Hunting in Kentucky: 12 Great Public Hunting Lands

Written by Zoe Carina
Updated: November 7, 2023
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Hunting has always been a part of human society since we came to be on this planet. However, the forced global imposition of capitalism by colonizers shifted how we acquire food, clothing, and other tools.

Traditionally, communities hunted animals for sustenance and to make clothes and tools. Nowadays, our food is locked away in grocery stores and warehouses, our clothes are imported from overseas, and our tools are made of plastics.

Plus, hunting has shifted to a recreational activity or a sport. The shift creates issues such as trophy seeking, overhunting, and species extinction.

Rather than completely cutting out hunting, humans must seek a balanced approach that holds respect for the animals and the land. This article will focus on subsistence hunting in Kentucky.

Kentucky offers many options for those interested in procuring food and materials for their communities. Make sure you have the right licenses, hunting season dates, and have paid the appropriate fees before checking out these 12 options for public hunting in Kentucky.

Barren River Lake Wildlife Management Area – Lucas

Barren River Lake Park also offers fishing.

©Ichabod / Creative Commons – License

Located in Lucas County, KY, Barren River Lake Park is a great option for subsistence hunting in Kentucky. The park offers deer, squirrel, rabbit, quail, turkey, and furbearer hunting during season. Waterfowl hunting includes walk-in or boat-in on the lake and river.

Hunters can stay in the park resort either in one of the lodge cabins or at a campsite. Barren River Lake Park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Hunters cannot use a modern firearm in the Peninsula Unit of the wildlife management area. The season goes from November 1st to December 31st.

Coil Estate Wildlife Management Area – Carlisle

White Tail Buck Deer stag in autumn landscape, fall colors; midwest midwestern big game deer hunting season

Coil Estate allows gun and bow hunting of deer.

©Tom Reichner/Shutterstock.com

Within Carlisle County, Coil Estate offers 360 acres of land for public hunting in Kentucky. The eastern portion of the park is open under statewide regulations while the western 435 acres are only open for hiking and wildlife viewing. Coil Estate Wildlife Management Area allows hunters to catch every animal except the grouse or elk.

The park is open for October muzzleloader season only. Hunters must walk in to reach the hunting grounds. There is no camping, and the park is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Daniel Boone National Forest – Winchester

Courthouse Rock at Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Daniel Boone National Forest in Autumn.

Daniel Boone has over 250 recreation sites.

©Irina Mos/Shutterstock.com

The largest forest in the state of Kentucky is located in Daniel Boone National Forest. The forest is open under statewide rules and regulations, so make sure you brush up before you head out. Hunters can choose which animal they’d like to hunt in Daniel Boone, however they’ll need a permit for elks.

For those that also fish, with the appropriate license, hunters can fish in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

There are multiple campgrounds to choose from, including some that offer RV parking spaces. For those that aren’t camping, the park is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Doug Travis Wildlife Management Area – Arlington

Kentucky grey squirrel sitting near its large nest on tall tree and branch Winter time urban wildlife photography 20109

Sitting along the Mississippi River, the Doug Travis Wildlife Management Area offers plenty of hunting space.

©Rob Dunn Nichols/Shutterstock.com

The Doug Travis Wildlife Management Area is located along the Mississippi River in Arlington, KY. The area is open for terrestrial animal and waterfowl hunting, except for grouse and elk. There is a modern gun season in which hunters may use new weapons. They can also use older guns or bows during this season.

Keep an eye out for signs because the Fish and Wildlife Management Department closes some areas to the public between November 1st and March 15th.

The park is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Barebones campsites are available both by reservation and first-come-first-serve.

Fleming Wildlife Management Area – Wallingford

Swamp rabbit

When hunting rabbits, grouse, or quail, keep the quotas in mind.

©Lawrence Jefferson/Shutterstock.com

With Fleming Creek snaking through the area, Fleming Wildlife Management Area allows hunters to capture any animals aside from the elk. If hunting rabbits, grouse, or quail, there are specific quotas of seven, eight, and seven respectively. Plus, the pheasant quota is two or three (depending on whether you’re hunting open or drawn).

The season typically goes from November to December, but pheasant season only goes from December 1st to 4th for open hunters. Hunters who won the draw can hunt between December 5th and 31st.

There is no campsite in Fleming but there are five either reservation or first-come-first-serve options around the area.

Legacy LLC Hunting Access Area – Martin/Pike

Mother and Calf Elk Grazing Quietly on a Beautiful Autumn Morning

Hunters must have a permit to catch elk in the Legacy LLC Hunting Access Area.

©RCKeller/iStock via Getty Images

Legacy LLC Hunting Access Area is made of three different areas spreading between Martin and Pike Counties. Hunters can choose any animal to capture, though the elk quota is 16 for the season. For elk hunting, the state requires a permit in addition to following the statewide rules and regulations.

The season ranges between November 1st and December 31st.

There is dispersed camping available throughout the area. Some campsites allow horses and RVs. There are a few that require reservations as well. Legacy LLC Hunting Access Areas are open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Livingston County Wildlife Management Area and State National Area – Livingston

Cumberland Falls on the Cumberland River in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Kentucky, USA.

