Kentucky General Hunting Laws and Regulations

Land Access and Retrieval Permission

Restriction on Entry

Entering another person's land for shooting, hunting, trapping, fishing, or any wildlife-related recreational activity is strictly prohibited without the explicit oral or written permission of the landowner, tenant, or an authorized person.

Legal Consequences

Failure to obtain permission carries severe consequences. Individuals who disregard this requirement are subject to arrest and prosecution under the applicable laws governing wildlife-related activities on private property.

Railroad Tracks and Rights of Way

It is imperative to recognize that railroad tracks and associated rights of way are considered privately-owned property. Prior to engaging in hunting, trapping, or fishing activities in these areas, hunters must obtain permission from the rightful owners to avoid legal repercussions.

Retrieval Restrictions

Landowners maintain the right to deny access for the retrieval of game or hunting dogs from their property. Hunters should be aware that there is no obligation for landowners to permit access for this purpose. Securing explicit permission is essential to prevent legal complications and to respect the rights of property owners.

Hunter Education Requirements

Certification Mandate

Hunters born on or after January 1, 1975, are obligated to carry proof of valid hunter education certification or possess a hunter education exemption permit while engaging in hunting activities. Acceptable proofs include hunting licenses, electronic documentation, along with proof of identity. Individuals exempt from licensing or permitting requirements are also exempt from mandatory hunter education certification.

Course Participation

Hunter education courses are conducted statewide to facilitate compliance with certification requirements. As of March 1, 2014, individuals must pre-register online to secure their hunter education card. This card serves as official certification. The course is open to children aged 9 and above. Upon completion, participants receive an orange certification card, demonstrating their adherence to hunter education standards.

Interchangeability of Certifications

Hunter education cards issued by other states are recognized and deemed valid in Kentucky, fostering flexibility for hunters with certifications from different regions.

Exemptions for Younger Hunters

Children below the age of 12 are exempt from the hunter education certification mandate. However, they must be accompanied by an adult meeting the hunter education requirement. The designated adult must be capable of assuming immediate control of the bow or firearm at all times during the hunting activity. Importantly, one adult cannot accompany more than two hunters under 12 years old simultaneously. This regulation ensures the responsible supervision and safety of young hunters in the field.

Apprentice Hunting Opportunity

Temporary Exemption Permit

Individuals new to hunting, lacking the hunter education course, can obtain a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit through online purchase.

Duration of Opportunity

This apprentice hunting opportunity grants new hunters in Kentucky the chance to engage in hunting for a maximum of one year from the date of purchase without possessing a hunter education card. The permit stipulates that the holder must hunt alongside a licensed adult hunter, aged at least 18, who meets the hunter education requirement. The designated adult must be capable of assuming immediate control of the exempted hunter’s bow or firearm at all times during the hunting activity. It's noteworthy that this requirement applies even if the exempted hunter is an adult.

Expiry and Education Requirement

Upon the expiration of the hunter education exemption permit, the hunter is no longer exempt from the certification requirement. To continue hunting legally, individuals must successfully complete a hunter education course.

Permit Validity

The temporary hunter education exemption permit is valid exclusively within the state of Kentucky. It is important to note that this permit is not accepted at Blue Grass Army Depot or Fort Campbell.

Special Exemptions for Residents

Resident landowners, their spouses and dependent children, as well as tenants and their families, enjoy hunter education exemption solely on the property they own or where they reside and work. However, when hunting on other properties, they must adhere to Kentucky's hunter education law, ensuring a consistent application of safety and education standards.

Replacement Hunter Education Cards

Cost-Free Replacements

Obtaining a replacement for a lost or damaged hunter education card is a hassle-free process. Individuals can conveniently print free replacement hunter education cards online.

Online Access

The online platform facilitates easy access to replacement cards, allowing hunters to quickly address any issues with their original certification.

Swift Resolution

Whether due to loss or damage, the ability to print replacement cards online ensures a swift resolution, enabling hunters to maintain compliance with certification requirements.

