburg. The Battle of Middle Creek in 1862 launched Col. James Garfield’s military career that would eventually help him become the 20th President of the United States.
DANIEL BOONE NATIONAL FOREST
There’s nothing better than an old-fashioned squirrel hunt in October, and while public land squirrel hunting opportunities are available all across Kentucky, Daniel Boone National Forest adds some remote and rugged adventure. Backcountry camping is allowed in DBNF, which makes it perfect for an overnight squirrel hunt, or other hunting opportunities.
Beaver Creek WMA is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest and consists of more than 17,000 acres of rugged and steep terrain. Hunters should be in decent shape physically before entering parts of the WMA, especially if backpacking in for a hunt. There are some gravel roads and dirt trails for access into Beaver Creek WMA for the less intrepid that still offering great hunting.
Beaver Creek Wilderness Area resides within the WMA, consisting of 4,877 acres. The area is closed to all motorized and wheeled vehicles including game carts, which tends to keep the pressure light.
There are several trout streams flowing within the DBNF boundaries for those who love casting to slow and shady runs with light tackle. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources regularly stocks suitable waters at DBNF. Some of these creeks and streams are tough to access, with a lot of holdover trout, trout that make it through more than a couple of seasons, providing bigger trout to be had.
A lot of the streams within the DBNF are classified as excellent or high quality, and offer great opportunities to catch trout. There are trails, but some are rugged and hard to maneuver. Some of the more difficult trails lead to some picturesque streams with wild brook trout. These brookies are small, but the surroundings in which they live are some of the most pristine wilderness Kentucky has to offer.
Parched Corn Creek is one of the best accessible brook trout areas in the Red River Gorge National Geological Area in Wolfe County. The KDFWR, along with volunteers, stocked 300 fingerling brook trout last fall in Parched Corn Creek. Parched Corn Creek can be reached via Rough Trail No. 221 off KY 715 in the Red River Gorge NGA. This trail is steep and challenging, which limits fishing pressure.
For those not into primitive camping, there are several lodging options throughout and around DBNF. There are campgrounds throughout the forest and several motels and lodges from which to choose, whether you’re interested in a rustic cabin or all the amenities during hunting and fishing excursions. There are also some great restaurants in the area and one great side trip would be Fort Boonesborough, a frontier fort founded by Daniel Boone.
LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES
Land Between the Lakes consists of 170,000 acres, of which 107,594 are in Kentucky. The area was known as the Land Between the Rivers before the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers were impounded and a canal connecting the two was constructed, creating the largest inland peninsula in the United States. LBL has provided great outdoor recreation for the public since John F. Kennedy made Land Between the Lakes a National Recreational Area in 1963.
LBL offers excellent hunting for turkey, deer, predators and small game, with excellent access for hunters. LBL is known for great whitetail hunting, and with only a couple weekends open for firearms, it is a great destination for bowhunters. As a bonus, hunters can harvest one either sex turkey with a state permit. Bowhunters know that October can be tough at times and is often referred to as “lull,” but fortunately there are many other options at LBL.
During October, the fishing is just starting to fire up with cooling water temps and the migration of shad into back bays along Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley shorelines. This means excellent fishing for both boat and shore-bound anglers, whether pursuing bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill or more.
There are plenty of boat ramps at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley by way of KY 453, a 40-mile scenic highway that runs down the middle of LBL and provides numerous trails and roads that lead to Kentucky Lake to the West and Lake Barkley to the East. There are also several fishing ponds in the area, great for taking kids fishing.
Bass is probably the most popular fish species at LBL in October, as they gorge on shad in preparation for winter, but crappie are an excellent option. Crappie act like bass in the fall, migrating with baitfish and aggressively striking as they move along the shoreline. Casting swimbaits and crankbaits to shoreline targets can be rewarded with some of the biggest crappie of the season as they make their way into creeks and bays following shad.
Squirrels are also abundant in the hardwood ridges and creek bottoms throughout LBL. Trees will usually still have leaves so be sure to take that into consideration.
To find squirrels in October, look for trees dropping mast. White oaks produce the preferred nut, but squirrels will eat the more bitter red oak acorns when the white oaks aren’t producing. Hickory nuts are another favorite and are great places to sit and patiently wait bushytails. Oftentimes, there is more than one squirrel in a hickory tree so be patient, limits have been had from a single tree.
Still-hunting through the woods at LBL can be effective in October because leaves help conceal movements and give squirrels a sense of security. This kind of hunting is a great way to introduce kids to hunting. Easing through the woods keeps young hunters occupied and learning woodcraft while searching the treetops.
LBL also has numerous activities of the non-consumptive variety, including the Elk and Bison prairies and the 1850s Working Homeplace and Living History Museum, with the Homeplace hosting special musical and craft events throughout the season.
These are just a few options for getting outdoors in Kentucky. They are meant to give Kentucky hunters and anglers some options for October, but also to help motivate you to get out there and enjoy what Kentucky has to offer. There is no shortage of activities and adventures, and remember take a kid with you and pass on the traditions.