Bear Hunting in Kentucky: My Story

Kim Bryant // August 21

I live for adventure, travel, and hunting, but with that comes a lot of what-ifs, uncertainty, highs and lows, defeats and triumphs. 

It began as a planned out-of-state hunting trip, another animal on my ever-growing list. Kentucky has a vast array of beauty – mountains, lakes, a variety of animals, good people, good bourbon, and good music. Kinda of a laid-back, no-kinda-hurry vibe. The mountains of Kentucky where the black bear roams and elk bugle. 

Kentucky has become a state that holds beauty, adventure, fun hunting, hiking, and great friends.

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The bear hunt was a hunt I’ve never experienced. We didn’t sit in blinds, we walked and stalked. One fact about hunting bears in Kentucky you can’t bait. Another fun fact is that these hairy creatures are in stealth mode. Personally, I could smell them before I heard them, the craziest thing to experience if you’ve never encountered one. 

Bear Hunting in Kentucky

The day started looking for fresh signs and boy did we see it. Tracks and poop. My guide had seen mommas and cubs, big males, then some that passed through. 

We headed along the old logging trail. I hoped to find one. Oh, and did I mention this was a bow hunt? Yep, my first ever walk and a stalk bear with my bow.

We tracked along and saw a cow elk. That was a highlight of my trip. Elk are my dream animal. We saw a young bear dart in front of us and climbed the side of this mountain like it was nothing. We hunted until we got a call that another hunter had taken a bear in the county, so the hunt was over. 

I would be lying if I said I was not a little disappointed but we had tags and opportunities in another county so we had a new plan.

On day two, we woke up excited about new opportunities, and boy the day was looking in my favor. The biggest bear I’ve ever seen was 25 yards from me standing on the side of this steep hill. My guide ranged him, I adjusted my pin, drew back, took a deep breath, and waited for him to turn. When he did, I took the shot. My arrow hit a tiny limb and my arrow flew directly under him. He flipped around and went down the hill. 

I looked at my guide, in defeat. I was so close I could hear him breathing and see his long shaggy hair. I did have another encounter even closer, but the bear was too young and too small.

The truth is, I missed, but that experience and hunt still told my list of most favorite hunts I’ve ever encountered.

So I write this to say I hope I get another chance to hunt bears in Kentucky and have the opportunity to visit the great state. 

Commonly Asked Questions About Bear Hunting in Kentucky:

How much is a black bear tag in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, the cost of a black bear tag varies for residents and non-residents. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the resident tag fee was approximately $30, while non-residents had to pay around $340 for a bear tag.

Can you hunt bears in Kentucky?

Yes, bear hunting is permitted in Kentucky during specific seasons. However, it's important to check the current hunting regulations and season dates, as they may change from year to year. Additionally, hunters must possess the appropriate licenses and permits.

Can a non-resident hunt a black bear in Kentucky?

Yes, non-residents are allowed to hunt black bears in Kentucky, but they must obtain the necessary hunting licenses and permits. Non-resident bear hunting permits typically cost more than those for residents.

What counties in Kentucky have black bears?

Black bears can be found in several counties in Kentucky. As of my last update in 2021, some of the counties with known bear populations included Harlan, Letcher, Pike, Bell, and Knox counties in the southeastern part of the state. However, bear populations may have expanded since then, so it's advisable to check with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for the most up-to-date information on bear distribution in the state.

About the Author

Kim Bryant

Kim is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is a hunting, fishing, and traveling enthusiast. Kim has two teenage daughters who love to hunt, travel, and explore the outdoors as much as she does. Kim's dad taught her the love and respect for the great outdoors. She grew up hunting, fishing, camping, and just all around enjoying the outdoors. Her passion is traveling the world and sharing her experiences and what she's learned with others.