Cost-Efficient Solution

The provision of free replacements online contributes to a cost-efficient solution for hunters, eliminating any financial barriers associated with obtaining a new hunter education card.

Seamless Process

This user-friendly and accessible process ensures that hunters can promptly replace their cards, maintaining documentation of their hunter education certification without unnecessary delays or complications.

Hunter Orange Clothing Law

Mandatory Attire

Orange is the Law!

Kentucky’s Hunter Orange Clothing Law mandates that ALL HUNTERS and their companions, participating in modern gun, muzzleloading, and youth firearm deer seasons, or firearm elk or bear seasons, must wear solid, unbroken hunter orange clothing visible from all sides on the head, back, and chest.

Broad Application

This requirement encompasses all hunters and accompanying individuals during daylight hours for any species within the specified seasons. Waterfowl and dove hunters, however, are exempt from this obligation.

Clothing Specifications

Hunter orange garments may be of a mesh-type material, with openings no wider than one-quarter inch by any measurement. While primarily hunter orange, garments are permitted to display a small portion of another color.

Violation Examples

Common violations include wearing camouflage-patterned hunter orange garments without additional solid hunter orange clothing on the head, back, and chest, or removing hunter orange clothing upon reaching a stand. Additionally, hunting squirrel, rabbit, or quail during firearm deer or elk seasons without wearing hunter orange clothing constitutes a violation.

Archery Equipment Usage

Hunters employing archery equipment during deer firearms seasons are required to wear hunter orange clothing.

Ground Blind Regulations

During gun deer hunting on wildlife management areas, state parks, or Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area, individuals within ground blinds must attach a hat or vest made of solid, unbroken hunter orange material visible from all sides. This regulation ensures visibility and adherence to hunter orange clothing requirements.

Exemptions on State-Owned or Managed WMAs

While hunters are not compelled to wear hunter orange clothing or display it on ground blinds during firearms seasons on state-owned or managed wildlife management areas where firearms hunting for deer, elk, or bear is prohibited, the mandate remains in effect elsewhere.

Shooting Hours

General Hours

Unless specifically stated otherwise, the standard shooting hours for most species are from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. This timeframe ensures a fair and safe hunting experience.


Exceptions to the general shooting hours rule are applicable to specific species. Waterfowl, migratory birds, raccoons, coyotes, turtles, and frogs have their shooting hours regulations.

Field Presence

Importantly, hunters are allowed to be in the field outside of the designated shooting hours. This flexibility allows for preparatory activities, scouting, and other non-shooting-related aspects of hunting.

Raccoons and Opossums

Raccoons and opossums have the unique allowance of being hunted day or night, with a special consideration during the modern gun deer season. During this season, raccoon and opossum hunting is restricted to nighttime only.

Coyote Exceptions

Specific exceptions regarding shooting hours for coyotes are detailed in the Furbearer Hunting and Trapping section. Hunters are advised to refer to this section for precise information.

Reference Tables

For accurate timing, sunrise and sunset tables provided by the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) should be consulted. These tables serve as a reliable reference for adhering to shooting hour regulations and ensuring a safe and legal hunting experience.

Hunting Method Exemptions

Accessibility for All

The department acknowledges the need for inclusivity in hunting and grants exemptions to individuals with specific physical disabilities, allowing them to utilize alternative methods during archery-only seasons.

Permitted Methods

Hunters with qualifying physical disabilities may be exempted to hunt with a crossbow during archery-only seasons or use a stationary vehicle as a hunting platform.

Exemption Process

To qualify for these exemptions, individuals must have an exemption form completed and signed by a licensed physician. This form certifies the necessity of the exemption due to the hunter's physical condition.

Form Availability

Exemption forms are easily accessible online or by calling 1-800-858-1549. The completed exemption form serves as the hunter's exemption permit. Importantly, this form should not be returned to the department.

Licensing and Permit Requirements

While individuals granted exemptions are permitted to use alternative hunting methods, they are still required to possess the appropriate hunting license and permits. Hunters must carry the signed exemption form along with their hunting license and permits while in the field.

