Hunting at Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley

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Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley and Land Between The Lakes has much to offer for the sportsman. As a hunter, your vacation destination is complemented by vast hunting grounds.

High on the list of hunters is white-tailed deer. Kentucky is regularly in the top three states in producing record book deer, and the area yields its share of whoppers. Farm ground mixed with woodlots in the private sector produces whitetails both in quantity and quality.

Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge

Nearby Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge offers open hunting in rich bottomland hardwoods. The Refuge contains approximately 5,000 acres of bottom land that provides hunters a chance to bag trophy-sized whitetailed deer, turkey, small game and waterfowl. Look for the refuge to expand in the next few years and become a rich resource for all types of hunters.

Anyone wishing to hunt on the Refuge must obtain and carry a permit card. These permits are free of charge and are available by calling the Refuge office at 270-527-5770.

Kentucky's archery hunting is broad in opportunities, beginning the first Saturday in September and running continuously through mid January. Fall brings a wave of bowhunting throughout the area.

Land Between The Lakes

Perhaps the region's favorite public land option, the U.S. Forest Service's Land Between the Lakes, presents a unique big woods hunting experience on 170,000 acres of ridges and hollows.

The Land Between the Lakes is especially popular with visiting bowhunters for the huge amount of open territory, scenic woodlands atmosphere and the opportunity to hunt bonus deer that don't count against the state bag limit.

Firearms deer hunting activates the masses in the region for a stretch in early to mid November during the excitement of the whitetail rut that puts big bucks on the move. That's after an earlier sampling of muzzleloading firearms and early youth firearms hunting on successive October weekends. 

LBL quota firearms hunting offers bonus deer for those drawn for permits. (Contact the Land Between the Lakes at 270-924-2000 for quota permit application information.)


Late fall and winter in the Lake Barkley region puts waterfowlers onto liquid environments, including Lake Barkley itself. The vast amount of shorelines, flats, and protected bays offer endless possibilities for the waterfowl hunter. The Cumberland River impoundment is a favorite of big water duck hunters who operate from boat blinds or impromptu shoreline hideaways to tempt winter migrant dabblers and divers that spin off the Mississippi Flyway.

Lake Barkley hunting can be especially golden for late season duck hunters - or earlier season with the right weather system - when smaller bottomland sloughs and potholes freeze over, sending birds off to seek out larger open waters. Lake Barkley has its own contingent of resident Canada geese and others drop in from migrational flocks to add spice to the hunting.

Ducks are the primary lure for waterfowlers, but geese offer economy-sized bonuses. The Kentucky Lake hunter who can tear themselves away from spring fishing might enjoy some of the best wild turkey hunting to be had in the woods and woodlots of the Lake Barkley region in April and May.


Kentucky's turkey flock is outstanding since the days of a species restoration, and the area is a producer of some nice, booming gobblers. Those lacking private land on which to duel with tom turkeys may find a wonderland in the Land Between the Lakes. The vast woodlands once held all the turkeys left in Kentucky, and it's still a gobbler mecca now that the state's turkey population has recovered and blossomed.

Land Between the Lakes offers both managed quota turkey hunting and post-quota open hunts. Contact the U.S. Forest Service management at 270-924-2000 for quota applications.

Small Game

The Lakes region also boasts its share of small game and predator hunting for those who seek variety or whose cup of tea might not be the headliner species. Among the options to chase deer, waterfowl, turkeys, rabbits, quail, squirrels, coyotes, bobcat or other critters, there's not much down time for sportsmen.

Hunting Resources