Hunters killed five bears in Letcher County during the recently concluded bear season that ran December 8-9.
One of the four male and one female bears killed here set the new state record.
Doug Adkins of Jenkins took a 410-pound male bear in Letcher County, besting the previous record bear of 350 pounds set last year by Neil Perkins of Hallie.
“The 410-pound bear is the field dressed weight,” said Steve Dobey, bear program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The live weight would have likely exceeded 450 pounds.”
In all, 11 bears were taken during this season, all coming from Letcher and neighboring Harlan counties. The highest bear densities in Kentucky lie along Pine Mountain, which stretches from the Breaks of the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River in Pike County through Letcher and Harlan counties.
All of the five bears taken in Letcher County were killed on private lands, and all were shot with modern firearms.
The Hensley-Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area is closed to all bear hunting. Almost a decade of research has shown that this WMA on Pine Mountain serves as an important denning area for female bears. Currently, bear hunting is being prohibited in this immediate area to protect reproducing females while denning with young. However, bear hunting on private property immediately surrounding Hensley-Pine Mountain WMA is restricted to landowners, their spouses, and dependent children. This restricted area surrounding Hensley-Pine Mountain WMA extends roughly from KY Highway 160 on the north side of Pine Mountain to US Highway 119 on the south side of Pine Mountain.
Six bears — five males and one female — were killed in Harlan County. Four were killed on private lands — one by a hunter using a muzzle-loader. One was killed in the Daniel Boone National Forest and one was killed in the Shillalah Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Hunters purchased 359 permits for the 2012 hunt, down from 484 permits last year. Males made up nine of the 11 harvested bears and 13 of the 17 total bears taken since bear hunting began again in Kentucky in 2009. This is by design.
“Having the hunt in mid-December helps prevent excessive harvest of female bears,” Dobey said. “Most female bears are in their dens by this time of year.”
This year’s total harvest of 11 bears exceeds by one the number of bears established as an annual quota by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Hunters may take only 10 bears per season, of which no more than five shall be females. “If the quota is not met in a single day, the following day is open until sundown regardless,” said Dobey. “We have the season structured in the event this happened. The baseline quota will prevent over harvest of bears.”
This hunt was scheduled to continue through December 10, but closed December 9 after hunters reached the bear quota for the season. The 2012 season marks the first time hunters met the quota of bears in the four-year history of modern bear hunting in Kentucky.
By meeting the quota for the season, the bear quota hunt with dogs scheduled for December 17 through December 21 is now a chase-only season in which no harvest of bears shall occur.
Harvest of bears would only occur if the bear quota was not met during the regular bear season. The scheduled late bear chase season with dogs will last from December 24 through December 28. Harvest of bears is not allowed during this chase season as well.
Hunters from the bear zone took 10 of the 11 harvested bears. “Local hunters should take great pride in their success this bear season,” Dobey said.