Ensuring Inclusivity

These exemptions are a testament to the commitment to ensuring that individuals with physical disabilities can participate in hunting activities, promoting a more inclusive and accessible hunting experience for all.

Prohibited Hunting Methods

Roadway Restrictions

No person is permitted to discharge any firearm, bow and arrow, crossbow, or similar device upon, over, or across any public roadway. Additionally, hunting is strictly prohibited in highway or interstate medians and rights of way.

Vehicle Restrictions

Taking or attempting to take wildlife from an automobile or other vehicle is expressly prohibited, except as prescribed by regulation. However, hunting from boats is allowed for small game and furbearers.

Aircraft Usage

The use of aircraft to harass wildlife, shoot at wildlife while airborne, or participate in capturing or killing wildlife from an aircraft is strictly prohibited.

Deer, Elk, and Turkey Restrictions

  1. Pursuit Restrictions:

    • Deer, elk, or turkey (during the spring turkey season) shall not be pursued, chased, or taken with the aid of dogs, while on horseback, or when a deer, elk, or bear is swimming.
    • Dogs may be used to locate and flush turkeys during the fall turkey seasons only.
  2. Feeding Bears:

    • Direct or indirect feeding of bears for any reason is illegal.
  3. Illegal Methods:

    • Taking wildlife with the aid of fire, smoke, explosives, or gas is strictly prohibited.

Baiting Restrictions

  1. General Baiting Prohibition:

    • Baiting is prohibited on all Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Jefferson National Forest, Land Between the Lakes, and state parks open to hunting.
  2. Electronic Devices:

    • Deer and elk hunters are prohibited from using electronic decoys or calls.
  3. Turkey-Specific Restrictions:

    • Turkeys should not be taken when roosting.
    • Live turkeys are not allowed as decoys when hunting wild turkeys.

Bear and Turkey Baiting

  1. Baiting Prohibition:
    • Hunting wild turkey or bears with the aid of bait is strictly prohibited.
    • Areas are considered baited for 30 days after all bait has been removed.
    • A baited area is defined as any place where feed, grains, or other substances capable of luring wild turkeys or bears have been placed. Areas with grains or other feeds resulting from legitimate agricultural practices or wildlife management practices are exceptions and are legal for hunting.

Concealed Carry Deadly Weapons Permits

Legal Possession and Carry

Individuals who are legally eligible to possess firearms are permitted to carry any legal firearms while hunting. This includes the possession and concealed carry of firearms, ensuring hunters can exercise their right to self-defense during hunting activities.

Restriction on Game Taking Methods

While hunters are allowed to carry legal firearms for self-defense, it's crucial to note that only legal methods are permitted for taking game. Hunters must adhere to the specific regulations and guidelines governing the hunting methods applicable to the particular species they are pursuing.

Safety Considerations

Carrying firearms during hunting activities requires a responsible and safety-conscious approach. Hunters should prioritize proper firearm handling, adherence to hunting laws, and consideration for the safety of themselves and others in the field.

Legal Compliance

It is the responsibility of individuals carrying concealed firearms while hunting to ensure they comply with all relevant state and local laws regarding firearm possession and use. Understanding and following these regulations contribute to a safe and lawful hunting experience.

Firearm Possession for Convicted Felons

Prohibition on Firearm Possession

A person convicted of a felony in Kentucky is strictly prohibited from possessing or hunting with a firearm. This restriction applies to breech and muzzle-loading rifles, shotguns, and handguns, all of which are categorized as firearms.

Specific Prohibitions

  1. Handguns:

    • The prohibition on possessing handguns applies to individuals convicted after January 1, 1975.
  2. Other Firearms:

    • The prohibition on possessing other firearms, including breech and muzzle-loading rifles and shotguns, applies to individuals convicted after July 15, 1994.

Legal Reference

For more detailed information and to understand the specific legal provisions, individuals are encouraged to refer to KRS 527.040. This statute provides comprehensive details on the restrictions imposed on individuals convicted of felonies regarding firearm possession and use.