The area is near the confluence of the Cumberland and Ohio rivers.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

Located in Livingston County, near the border with Missouri, the Wildlife Management Area and State National Area offers deer, squirrel, rabbit, quail, turkey, and furbearer hunting. There is a quota for hunting deer with a modern gun, which is five.

There are two bluffs that hunters can set up on. On these tracts, the government only permits muzzleloading equipment during modern gun deer season. These are also the only places one can fill the youth-mentor quota. During other seasons, the areas are open to statewide regulations and rules.

There is parking and the park is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Marrowbone State Forest and Wildlife Management Area – Marrowbone

Adult turkey.

With 1,983-acres of land, hunters will find plenty of animals to hunt for sustenance.

©Paul VanDerWerf (Me in ME) / CC BY 2.0, Flickr – License

Marrowbone State Forest and Wildlife Management Area is a great place for hunting in Kentucky. Except for grouse and elk, hunters can choose whatever animal they want to during seasons. They must follow statewide rules and regulations.

Only hunters drawn during quota hunts may use the area during all deer hunting seasons. The archery and crossbow quota hunt goes from the third Monday in October to November 30th. There is a blackout period during the quota hunt that starts on the first Saturday in November.

The State Forest is located in Marrowbone and is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Nolin River Lake Wildlife Management Area – Edmonson, Grayson, and Hart

Nolin River Lake also provides great

catfish

and bass fishing opportunities.

©Ken Crawford, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The wildlife management area around Nolin River Lake spans three counties in Kentucky. The park includes Edmonson, Grayson, and Hart counties.

The seasons for rabbit and quail range from November 14 to December 31. Each hunter can take one rabbit and one quail per season. The state does not permit grouse and elk hunting.

Deer hunting includes modern weapons, youth guns, and bows/crossbows. Hunters can also bring muzzleloaders to capture deer.

Nolin River Lake is open from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday. There are 32 campsites that have water and electricity. These require reservation but there are 27 first-come-first-serve sites as well.

Peabody Wildlife Management Area – Clay

Wooden walking bridge made out of a log connecting hiking trail. Path extending through hardwood forest.

Peabody Wildlife Management Area contains one of the few bottomland hardwood forests left.

©HildeAnna/Shutterstock.com

Originally part of the Peabody Coal Company, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources bought over 50,000 acres in Clay County to create the Wildlife Management Area. Only quails have a quota hunt in this area, with the state allowing eight animals per season. Deers have a quota for using modern guns, with seven animals allowed per season.

The park is open from December 1st to the 31st except during deer quota hunts.

There are no campsites in Peabody itself but there are some camping sites in the area. The park itself is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Pike Elkhorn Hunting Access Area – Pike

newborn spotted elk calves and mothers

The quota for elk hunting in the Pike Elkhorn Hunting Access Area is 16.

©SBTheGreenMan/iStock via Getty Images

In Pike County, KY, the Pike Elkhorn Hunting Access Area is where hunting in Kentucky shines. The state permits hunting of all animals in this area, as long as individuals follow statewide rules and regulations. The elk is the only animal with a quota during season.

During archery season, hunters can use crossbows through most of the season. The only exception is during the November open youth hunt. There are modern and youth deer hunt seasons as well.

The area is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There are no campsites available on Pike Elkhorn, however hunters can camp in the surrounding area.

Yatesville Lake Wildlife Management Area – Lawrence

Sun setting over Yatesville lake as seen from between the trees on nature trail

Yatesville Lake in Kentucky has a modern gun quota of 14 deer per season.

©Stillhouse Photography/Shutterstock.com

Located in Lawrence County, KY, Yatesville Lake is a state park that has sections open to hunting. From rabbits to deer, hunters have a variety of options each season. There is no quota hunt process, but hunters must check-in and -out each day. During check-out, hunters must register the animals they procured. Hunters can also take to the lake or river to hunt waterfowl.

Hunters cannot use any modern weapons or in-line muzzleloading guns. The state only permits open or iron sights on weapons. All season, the state allows archery and crossbow hunting.

The hunting season goes from the second Monday of December. There are 47 campgrounds at the park, plus 16 “boat-in”sites and four “hike in” sites. The park hours go from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

LocationType of Hunting
Barren River Lake WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Coil Estate WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Daniel Boone National ForestDeer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, turkey, quail, elk, and furbearer
Doug Travis WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Fleming WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Legacy-LLC Hunting Access AreaDeer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, turkey, quail, elk, and furbearer
Livingston County WMA & SNADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Marrowbone State Forest & WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Nolin River Lake WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Peabody WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, quail, and furbearer
Pike Elkhorn Hunting Access AreaDeer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, turkey, quail, elk, and furbearer
Yatesville Lake WMADeer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, turkey, quail, and furbearer

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Zoe Carina is a writer at A-Z Animals who primarily covers plants, animals, and places around the world. Zoe has been a professional copywriter and freelancer for six years and holds a bachelors degree in communications from Florida State University, which they earned in 2019. A resident of Oregon, Zoe runs a blog called Intuitive Traveler, where they write about traveling and language learning.

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