Hunting on a military installation for dummies

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I didn’t start hunting until about five years ago.

I had always wanted to but never had any family that hunted, so it just never happened for me. When I met my wife, I discovered her whole family was into hunting, and better yet, they were willing to take me under their wings and show me how it’s done. I got a buck on my first day in a tree stand and I’ve been hooked ever since.

So, for the past five years I’ve been hunting with my in-laws on a 160-acre property in Breckinridge County. It’s a great place to hunt and I don’t plan on stopping, but I live on post and it’s a bit of a drive. I can’t just jump up and go on a hunt some afternoon and be home in time for dinner. I have to commit to staying there for a weekend. With my job, a 4-year-old son, and a wife who works six days a week, it’s not always easy to make that happen.

Since I live on the installation, there’s a 65,000-acre hunter’s paradise literally in my backyard. As Fort Knox Hunt Control Manager Mike Brandenburg is fond of saying, “If you’re not hunting on post, it’s your loss. We have some of the best hunting in the state of Kentucky.”

However true that may be, hunting on a military installation can be intimidating. Knowing the laws and regulations, best places to hunt, how to get around, what kind of documentation is needed and getting your firearms registered can make a person put off dealing with it — especially when you already have a decent place to hunt off post. However, for the past 10 years I’ve seen enough photographic examples of monster deer regularly harvested on this installation to make me quit being lazy and get involved.

I finally decided to learn how to hunt on post and I wanted to share that information so those who may have been putting off taking advantage of the great hunting opportunities at Fort Knox can partake with confidence.

I sat down with Fort Knox Wildlife Biologist Jimmy Watkins to discuss the ins and outs of hunting on post. Watkins is one of the people on the Fort Knox hunt control team responsible for managing both the animals on post and their habitat. In fact, one of the primary reasons there are so many quality animals harvested on the installation is the careful attention paid to wildlife and land management on the installation. The following is what I learned:

Who can hunt on post?

Watkins: The installation is open to everyone for hunting or
fishing, as long as they pass the required background checks and register the firearm they will be using to hunt. There are three tiers
of individuals based on their affiliation with
the military (see tier info box).

How does the tier level affect where one can hunt?

Watkins: The tier category does not directly affect where a person is allowed to hunt as
all hunting areas, when available, are open
to everyone. However,
it does affect when a hunting area can be reserved. As some
areas are more popular than others, they
may fill up with people
from other tiers before
a tier 3 individual
has a chance to reserve an area or sign in.

How much does it cost to hunt on post? What types of animals can be hunted and what are the season dates?

Watkins: A complete permit fee list and the 2018-19 season dates are posted on the iSportsman website under the “Hunting and Fishing Information” tab.

Does one need a Kentucky permit, a Fort Knox permit or both?

Watkins: Both. You need the appropriate Kentucky hunting and/or fishing license in addition to the Fort Knox permits.

Are there people who don’t need permits?

Watkins: Everyone needs to establish an iSportsman account. However, permits are free for Kentucky resident senior citizens (ages 65-plus) and 100% service connected disabled veteran permits are free as well as tier 1 and 2 dependents under the age of 16.

How does someone sign up for iSportsman? Does one have to come to Hunt Control in person to sign up?

Watkins: They must visit the Fort Knox iSportsman website at https://ftknox.isportsman.net and create an account. They will need their name, date of birth, address, phone number, driver’s license number and vehicle license plate number (if applicable). If they are in a tier category that receives a hunting area sign up preference (active or retired military, current or retired Fort Knox DoD civilian), they must also email usarmy.knox.imcom-atlantic.mbx.dpw-hunt-control@mail.mil or fax (502) 624-1868 a copy of their military ID card and have their account validated by the Hunt Control Office. They can also bring their ID’s to the office in person, but that is not required.

What types of weapons are allowed for hunting on Fort Knox?

Watkins: For deer — 12, 16 or 20 gauge shotguns using slugs only; muzzleloading rifles with a .38 caliber minimum and .58 caliber maximum; muzzleloading shotguns with a single projectile; and archery equipment. All repeating shotguns must be plugged to hold a maximum of 3 shells for all species hunted on the installation. Bows must have a minimum 40 pound draw weight; longbows, recurves or compounds only. Crossbows are prohibited except for hunters that have a valid crossbow Method Exemption Permit printed from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife website and signed by a physician; or are 65 years of age or older.

For small game — Archery equipment and shotguns no larger than 10 gauge or smaller than .410 with pelleted ammunition no larger than shot size T. Steel pellet shotshells are the only ammunition permitted in possession while hunting waterfowl. Rifles, handguns and solid projectile ammunition are prohibited while small game hunting at Fort Knox. Turkeys may be taken with archery equipment or 10, 12, 16, and 20 gauge shotguns with #4 shot or smaller.

How does one get to the designated hunting area and are there any special rules on parking?

Watkins: Hunters and fishermen must use maintained roads to access their hunting areas. They must park in or adjacent to their hunting area; accessing a hunting area through a non hunting area or off limits area is prohibited. A printed iSportsman hunting or fishing permit for each individual in a vehicle must be displayed in the driver’s side windshield and will serve as their parking permit. Privately-owned vehicles are not authorized on unimproved roads, trails or firebreaks in the hunting areas, and they must not park in front of gates, or block access to buildings.

What if a hunter wants to change hunting areas during the day?