Seeking Clarification

If there is any uncertainty or need for clarification regarding the ability to hunt with a particular weapon after a felony conviction, individuals are advised to contact the county or commonwealth attorney in their county of residence. Seeking legal guidance ensures compliance with regulations and helps individuals make informed decisions regarding their participation in hunting activities.

Spotlighting Restrictions

Illumination Prohibitions

It is strictly forbidden for any person to intentionally cast the rays of a spotlight or any other artificial light into fields, pastures, woodlands, or forests—whether public or private—where wildlife or domestic livestock may reasonably be expected to be located. Equally, shining artificial lights into private residences or other structures is prohibited.


  1. Headlights of Vehicles:

    • The prohibition does not extend to the headlights of vehicles engaged in the normal course of travel.
  2. Legitimate Agricultural Activities:

    • Lights used in legitimate agricultural activities are exempt from this restriction.
  3. Business or Occupation:

    • Individuals involved in activities legitimate to their business or occupation are not bound by this prohibition.
  4. Lawful Hunting Activities:

    • Circumstances, including lawful hunting activities, are exempt from the spotlighting prohibition.
  5. Landowner and Employees:

    • The prohibition does not apply to any landowner, their immediate family, or any paid employee while working on their land at that time.

Wildlife Taking Restrictions

  1. General Prohibition:

    • No person is allowed to take wildlife, excluding raccoons, opossums, frogs, and fishes, using lights or other means designed to blind wildlife or make wildlife visible at night.
  2. Coyote Exceptions:

    • Specific exceptions apply for coyotes, and individuals are directed to refer to the Furbearer Hunting & Trapping section for detailed information on the use of lights in coyote hunting.

Legal Compliance

Adherence to these spotlighting restrictions ensures the responsible and ethical engagement with the environment while safeguarding wildlife and domestic livestock. Hunters and individuals engaging in nighttime activities are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these regulations for lawful and respectful practices.

Game Calling Devices and Restrictions

General Use of Calls

  1. Hand or Mouth-Operated Calls:
    • Hand or mouth-operated calls are permitted for hunting all species, providing hunters with a traditional and hands-on approach to attract game.

Furbearer Season Regulations

  1. Electronic Calls for Furbearers:
    • During the furbearer season, hunters are allowed to use electronic calls or attracting devices. This technological approach enhances the effectiveness of furbearer hunting.

Crow Season Specifics

  1. Mechanical or Electronic Calls for Crows:
    • Mechanical or electronic calls may be employed exclusively during crow season for the purpose of taking crows. This provision allows for strategic crow hunting methods.

Restrictions for Deer, Turkey, and Elk Hunters

  1. Electronic Calling Devices Prohibition:
    • Hunters pursuing deer, turkey, and elk are strictly prohibited from using or possessing electronic calling devices. This restriction aims to maintain a fair and traditional hunting experience for these species.

Compliance Guidelines

Hunters are advised to be aware of and comply with these specific regulations regarding the use of game calling devices. Understanding the permitted and restricted methods ensures a lawful and ethical hunting experience while contributing to the conservation and sustainability of wildlife populations.

Transportation and Holding of Live Native Wildlife

Permit Requirement

  1. Taking or Possessing Live Wildlife:

    • It is prohibited for any person to take or possess live wildlife without first obtaining the necessary permit, as outlined in relevant regulations.
  2. Detailed Information:

    • For comprehensive details on the transportation and holding of live native wildlife, individuals are directed to refer to the Transportation and Holding of Live Native Wildlife page.

Legal Acquisition and Holding

  1. Legal Acquisition and Holding Requirements:

    • Live native wildlife must not be held in captivity unless legally taken or possessed. The acquisition, possession, sale, trade, or barter of native wildlife or their parts obtained from the wild is strictly regulated.
  2. Confiscation and Fines:

    • Wildlife acquired without the proper permits may be subject to confiscation, and the holder may face fines as a consequence of non-compliance.

