Kentucky's Hot Counties for Fall Turkeys

Kentucky's Hot Counties for Fall Turkeys

Though good fall turkey hunting can be found throughout the Bluegrass State, these three top counties will put you in the middle of the best hunting this season.

Photo by Paul Tessier

By Curt Williams

Wild turkeys are now a common sight throughout the Bluegrass State. And for fall turkey hunters, the pursuit of these large game birds is a totally different experience. Unlike the booming gobble of the spring mating season, the hunter must attract this wary bird using a completely different strategy from that used earlier in the year.

Whatever the approach, Kentucky hunters are having notable success during the fall season. Last year, a total of 2,355 turkeys were harvested. Compared to the 2001 fall season, the numbers were slightly down, but weather factors governing hatch rates, as well as conditions during the season itself, are the usual culprits accounting for such variation.

Kentucky's wild turkey population is thriving across the state, and the top three harvest counties for last fall were Pendleton (67 birds taken), Hardin (64) and Muhlenberg (59). Given the excellent turkey habitat found within these counties, along with the relatively larger tracts of land, fall turkey hunters have found a plentiful supply of birds.

Public lands within or near these prime turkey counties provide hunters with access to some of the state's best hunting opportunities. The following county-by-county breakdown may prove helpful in planning a fall outing.

Starting in the western region of the state, Muhlenburg County supplies hunters with plenty of public hunting grounds in the Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA). With over 60,000 acres in Ohio and Muhlenberg counties, this region has plenty of land for quality turkey hunting.

A breakdown on the turkeys taken in Muhlenberg County last fall is as follows: 27 males and 32 females, which made for a fairly equal number of each sex harvested. Archery hunters accounted for 12 and gun hunters took the remaining 47 birds.

This WMA is primarily reclaimed coal lands, which has resulted in excellent wildlife habitat. The often-rugged terrain includes deep pits, swampland and high ridges. Numerous water-filled strip mine pits provide a much-needed water supply for the birds. Woodland corridors with plenty of water and food bring about large numbers of wild turkeys.

Numerous access points are available from state Routes (SRs) 70 and 369, as well as from U.S. Route 62. Additional Muhlenberg property is at Pond River and Green River, north of SR 70 and south of SR 176. The Ohio County property is south of Western Kentucky Parkway and between the Green River and SR 269.

Certain areas within the Peabody WMA are off-limits to hunters. These waterfowl refuge areas include the Gibraltar Tract, which is closed year 'round, and the Sinclair Tract, which is closed from Oct. 15 through March 15. Scouting this WMA prior to opening of the season can help in locating such off-limit areas so you don't waste time during your actual hunt.

Primitive camping is allowed and a user permit of $12.50 is required. These permits can be purchased wherever Kentucky hunting and fishing licenses are sold. For additional information on the fall turkey hunting available at Peabody WMA, contact the regional office of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at (270) 273-3569 or 3568.

In the west-central region of the Bluegrass State, Hardin County provides turkey hunters with an excellent wild turkey environment. Of the 64 turkeys taken during last fall's season, 25 were males and 39 were females. With 61 percent of the birds being female, the fall numbers reveal the cautious nature of male birds during the non-breeding months. Bowhunters harvested 13, while gun hunters brought down 51.

One of the best public hunting areas in this section of the state is Fort Knox. With nearly 110,000 acres in Hardin, Bullitt and Meade counties, this turkey region provides an abundance of public land on which to plan a fall outing.

Fort Knox is about 30 miles south of Louisville on U.S. Route 60. Given the proximity to the large Louisville metro area, this region is heavily utilized by hunters at certain seasons of the year. Taking the time to scout this public hunting area will provide hunters with a variety of turkey regions in which to choose from.

Since this is an active military reservation, access is through a strictly controlled system. All users of the area must check in at the Hunt Control headquarters, Building 112 on 11th Avenue and Binter Street. Approximately 60 percent of Fort Knox land is open to hunting.

Access to all portions of the Fort Knox hunting areas is excellent. Over 120 miles of roads lie within the military reservation and hunters are required to obtain a map. The terrain is a mixture of broad ridgetops, valleys with steep to sloping cliffs and hardwood forests with open areas. Several lakes are scattered throughout the area as well.

Hunting and fishing permits are required. A camping and picnic area is available. The U.S. Army owns the land. For additional information on planning a fall turkey hunt at Fort Knox, call (502) 624-2712.

The north-central region of Kentucky produces some of the best turkey habitat within the Bluegrass State. Pendleton County was the top fall turkey county with 67 birds taken. The breakdown was nearly 50-50 with 33 males and 34 females harvested. Of these, 13 birds were taken by bow and 54 with firearms.

Private lands accounted for these harvest statistics. Pendleton contains no wildlife management areas and access to private land can be obtained for hunters who take the time to ask. Many landowners allow access to turkey hunters. Obtaining the landowners' permission and respecting guidelines will ensure future turkey hunts in this region.

The closest public hunting area is in neighboring Grant County where 1,179 acres are available to hunters in the Curtis Gates Lloyd WMA. The WMA's terrain is rolling with steep hills covered in brush and woodlands. One of the state's oldest stands of virgin timber is located in this area.

The Lloyd WMA is southeast of Crittenden and access is from Interstate 75 by taking the Crittenden exit. Follow U.S. Route 25 south to where a left turn takes you across railroad tracks to the public lands. Parking is available at the entrance only. No camping is allowed on this WMA, but campgrounds are available in the vicinity.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources owns the land. For additional information on the fall turkey hunting available in this area, call (859) 428-2262.

Kentucky's 2003 fall shotgun turkey season runs from Oct. 25-29 and from Dec. 6-10. During the gun season, shotgun, archery or crossbow equipment is permitted. A fall firearms permit is required, and the bag limit is one turkey of either sex, which applies to both fall shotgun time periods combined.

The fall archery season runs from Sept. 6, 2003 through Jan. 19, 2004. During this season, turkeys may not be hunted or taken with firearms. A fall archery permit is required with legal archery equipment only being allowed. No crossbows are permitted during this season.

Turkey hunting with legal archery equipment is allowed during the modern firearms deer season. Turkey hunters must abide by the hunter orange restrictions during the deer season.

For additional information on the fall turkey hunting available across the Bluegrass State, contact the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, 1 Game Farm Road, Frankfort, KY 40601, or call (800) 858-1549.

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