A public place to hunt in the heart of Kentucky’s best county for deer
It envelops nearly 1,700 acres of public hunting land along the southern end of Kentucky’s best county for deer. There’s little wonder why more people are discovering the Dr. James R. Rich Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Owen County.
“It gets a fair amount of hunting pressure due to its location in north-central Kentucky, and due to the fact that we don’t have a lot of public land in this region,” said David McChesney, wildlife coordinator for the Bluegrass region.
Rich WMA is a relatively new acquisition. Most of it was purchased five years ago, with another 119 acres added in 2001. The area, named for long-time Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Dr. James R. Rich, now encompasses 1,686 acres.
It’s located just north of the 2,605-acre John A. Kleber WMA, one of central Kentucky’s best known public hunting areas. Not everyone realizes that when you’re drawn for a quota gun hunt on Kleber, you also can hunt Rich WMA.
The deer hunting restrictions are what makes Rich WMA so appealing to bow hunters. “The only gun hunting there is the quota hunt and the two youth weekends, which makes Kleber-Rich an idea place for bow hunters to go,” McChesney said. “It’s not getting the gun pressure of every place else.”
Youth weekends are held in October and December, while adult gun hunts are conducted in November and December. That’s eight days total of gun hunting on nearly 4,300 acres. Last year, 954 adults applied for 350 openings to gun hunt for deer on Rich and Kleber WMAs.
There’s good reason for the interest: Owen County has the highest deer concentration in the state. Around 47 deer inhabit each square mile of Owen County — that’s equivalent to a deer every 14 acres. Last year, hunters took 3,893 deer there, far more than the 2,708 whitetails taken from runner-up Crittenden County.
There’s more to the rolling wooded hillsides of Rich WMA than deer, however. “It’s probably got a little bit of something for everyone,” McChesney said.
Trees blanket approximately 80 percent of the management area. Visitors can witness forest succession in progress as the old farm fields give way to scrub and cedars. There’s also 125 acres of native grasses planted in what were once fescue-lined cattle fields.
Expect to see quail, rabbits, squirrels, songbirds and turkeys at Rich WMA. “People need to be aware it receives heavy pressure because of the number of people and the limited amount of public land in this area,” McChesney said. “If you’re willing to be among the hunters, the turkey are there.”
From Owenton: Go south on KY 227. The main tract begins south of the KY 1474 (Teresita Road) intersection. Turn right (west) on KY 1474 to access the second tract, located to the north of the road. An information kiosk is located off KY 227 to the right, past the KY 1474 intersection.