By JOEL WILSON
Glasgow Daily Times
Going through a lot of sunflower seed the last few days. The Cardinal count is up at the feeders. I’m now counting as many as four pair at the feeder at the same time. Not seeing much of anything new, but one morning saw two pair of white breasted nuthatches along with a pair of brown nuthatches at the same time. Not counting near as many mourning doves as past years. Accidentally dropped part of a suet cake on the ground and later noticed two Carolina wrens feeding on it.
Nothing to report on the fishing front. Barren still hasn’t reached winter pool at 525, but was closer Wednesday morning at 528.35. Some of the Oldtimers are suffering from cabin fever and reduced to sharing email pictures from warmer locales. Everyone is hoping for an early spring.
The 2013-14 deer season ended Jan. 20 with a total harvest of 144,404. That represents a gain of more than 9 percent over the previous record set during the 2012-13 season.
“This year we were ahead of the curve,” said David Yancy, deer biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Hunters harvested more deer in September than they ever had, the October youth weekend was the best it had been since 2008, there was a slightly better than average muzzleloader season and then modern gun season was way better than it normally is. It sort of held throughout.”
A spotty crop of acorns and other hard mast across Kentucky had deer on the move, and made them more vulnerable to hunters.
An increase of about 9,000 deer permits sold — about one third of those coming through youth sportsman’s licenses — also meant there were more hunters in the field.
“The poor acorn crop was a major factor in getting those deer out into the open and into the harvested corn fields and the food plots,” said Tina Brunjes, deer program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The weather during the modern gun season and during the muzzleloader season was not as wonderful as it was last season, but we didn’t have any epic ice storms or some sort of huge flood. Hunters were able to get out.”
Harvest totals for firearms, archery, muzzleloading and crossbow were up across the board. A record 104,619 deer were taken by firearms hunters. Archery hunters harvested 20,833 whitetails while muzzleloader hunters bagged 15,641 deer and crossbow hunters reported taking 3,311 deer.
Male deer accounted for nearly 54 percent of the deer harvested. Out of the 77,719 male deer taken, 9,962 were antlerless, according to telecheck data.
Three of the top five counties in terms of estimated deer densities produced the top harvest totals. Hunters in Owen County took 4,069 whitetails to lead the state followed by Pendleton County with 3,464 and Crittenden County with 3,033.
Kentucky’s deer herd was estimated at approximately 900,000 prior to the season. Herd estimates are derived through computer modeling that takes into account harvest and age structure data.
Brunjes tempered her expectations for this past season, thinking it might be average compared to the record harvest of 131,395 deer posted in 2012-13.
“We ended up with a huge, record-breaking year,” she said.
After a second record harvest in as many seasons, deer are looking at a landscape that has more to offer, Brunjes said.
“The potential is there for the does that make it through this cold winter to have really high fawning success, and those bucks that make it through this cold winter, they’re going to be the best of the best,” she said. “If we can get a good spring, we might not see the numbers next year, but we’ll see a lot of quality deer out there.”
Also this week from KDFWR, Crews from the fisheries division will be collecting broodstock for the Minor Clark Hatchery and the Pfeiffer Fish Hatchery.
Mating of female and male fish collected from the wild and breeding them at a hatchery is what makes state record muskellunge in Cave Run Lake, 10-pound walleye from Laurel River Lake and rod bending hybrid striped bass in Barren River Lake.
“Without collecting broodstock below Cave Run Lake Dam, we wouldn’t have the world class muskellunge fisheries in Cave Run, Green River and Buckhorn lakes or many muskie in our native muskellunge streams and rivers,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries. “We breed the native strain Kentucky muskellunge.”
Workers will collect 70 female and 75 male Erie strain walleye from the Green River Lake tailwater, Lake Cumberland, Carr Creek Lake and Laurel River Lake to make 1.6 million fingerlings. The fisheries division will stock these fingerlings into Green River Lake, Laurel River Lake, Lake Cumberland, Carr Creek, Nolin River Lake, Paintsville Lake and the Russell Fork of Big Sandy River.
Fisheries biologists and technicians will also collect broodstock of the river strain walleye native to Kentucky before the construction of the large reservoirs in the decades following World War II. The native strain walleye mainly inhabited the Green River and Cumberland River systems.
These native fish grew to monstrous size in the early years of Lake Cumberland, culminating in the 21-pound, 8-ounce state record walleye, caught in 1958. Then, the bottom fell out of the fishery as the native river fish didn’t reproduce well in the new lake environment. The fisheries division began in the early 1970s to stock the Lake Erie strain, which better survived in reservoirs.
Biologists thought the native strain of walleye was likely gone from Kentucky until a discovery of an isolated population in the upper Rockcastle River in the 1990s.
Fisheries research biologist Dave Dreves and crew will collect 10 to 15 female and 16 male native walleye from the Big South Fork of Cumberland River and from the Barren River system.
These fish will produce 150,000 fingerlings to stock in the Levisa Fork of Big Sandy River, Martins Fork Reservoir, the upper Barren River and in the Cumberland River above the Falls.
“Some of the Erie strain walleye females will also be used to breed with male sauger for the new saugeye stockings,” Buynak said. Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County, Bullock Pen Lake in Grant County and A.J. Jolly Lake in Campbell County all received saugeye stockings last year and will again this year. Boltz Lake in Grant County will get saugeye this year. These stockings provide a new fishery for Kentucky anglers to enjoy in the next year or so.
The fisheries division also plans to collect sauger broodstock from the Ohio River and lower Kentucky River to continue the stocking program in the Kentucky River, Salt River, Green River and upper Barren River.
“We are going to get five to eight female striped bass from Lake Cumberland to produce the original cross for making hybrid striped bass,” Buynak said.
The original hybrid striped bass cross used male white bass and female striped bass to make hybrid striped bass. Female striped bass proved difficult to use and didn’t respond well to human handling, so the fisheries division switched to the reciprocal cross, using female white bass and male striped bass, in the mid 1990s.
“Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program returns April 5 for a one-day session in Grayson. Women interested in learning basic outdoor skills can register online at fw.ky.gov or call 800-858-1549 for more information. The workshop offers topics including tree identification, hunting, fishing, bird identification, wild game cooking, edible plants, archery, shooting and more. A $50 registration fee covers two class sessions, lunch, equipment and materials. For an additional $25, participants may stay the night before classes start at Camp Robert Webb, located on Grayson Lake in Carter County. The lodging fee includes a continental breakfast. Courses are taught at Camp Webb. The deadline to apply is March 14.
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