What’s happened with Bear Creek deer?


By G. Sam Piatt - Contributing Columnist



Kentucky’s deer seasons opened way back in early September for bow hunters, while the 16-day gun season opened on Nov. 9 and closes just after sundown today. Through Nov. 21, statewide, for all seasons –bow, crossbow, muzzleloader and modern gun – hunters had harvested 120,735 whitetails, 96,044 of them with the gun.

That’s about on par for past seasons. Hunters usually wind up taking 120,000 to 130,000. Bow and crossbow seasons remain open through Jan. 20 and a second muzzleloader season is set for Dec. 14-22.

But what’s happened to the deer that were once so prevalent on Bear Creek? That’s the question troubling the mind of Arnold “Jigger” Topping.

Topping 71, of Flatwoods, and his friend, Dee, 75, spent seven or eight days in the camper and branched out to the ground blind. Topping has put his camper out there on the same farm for years.

In past years it was nothing to see seven or eight, maybe a dozen deer every day.

This year they saw one during his entire stay in the woods. It was a doe, which Jigger (that’s the nickname everybody calls him by) “harvested” and took home for some fresh venison.

His shot was the only one they heard on the trip.

“And we used to always see quite a few wild turkeys, but none this year,” he said.

FIRST TURKEYS

Bear Creek Road is in the heart of Boyd County. It runs from State Route 3 over to U.S. 23, where you turn right for Louisa or left for Catlettsburg.

There’s lots of farmland – pastures and woods.

In the mid-1970s, I was there with my camera for The Daily Independent as the first wild turkeys in this corner of the state were released by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

As best I recall, there were two toms and three hens who emerged from the transport boxes opened by Roland Burns and some department employees. The turkeys paused, looked around, then took wing. Pretty exciting stuff.

HABITAT LOSS

In recent times, some of the bigger farms have been split up and new homes built. Loss of habitat might be one reason the deer have moved out of Bear Creek, or at least the section where Jigger and his friend were hunting.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which has hit deer herds in 26 states, has not been detected in Kentucky.

Jigger says his plan now is to drive Bear Creek Road at dusk and see how many deer he sees feeding in bordering fields and woods edges.

Deer hunts along Bear Creek have been a Topping family tradition, especially when Arnold’s five sons were younger.

The sons didn’t hunt this year. He said they were all too busy with the family business, Topping’s Painting & Wallcovering.

“I’m supposed to be retired, but they still call me in from time to time.”

LOCAL HARVEST

So far, the harvest in Boyd County stands at 547 deer. In neighboring Carter, the tally is 1,038. Hunters in Lewis County have taken 941, in Greenup 797, and in Lawrence 788.

Hardin County leads the state with 3,059, followed by Christian County with 2,996 and Crittenden County with 2,768.

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By G. Sam Piatt

Contributing Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at gsamwriter@twc.com or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at gsamwriter@twc.com or (606) 932-3619.