Kentucky Fish and Wildlife owns, leases, or manages more than 85 wildlife management areas (WMAs) for public use. In some areas, a user permit is required. It also has agreements to provide public access on certain privately owned lands, known as Hunting Access Areas. Deer hunting is a great hunt in Kentucky with a decent deer herd. Kentucky now offers a total of more than 1 million acres for public hunting. 

What To Know Before You Hunt Deer In Kentucky…

All deer hunters ages 16 and older, unless license exempt, must first buy and carry proof of purchasing an annual hunting license and a statewide deer permit while hunting. The permit allows a hunter to take four deer: one antlered, and three antlerless or four antlerless. It does not matter if the antlered or antlerless dear is taken first. These are just some of the rules for Deer Hunting in Kentucky. > Learn More

The following are a few underrated areas for Kentucky public land deer hunting…

Pennyrile State Forest

Pennyrile Forest is in Dawson Springs, Kentucky in Christian County, Kentucky. Many hunters love to stay at Pennyrile State Resort Park Lodge. There’s nothing like a warm meal from the Clifty Creek Restaurant to satisfy you after a long morning of hunting in the forest. Pennrile is home to a nice deer population. The harvest in 2020 was 79 Bucks 56 and Does 23. The terrain is considered moderate to hard. It is home to the Number 1 buck killed in Kentucky in 2006. an incredible 19-pointer that measured 246 3/8 inches. there are still big bucks lurking around Pennyrile. Pennyrile State Forest is the largest public land area on the list. Lake Beshear is part of Pennyrile and it has some of the best bass fishing in the area. So if you also love to fish come in the spring and summer to bass fish. Pennyrile is also one of the more difficult tracts of public land to go hunting in because of its large ridges and thick forest. That is one of the reasons so many nice deer here still remain not as many hunters come here. There are 14,000 acres so you will find numerous hollers, fingers, and bowls that are the possible location for bedding bucks. It is best to look for pull-offs that do not lead to walking trails but give you access to where you can get into thicker woods. If you are adventurous and want to get to the remote parts of Pennyrile access some land through lake Beshear. This would allow you to get to areas all but impossible to get to by foot. You will surely find more mature bucks on that property.
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Kentucky Ridge Forest Wildlife Management Area

Kentucky Ridge State Forest is a state forest in Bell County, Kentucky, United States. Near the city of Pineville, Ky. The 15,251-acre forest was created in 1930 as part of the Land Use and Resettlement Program. In 1954, the United States gave the forest to the state of Kentucky. It contains Pine Mountain State Resort Park. In 2020 the total harvest was 48 Bucks 42 and Does 6. and the terrain is hard. Eastern Kentucky is not known as the best part of the state for deer hunting. Some of the most difficult terrains are here in Eastern Kentucky with steep hills of the Appalachian Mountains which make for limited access. Be prepared to trek tough terrain. However, the reward could be a big mature buck. Being a zone 4 county does not allow Does to be taken during rifle season. All counties have their own regulations so always check before going to Kentucky public land for deer hunting. Other than that just put on a good pair of boots, pack light, and give it your best shot.
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Rough River Lake Wildlife Management Area

The lake is situated in Breckinridge, Hardin, and Grayson counties in south-central Kentucky. The dam is located on the Rough River near the community of Falls of Rough, about 20 miles from Leitchfield and 95 miles southwest of Louisville. the location of this public land is some of the best in Kentucky. In 2020 the total harvest was 29 Bucks 24 and Does 15. The terrain is moderate, most areas contain hills and ridges. Hardin county was the number one deer-producing county in the state of Kentucky in 2020. And Breckenridge and Grayson were also two of the best counties in which to hunt. One of the more attractive features of Rough River Lake is the number of oxbows that can be hunted. Why do oxbow lakes have a curved shape? A U-shaped lake water body is formed when a wide meander from the main stem of a river is cut off to create a lake. This landform is called an oxbow lake for the distinctive curved shape that results from this process. Oxbows make for great bedding areas for mature bucks. Using a boat to get to more remote locations will give you a better chance of bagging a mature buck. Rough River Lake WMA would not be a bad starting point for deer hunting in Kentucky.
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Doug Travis Wildlife Management Area

South of Wickliffe along the Mississippi River. Located in Carlisle and Hickman Counties. 50 miles from Paducah in Western Kentucky. The total harvest in 2020 was 30 bucks 16 and Does 14. The terrain is easy to moderate. Doug Travis is not at the top of the list for deer hunting. It is a well know wetland in the far west of Kentucky. However, some folks consider it an underrated spot for some early-season deer hunting. With nearly a third of the area covered in water, you will find bucks bedded near some swampy places. Check out Doug Travis firsthand before walking in. A drive-through in early August of the access point may give you a good idea of what you are dealing with. Be sure and check regulations before Nov 1 there are some of the WMA restricted.
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Dr. James R Rich Wildlife Management Area

Located in Owen County near the cities of Sparta and Owenton, accessed from KY 227, KY 1474, and Red Oak RD. Steep hillsides, ridge tops, and floodplains with a combination of woods, brush, and grasslands. In 2020 the total harvest was 25 bucks 13 Does 12. The terrain is moderate with some steep ridges in place but easy access in most areas. This location is filled with deer, but it comes in at number 5 because of the lack of quality bucks. Access is easy you can park in a few different spots along Georgetown Road or Old Columbus Road near Owenton. You will find ridge after ridge with some low-bottom areas where deer like to travel. Dr. James R. Rich is close to Kleber WMA which is not underrated so is not listed in this blog. Rich WMA is the epitome of hill county. It is a fun hunt with a decent deer herd.
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… And Make Sure You Look Good While You Hunt!

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