With a traditional 90 percent success rate among bull elk hunters and a low application fee of $10 for one of the 800 quota hunt permits being issued this year, thousands of hunters from across the United States are expected to register in the coming days. Kentucky’s elk herd numbers approximately 10,000.
“There’s a real excitement among hunters about Kentucky elk,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett. “We issue more than twice as many elk permits as the rest of the eastern United States combined. This is the chance of a lifetime.”
Kentucky accepts online applications only through its Web site, fw.ky.gov. The drawing is open to residents and non-residents. Last year, more than 46,000 people from every state in the country applied for a Kentucky elk hunt, including 28 from Alaska and one from Hawaii.
“People don’t realize how exceptional Kentucky elk hunting is coming into it,” said Karen Waldrop, wildlife director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Afterwards, they tell me the hunt far exceeded their expectations.”
Kentucky’s modern elk herd is the result of a major restoration program that began with the release of seven elk from Kansas in December 1997. More than 1,500 elk from seven states were released into Kentucky’s mountains until the relocation project ended in 2002.
Kentucky’s elk have a diverse genetic mix due to the varying sources used for the original transplants.
“A recent genetic study shows that Kentucky elk tend to be a bit bigger as far as body weight than their western counterparts,” said Tina Brunjes, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s big game program coordinator. “Kentucky’s mild winters and long growing season are working well for elk.”
The good news for hunters wishing to fill their freezers with meat: Kentucky will issue 600 cow elk permits this year. The state will also issue 125 permits for mature bull elk and 75 permits for spike bulls through its quota hunt drawing this year.
As the elk herd ages, Kentucky’s record for a bull with non-typical antlers falls nearly every year. The current record is a 7×7 bull taken off public land last October. That bull scored 372 6/8 in the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system.
Kentucky’s record typical elk – which received a 371 Boone and Crockett Club score – was taken in 2007. Brunjes believes that mark is ripe to fall. “I think we’re due for a new state record typical bull this year,” she said.
Although the majority of elk are taken off private property, Brunjes noted 236 elk were harvested last year from the 150,000 acres of land open to public hunting within southeastern Kentucky’s 16-county elk restoration zone. Kentucky’s hunter success rate for cows and bulls is 84 percent, she added.
Hunters have until midnight (Eastern time) April 30 for the chance to win the hunt of a lifetime – an elk hunt in Kentucky. Visit fw.ky.gov online to apply for a hunt or to learn more about elk hunting in Kentucky.
Firearms seasons for bulls include separate one-week seasons from Oct. 2-8 and Oct. 9-15, while the one-week firearms seasons for cow elk include Dec.11-17 and Dec.18-24. Extended seasons exist for archery and crossbow hunters. The department also has a special youth season from Sept. 25-27.
“If you get drawn for a permit,” Brunjes said, “your odds of getting an elk are very good.”
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Commerce Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our Web site at fw.ky.gov.