Open carry rifle on WMA out of legal hunting season, ok?

Little FR

12 pointer
Nov 10, 2021
West Kentucky
If you decide to do it, Leave the bolt in your truck as well. A warden will assume you ditched your ammo if caught, if your bolt is in the truck your story is more believable.
What if a meth head approaches him %90 more likely than a CO.
I always open carry while hunting. I don’t remember open carry being regulated while hunting. I’m not sure that they even could if they wanted to.

Looks like it changed in 10.


12 pointer
Jun 12, 2005
" Between the Rivers "
As others stated .... (prior to 2010 or some year around there) you were not able carry a firearm / handgun (open or concealed) while bow hunting deer (private land or WMA) as the archery hunting regulations stated as such. The only exception was when modern firearms deer season was in which allowed you to use firearm, bow or crossbow. Then you could carry various weapons of your choosing but even at that... the legal firearms had to be within the guidelines / caliber requirements in the hunting regs that you can legally hunt deer with.

This regulation had been in place a long time and thinking at the time the initial push by the Ky League of Sportsmen was to be able to carry if you had a CDWL permit... but ultimately the long standing reg was deemed to violate the 2nd amendment. So... open carry or concealed with permit was allowed for personal protection without restrictions on caliber or regard to the legal weapons specific to hunting season. Overall.... the reg had been violating 2A rights the whole time.

As far as the OP's original question regarding WMA's...... as others posted there are current hunting season's in now to be legally carrying weapons. But .... state WMA's & especially federal owned areas sometimes have different regs than what were use to hunting private land. I would check KDF&WR's website regarding those regs and a call / email to KDF&WR's or game warden to confirm. As most small game seasons are restricted to certain legal weapons to hunt & take small game like rimfires or s. So...... carrying centerfire rifle calibers may not be a legal weapon for what season in currently in as an excuse to sling an AR over your shoulder. Which as example..... I coyote hunt LBL often and it being federal their rules on coyotes is you can only hunt them when another season is in.... and you have to hunt them with the weapon approved for that season. So.... concerning firearms.... thats rimfire or shotgun the majority of the time and the only time centerfire calibers are allowed is the month of February.

Like most hunters....I dont always agree or understand these type of restrictions but WMA's & federally owned areas are a different animal. I would want to get my ducks lined up before I tested the water.


10 pointer
Sep 29, 2015
The Berg
So, my 2023 hunting license doesn't start until March 1. I didn't hunt in 2022, so don't have a current 2022 license active. However, tomorrow I want to go to a gun range to sight in my new rifle AND I also want to explore a nearby WMA since it's close.

Really don't want to keep my rifle (even locked up) in the car while I'm exploring the WMA, so can I carry my rifle in the WMA woods without "hunting"? Nothing is in season now (groundhogs, coyote, I guess) but I don't want to get in trouble because my license is not active yet. I don't even want to target shoot on the WMA, I'm doing that at the range beforehand. As I said, I'm just not comfortable leaving my $1000 rifle in the car even locked up.

Any thoughts on this? I can open carry this rifle in public, or wear my sidearm, but if I go to a WMA with a rifle, is that "intent to hunt" something (and I could get in trouble with the law)?

Hope I'm just overthinking this, and it's no big deal. Told a friend what I was doing and he said Johnny Law would tear me a new one.
Leave your rifle at home and open carry a sidearm if you choose.


12 pointer
Jul 28, 2008
I don’t/wouldn’t go to any public land without a pistol whether hunting or not. Kentucky is an open carry state and wma’s are open to the public in general. People use them for lots of things besides hunting. I’ve run into bird watchers and geocachers many times. To me it’s no different than carrying while walking down a public street.

With respect to your rifle, I’ve never seen a reg that prohibits just carrying a weapon of any kind on a wma even when not hunting. I would take the bolt out though and any interaction with a warden would be documented.

That said I’ve met some some good wardens and I’ve met some real dummies. I had one cite me for not having nav lights on my canoe. Thing is it was daylight and I wasn’t even in the water when he cited me. I explained the situation to the county attorney and he tore the ticket up and had a few choice words about that particular warden.


12 pointer
Dec 25, 2008
On top of a hill in Ky
You can carry in Mammoth Cave National Park. You can carry on the WMA’s. You are allowed to carry for your protection. No where is it stated that it must be a pistol or small sidearm. You carry what you deem is appropriate. On that note, you should never leave any firearm, of any type, or value in your vehicle unattended regardless of where you are. It’s begging to have it stolen.

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