Conditions ideal for bagging rabbits, quail this season in Kentucky
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Small game hunters should find good conditions afield and plenty of rabbits since hunting began Nov. 1, in central and eastern Kentucky.
"The highest number of rabbits observed was in central Kentucky, followed by eastern Kentucky," said Ben Robinson, small game biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "The drought has dried up cover, as if it had been killed back by frost, so hunting conditions should be easier."
Rabbit and quail season this year for the central and eastern part of Kentucky runs from Nov.1 through Nov. 12, and closes for the opening weekend of modern gun deer season. The season opens again in this part of the state on Nov. 15 and runs through Jan. 31.
Rabbit and quail season opens Nov. 15 and closes Feb. 10, in the following western Kentucky counties: Allen, Ballard, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian, Crittenden, Daviess, Fulton, Graves, Hancock, Henderson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, McLean, McCracken, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson, Todd, Trigg, Union, Warren and Webster.
The statewide daily bag limit is four rabbits and eight quail.
The drought may have impacted quail more than rabbits, especially in west Kentucky.
"We had pretty good nesting conditions early on, with spring rains and lots of cover, but western Kentucky was drier and hotter (than the rest of the state), as the summer progressed," said Robinson. "When chicks hatch they need insects, and in drier weather there are fewer insects."
The months of June and July signal the peak of quail nesting in Kentucky, a bit later than some adjacent states. Rain throughout the summer is important to quail because moisture provides better cover and more food sources.
"Quail need seeds, especially as the season progresses," said Robinson.
Rabbits have a much longer breeding season than quail. A female in good habitat with favorable weather conditions may produce several litters of young from late winter, through early fall.
The rural mail carrier survey, conducted annually since 1960, provides biologists with small game population trends based on the number of rabbits and quail observed along roadways per 100 miles driven. The rural mail carrier survey found rabbit and quail numbers decreased slightly from last year.
Robinson said he expects quail hunting to be close to what hunters experienced last year, but not all indicators point to fewer quail this fall.
"Quail hunters who participated in our Quail Hunting Cooperator Survey reported an increase in the number of quail covey flushes per hour last season," said Robinson. "Hunter input helps us track population and hunt trends."
Kentucky's Quail and Rabbit Hunting Cooperator Surveys were developed as a volunteer initiative in 1995. Biologists use the collected data to monitor trends that help them make informed decisions on rabbit and quail management.
Hunters use a log to keep track of their hunts, providing the following information: date of the hunt, county, hours hunted, number of hunters, number of dogs, number of coveys flushed or rabbits jumped, number of quail singles re-flushed, number of rabbits or quail shot at, number of quail or rabbits killed, and the number of crippled quail not retrieved.
Some highlights from the 2009-2010 Rabbit Hunting Cooperator Survey Report revealed:
The average rabbit hunt was two hunters spending about 3.5 hours afield with four dogs.
December was the most popular month with rabbit hunters.
Hunters jumped between nearly two rabbits per hour, and harvested around three rabbits per hunt.
Eastern cottontail rabbits comprised 98 percent of the harvest. Kentucky's other two rabbits are the Appalachian cottontail and the swamp rabbit.
At the end of the season, hunters simply mail their completed surveys to: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, No. 1 Sportsman's Lane, Frankfort, Ky. 40601. Hunter logs may be obtained by calling 800-858-1549, or can be printed off the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov/smallgamelogs.asp.
Each year, participating hunter cooperators receive a new hunting log, the results of the survey and a small gift for participating, such as lapel pin or ball cap.
Art Lander Jr. has been writing about the outdoors in Kentucky since the 1970s. He is an information specialist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
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