Orphaned Wildlife

  1. Possession by Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator:
    • Orphaned wildlife may only be in the possession of individuals holding a valid license as a wildlife rehabilitator. This ensures that orphaned animals receive appropriate care and attention from trained professionals.

Cervids Transportation and Holding

  1. Documentation and Permits:

    • Persons transporting live deer or other types of cervids must have proper documentation and permits. Failure to comply may result in severe fines.
  2. Unpermitted Facilities or Pens:

    • Holding live deer captive in unpermitted facilities or pens is strictly prohibited. Violators may face severe fines, and their animals could be confiscated or destroyed.

Dog Training and Hunting with Dogs

Year-Round Dog Training

  1. Allowed Game:

    • Hunters are permitted to run or train dogs for rabbits, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and opossums throughout the year. However, harvesting game is only allowed during an open hunting season.
  2. Special WMA Restrictions:

    • Some Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) may have specific restrictions on using dogs, and hunters are advised to check ahead of time to ensure compliance with any special regulations.
  3. License Requirement:

    • All members of the hunting party must possess a valid hunting license, unless exempt, even when training dogs without taking game for rabbits or furbearers.

Deer and Elk Restrictions

  1. Prohibition on Deer and Elk Hunting:
    • Dogs may not be used to chase, molest, or hunt deer and elk. However, dogs may be used to chase or hunt bears if a legal season is open.

Turkey Season and Tracking

  1. Turkey Season Permission:

    • During the fall turkey season only, dogs are permitted for locating and flushing turkeys.
  2. Tracking Wounded Game:

    • Dogs on a leash are allowed for tracking and locating wounded deer, elk, and bear, ensuring ethical and humane practices in retrieving injured game.

Raccoon and Opossum Regulations

  1. Device Prohibition:

    • Outside of the hunting season, raccoon and opossum hunters are prohibited from using any device to force a raccoon or opossum from trees or dens.
  2. Year-Round Use of Raccoon Squallers:

    • Raccoon squallers may be used year-round, offering hunters a tool for communication and locating game.

Responsible Practices

These regulations are designed to ensure responsible and ethical hunting practices with dogs. Hunters should be aware of the specific rules related to dog training and usage for different game species and seasons to promote conservation and humane treatment of wildlife.

Bobwhite Shoot-to-Train Season

Bird Dog Training on Private Lands

  1. Season Duration:

    • The Bobwhite Shoot-to-Train Season is designated for bird dog training on private lands only. It spans from August 15 through May 15, excluding the regular bobwhite hunting season.
  2. Harvesting Pen-Reared Bobwhite Quail:

    • Hunters are allowed to harvest pen-reared bobwhite quail during the specified season for bird dog training purposes.

Requirements Prior to Shooting

  1. Valid Hunting License:

    • Before shooting, individuals must possess a valid hunting license or be license-exempt.
  2. Application Submission:

    • A completed application must be submitted to the department before engaging in bird dog training during the Bobwhite Shoot-to-Train Season.
  3. Proof of Sale/Ownership:

    • Hunters must possess proof of the sale or ownership of the pen-reared birds intended for training.
  4. Captive Wildlife Permit:

    • A captive wildlife permit for pen-reared bobwhite is required if more than 100 birds are in possession or if kept for more than 10 days.
  5. Training Area Inspection:

    • Hunters are responsible for ensuring that the training area is free of wild quail.
  6. Bird Banding:

    • Before release, pen-reared birds must be banded with No. 7 leg bands or department-supplied bands.

Wanton Waste Regulations

Hunter Responsibility

Hunters are obligated to make a reasonable effort to recover big game and upland birds harvested. This responsibility includes the removal of edible parts from the field.

Ethical Practices

  1. Reasonable Effort:

    • Hunters should exert a reasonable effort to locate and recover the harvested game. This effort ensures ethical hunting practices and respect for wildlife.
  2. Edible Parts Removal:

    • In addition to recovering the game, hunters are specifically required to remove edible parts from the field. This regulation encourages responsible and sustainable hunting practices.


Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.