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Turkey Hunting Regulations


Adult hunters

Unless exempt, all fall turkey hunters ages 16 and older must carry with them in the field proof of purchase of a valid Kentucky hunting license and a valid fall turkey permit. Short-term (1- or 7-day) hunting licenses are not valid for turkey hunting. The fall turkey permit is valid for the fall archery, crossbow and shotgun turkey seasons and allows a hunter to harvest up to the fall season bag limit of turkeys.

Youth hunters

Youths younger than 12 are exempt from license and turkey permit requirements. Youths ages 12-15 are eligible to purchase a youth turkey permit, which is valid during any turkey season for one turkey. Youth hunters must abide by season bag limits and harvest restrictions but can use the youth permit throughout the license year. The youth sportsman’s license includes two (2) youth turkey permits. Anyone may call turkeys, or assist in the hunt. Callers and assistants are not required to possess a hunting license or turkey permit, and may carry equipment while in the field.

License-Exempt Hunters

In some cases, a resident hunter may not be required to buy a hunting license, permits to hunt deer, bear or turkey, or a Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit.

Here are those situations:

  • Resident and non-resident children younger than the age of 12 are not required to purchase licenses and permits, except the elk hunt drawing application.
  • Kentucky resident owners of farmlands, their spouses and dependent children hunting upon their own farmlands during an open season.
  • Tenants, their spouses and dependent children hunting on farmlands where they reside and work.
  • Kentucky residents on military leave of more than three days in this state who carry identification and papers verifying their leave status.
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces based in Kentucky engaged in sport hunting or fishing on the following Kentucky National Guard properties: Hidden Valley Training Area in Powell County and the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Muhlenberg County.


  • Breech-loading or muzzleloading shotguns no larger than 10 gauge and no smaller than .410.
  • Breech-loading shotguns must be plugged to hold a maximum of three shells (two in magazine and one in chamber)
  • Lead or non-toxic shot no larger than No. 4
  • Longbows, recurve bows and compound bows of any draw weight (no minimum).
  • Crossbows of any draw weight (no minimum) with a working safety device.
  • Non-barbed broadheads with a minimum cutting diameter of 7/8-inch, whether expandable or non-expandable.


Turkey hunters may not use firearms to take turkeys during archery or crossbow-only seasons. On some WMAs, special equipment restrictions may apply.


Firearm turkey hunters 15 years old and younger must be accompanied by an adult, who shall remain in a position to take immediate control of the youth’s firearm at all times.


The process and requirements for recording, checking and tagging harvested turkeys are the same as for deer and elk. See the “Recording, Checking, Tagging and Transporting” guidelines in the “General Information” section of this guide.


Because of potential disease problems and genetic pollution, it is illegal to possess live wild turkeys. For the same reasons, domestic or pen-raised turkeys should not be released into the wild.


It is illegal to hunt turkeys over bait – an area where feed, grains or other substances capable of luring wild turkeys have been placed. An area is considered baited until 30 days after the bait has been removed. An area where grain, feed or other substances exists as the result of a bona fide agricultural practice or manipulation of a crop (food plot) for wildlife management purposes is legal for turkey hunting.

Hunter Education

Persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1975 must carry a valid hunter education card or hunter education exemption permit while hunting. Persons not required to have licenses or permits are exempt from hunter education certification. Hunter education courses are held throughout the state.

Children must be at least 9 years old to take the hunter education course. People who complete the course are issued an orange certification card. Hunter education cards issued by other states are valid in Kentucky. Children younger than 12 years old are exempt from hunter education certification, but must be accompanied by an adult who meets the hunter education requirement. The adult must be in a position to take immediate control of the bow or firearm at all times while hunting. One adult cannot accompany more than two hunters under 12 years old at the same time.

Apprentice Hunting Opportunity (1-Year Hunting Education Exemption)

Persons new to hunting who have not taken the hunter education course may buy a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit online for free (for a limited time). This apprentice hunting opportunity allows new hunters in Kentucky to hunt for up to one year (from date of purchase) without a hunter education card. The permit requires its holder to hunt with a licensed, adult hunter (at least 18 years old) who meets the hunter education requirement. The adult shall be in a position to take immediate control of the exempted hunter’s bow or firearm at all times while hunting. This law applies even if the exempted hunter is an adult.

After the hunter education exemption permit expires, the hunter is no longer exempt and must successfully complete a hunter education course.

The temporary hunter education exemption permit is valid only in Kentucky. It is not accepted at Blue Grass Army Depot or Fort Campbell.

Resident landowners, spouses and dependent children, tenants, their spouses and their dependent children are only hunter education exempt on property they own, or the property where they reside and work. When hunting elsewhere, they must comply with Kentucky’s hunter education law.

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