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Bear hunting regulations streamlined

Bear harvest quotas eliminated; changes in effect Oct. 20

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 20, 2022) — Simplified bear hunting regulations are now in place in Kentucky.

Regulation changes proposed by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission received final legislative approval on Oct. 20.

Gone are the eight zones and harvest quotas that shut down a season once a set number of female bears was harvested. The newly amended regulations establish fixed season dates with no bear quotas, making it easier for hunters to plan their trips. Regulations also reduce the number of hunting zones to two.

The new seasons include:

  • Hunt with dogs/any legal equipment, Zones 1 & 2, Open through Oct. 21
  • Hunt with dogs/any legal equipment, Zone 2, Oct. 27-Nov. 4
  • Hunt with archery/crossbow equipment, Zone 1, Oct. 22-24
  • Hunt with archery/crossbow equipment, Zone 2, Oct. 22-26
  • Hunt with firearms, Zone 1, Dec.10-12
  • Hunt with firearms, Zone 2, Dec.10-14

Seasons for chasing bears with dogs (but no hunting) remain unchanged. Those seasons concluded Sept. 30.

Kentucky reopened to bear hunting in 2009 as populations expanded from surrounding states. Quotas were originally enacted to allow bears to establish a self-sustaining population through natural dispersion. Now, with Kentucky’s growing bear population established, harvests can be regulated by the number of days each season remains open. Special Bear Reserves already in place add a layer of sustainability.

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission proposed the new bear season changes in September 2021; regulation changes were being promulgated since that time and are effectively immediately. Hunters still are limited to one bear per license year.

Under the new regulations, Zone 1 includes McCreary, Bell, Harlan and Letcher counties. These are the counties with the greatest concentrations of bears in the state. These counties also include designated Bear Reserves where hunting is not allowed.

Zone 2 includes 43 counties in eastern Kentucky, from Cumberland County in the south up to Lewis County in the northeast.

Several public hunting areas, including the federally-owned Daniel Boone National Forest, are not open for the use of dogs to hunt or chase bears. The 2022-23 Kentucky Fall Hunting and Trapping Guide includes a comprehensive list.

The new regulations also expand the calibers of firearms that can be used to hunt bears in Kentucky. Hunters may now use the popular 6.5 mm round (.264-caliber), which is slightly smaller than the former standard of .270 caliber. Muzzleloader hunters may now use.45-caliber or larger firearms.

Bear harvests in Kentucky are slowly increasing as the population rises. In 2010, the second year of bear hunting, hunters took three bears. In 2021, hunters took a record 109 bears.

For more information about bear hunting in Kentucky and additional regulations, visit the department’s website at

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