Watkins: Hunters are free to change hunting areas as many times as they wish, but must use the iSportsman website to determine if the hunting area they want has available spaces and subsequently check-in and -out. However, during the quota gun hunt, hunters are allowed a maximum of two check ins per day. This is due to the large number of people participating in that hunt, and it helps to reduce confusion.

Are there certain times hunters have to be in place, or are they able to leave?

Watkins: Check-in begins at 4 a.m. each day, but people can go to or leave their area at any time of the day. However, hunters must check out when they leave an area for the day and be physically out of the area by immediately following the time they checked out.

Are four-wheelers and utility vehicles allowed? Do they have to be registered?

Watkins: No, unless the user possesses a Vehicle Methods Exemption Permit signed by their physician stating they are physically impaired and must use one to be able to hunt. The forms can be obtained at https://fw.ky.gov/Licenses/Documents/vehicleexemption.pdf. These vehicles do not have to be registered, but a helmet is required while operating one of these vehicles on the installation.

Can a person hunt with dogs?

Watkins: Yes, hunters can use dogs to hunt rabbits, squirrels and raccoons, but not deer. You can also use them to retrieve game animals. There are no special regulations for using dogs, only that the owner is responsible for the dog at all times while on the installation.

How are the hunting areas set up? Is there an area leader or a discussion about where everyone will be before hunting begins for the day?

Watkins: Hunting areas are generally set up with distinct boundaries, such as roads, trails, or creeks. However, this is not always the case. This is why it’s important for hunters to be familiar with the Fort Knox hunting map, which can be downloaded from iSportsman or purchased at the Hunt Control Office. There is typically only an area guide for each area during the quota gun hunt, but it is public land and there is no official placement of hunters — only common sense and good hunting etiquette. There are a few areas near firing ranges where hunters must check in/out with an area guide by certain times due to gate closures and range usage.

What are the rules on game cameras/stands/blaze orange? Can hunters prune trees for climbing stands?

Watkins: Game cameras are allowed, but at the hunter’s own risk as they may not be able to get back into the hunting area when they want due to training schedules.

Only portable tree stands that do not injure trees are permitted; screw-in tree steps are not allowed. All stands and blinds left unattended in the hunting areas for more than 24 hours must be clearly marked with the hunter’s name and phone number. Portable stands and blinds may be placed no more than two weeks before opening day and will be removed from the installation by the end of the archery deer season. All hunters are required to use a safety harness when utilizing a tree stand at Fort Knox.

During gun deer season, everyone must wear a solid, unbroken blaze orange hat and vest, jacket or coveralls at all times while in the hunting areas. Ground blinds may be used, but must have a blaze orange patch, a minimum of 12 inches by 12 inches, affixed to all sides of the blind.

Are the hunting laws different from Kentucky laws? If so how?

Watkins: Our small game
seasons generally coincide with KDFWR’s, but we recommend everyone read our guidelines on iSportsman for each season so they know the rules. The biggest differences are probably our deer and turkey season dates, the firearms restrictions during deer season, and the fact
that hunters have to check in and out of our hunting areas each day. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of reading the guidelines.

Are there special rules on deer harvesting?

Watkins: Besides the firearms restrictions I mentioned earlier, we have implemented Quality Deer Management on post and we have a 12 inch minimum antler width restriction. For more information on QDM, visit www.QDMA.com. The bag limit is one either sex deer and one antlerless deer with a gun permit; one either sex deer and one antlerless deer with an archery permit. Additionally, Fort Knox deer are bonus deer so they do not count against state bag limits.

Kentucky has the Telecheck system for use after harvesting a deer. Is there a similar system on Fort Knox? Do you still have to use Telecheck?

Watkins: Hunters do have to use the KDFWR’s Telecheck system to check deer harvested on Fort Knox, but it does not count against your state bag limit. This should be done first to obtain your confirmation number for the harvested animal. There is an option for Fort Knox and the county in which the animal was harvested, be it in Hardin, Meade or Bullitt counties. Also, you must report your harvest in iSportsman at check out.

Is scouting allowed?

Watkins: Scouting is allowed before the season, if the area is released by Range Control for recreation use. Check in/out for scouting is also required through the hunter’s iSportsman account. It is important to note that if someone fails to check-in to an area or out by the required time, their hunting privileges will be suspended.

As someone who has never hunted on post, the wide array of hunting areas is intimidating. How does one know where to go to find deer? Does your office provide recommendations?

Watkins: I would recommend just checking into an area and hunting to see if you like it. There are nice deer in every area. Of course, if you have friends or family that hunt here, learn from them. The Hunt Control Office will give a hunter some options, but not all hunters like to hunt the same type of habitat or in the same way. It’s ultimately up to the hunter to decide where the best spot for bagging a nice deer is found. After all, that’s part of what makes hunting fun.

Is there anything else a new Fort Knox hunter needs to know?

Watkins: Sportsmen should behave ethically when hunting on post so future generations may enjoy the high quality hunting opportunities here. As a reminder, shotguns and muzzleloaders must be registered prior to a hunting permit being sold or bringing them onto the installation. The Weapons Registration Office is located in the Visitor’s Center at Chaffee Gate and can be reached at (502) 624-7011/7019. More information on weapons registration can be found at http://www.knox.army.mil/Garrison/des/psd/firearmsregistration.aspx.

For more information, call or visit the Fort Knox Hunt Control office at (502) 624-7311/2712 Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. n