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Small Kentucky farms are again exempt from hunting, fishing license requirements

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Small Kentucky farms are again exempt from hunting, fishing license requirements

Feb 29, 2024 | 5:44 pm ET
By Liam Niemeyer
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Small Kentucky farms are again exempt from hunting, fishing license requirements
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Kentucky Fish and Wildlife says it “supports allowing bona fide resident owners of farmlands to hunt and fish on their own property.” (KDFWR photo)

FRANKFORT — One of the first bills to become law in this year’s legislative session clarifies that Kentuckians who own farms of five acres or smaller can fish or hunt on their own property without purchasing a hunting or fishing license. 

Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, signed into law Thursday by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, removed a provision that was added into legislation passed last year by the GOP-controlled legislature. That law empowered the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to acquire perpetual conservation easements for 54,000 acres of land in Southeastern Kentucky. 

Tucked away in the bill was another provision that touched off a backlash. It required Kentuckians who owned farmlands of five acres or smaller to purchase licenses from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to hunt or fish on their own land. 

The department last year said the rule was needed to prevent “abuse” of the exemption in Kentucky law allowing owners of farmlands to hunt or fish on their own property without the need of a license. The department at the time said it would specifically curtail abuse “by some claiming to harvest game animals on extremely small tracts of land that they own.”

SB 5 undos the “five-acre” farmland rule and restores the previous exemption.

Sen. Robin Webb, who sponsored last year’s bill, defended the five-acre rule last month, telling the Senate it was a response to “telecheck fraud” — essentially hunters falsely saying they harvested an animal on their farmland to avoid having to buy a license. 

“It depreciates the department’s bottom line by that individual not buying a license and committing fraud,” Webb had said in January. “There’s been a lot of things since we’ve filed this bill that are just misinterpretation.” 

Lisa Jackson, a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources spokesperson, in a statement on SB 5 being signed into law said the department “supports allowing bona fide resident owners of farmlands to hunt and fish on their own property.”