It's summer, it's hot, but Kentucky's calendar of fall hunting seasons begins next week.

Here are some details and observations:

• Squirrel season, a 195-day split season opens Aug. 17 and continues through Feb. 29.

The daily bag limit is six squirrels.

Kentucky is heavily forested with hardwood trees and that means squirrels are abundant. Populations are stable but fluctuate slightly each year based on food availability.

The Kentucky Division of Forestry estimates that 48 percent of Kentucky, some 12.4 million acres, is forested and that 75 percent of these forest lands are composed of oak-hickory forest type, the most advantageous to wildlife.

Hickory nuts begin to mature in August, and acorns and beechnuts in September and October. Weather extremes, such as late frosts and heavy rains in spring, and summer droughts, can limit the amount and quality of mast.

In August and September, the leaves are still on the trees and hickory nuts, oak acorns, beechnuts and walnuts are just starting to ripen. Squirrels frolic through the leafy treetops, and the spot and stalk method is the best hunting strategy. Shotguns are ideal for the early season because squirrels are in thick foliage and partially hidden most of the time.

Squirrel harvest is highest during the early season. Years of data from the Squirrel Hunter Cooperator Survey has found that hunter effort, and the number of squirrels encountered, is greatest toward the beginning of the fall season and declines as the season progresses.

• Hunting for white-tailed deer in Kentucky gets underway in about a month, with the opening of archery season on Sept. 7.

The 136-day season continues through Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. The fall archery season for wild turkey runs concurrently with archery season for deer.

Last season Hardin County led the state in archery deer harvest with hunters reported taking 487 deer; more than 300 deer were taken in 10 Kentucky counties.

Overall the archery deer harvest was 18,120, or about 12.4 percent of the total deer harvest of 145,753 for the 2018-19 season.

During the past five archery seasons, deer harvest has ranged from a high of 23,323 during the 2015-16 season, to a low of 18,369 during the 2014-15 season.

A decade ago archers bagged 14,666 deer and the overall deer harvest was 113,584.

• For all the fall hunting season dates and regulations consult the 2019-20 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide. It is posted online at fw.ky.gov.

• • •

Although tick activity peaks in June, and slows as summer's hot weather progresses, anyone outdoors in a wooded suburban or rural area should remain vigilant.

This includes landowners engaged in seasonal mowing, squirrel hunters, and bow hunters scouting deer sign and placing treestands or ground blinds.

A walk through the woods, tall grass and weeds, brushing up against low-hanging tree limbs, or string trimming around a house or outbuilding, is all it takes to pick up a tick.

Diseases transmitted by tick bites are on the rise and some species of ticks appear to be expanding their range.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that ticks found in the U.S. can cause 16 different debilitating or potentially-deadly diseases in humans.

Symptoms of a tick-borne illness include sudden fever and rash, severe headache, muscle or joint aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. About one-quarter of cases will develop a circular rash around the bite.

Tick-borne diseases, especially Lyme, are often misdiagnosed because early symptoms mimic a cold or the flu, and tests are woefully unreliable.

If not treated within four weeks with antibiotics the infection can lead to permanent damage to the joints and nervous system, causing years of pain and disability.

According to information posted on the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Entomology website, the most common ticks in Kentucky are:

• American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis, can transmit Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), and Tularemia. This tick is found throughout the eastern U.S. Its other common name is Wood Tick.

• Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum, can transmit Erlichiosis, Tularemia, Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI), and cause some people to develop an allergy for red meat.

This small, aggressive tick, named for a silvery-white spot near the center of the adult female's shield, is found in the eastern, southeastern, and midwestern states. The primary host for adult ticks is the White-tailed Deer, and wild turkeys are a common host for immature ticks.

• Black-legged Tick, Ixodes scapularis, sometimes referred to as the Deer Tick, can transmit Anaplasmosis, Erlichiosis and Lyme disease.

A story posted on The New-Enterprise website on July 24 shows just how prevalent tick-borne illnesses have become.

Lincoln Trail District Health Department officials reported that for the year there has been one probable case of Lyme disease in Hardin County, 13 probable cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and one confirmed case.

Lincoln Trail District Health Department officials investigated a total of 79 suspected cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever for June in the district, which includes Hardin, Meade, LaRue, Nelson, Washington and Marion counties.

The article also reported that the Grayson County Health Department said it had received 26 reported cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever from July 7 through 17.

According to CDC data, the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Kentucky in the last decade ranged from one in 2009 to 49 in 2015, and between 2000 and 2016 there were more than 305 confirmed cases in the state.

For up-to-date information on Lyme disease visit www.lymedisease.org

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast.

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