Apply Soon for Archery, Firearm Elk Tags in Deer-Crazy State

Kentucky's elk population has grown well in the 15 years since restoration efforts began in the southeast region of the state.

Kentucky’s elk population has grown well in the 15 years since restoration efforts began in the southeast region of the state.

In one of the most deer-crazy states in the country, where a one-buck limit and decades of management help produce some monster nontypical and typical bucks, reintroduced elk have given hunters more opportunities to get outdoors.

The elk were reintroduced more than 15 years ago in the southeast region of Kentucky. Efforts have been incredibly successful and now, in the beautiful and rugged terrain of the region, hunting seasons provide chances for antlered and unantlered archery and firearms hunts for residents and non-residents.

Here’s the skinny on the elk application process, which has an April 30 deadline, from Lee McClellan the nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

Elkhorn Creek in central Kentucky, the city of Elkton in Todd County and Elkhorn City in Pike County are modern day reminders of the elk that inhabited Kentucky when the pioneers arrived.

The elk disappeared from the state in the decades after the Civil War. In 1997, a landmark restoration effort began that re-established an elk herd in the state’s scenic southeastern region and created one of the most sought-after hunting opportunities east of the Rocky Mountains.

“The herd is doing great,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “There is plenty of opportunity for hunters.”

The Kentucky elk restoration zone.

The Kentucky elk restoration zone.

Hunters looking for a chance at a Kentucky elk have until midnight (Eastern time) April 30 to enter this year’s quota hunt drawing. Completing the online application at www.fw.ky.gov ahead of time is strongly encouraged to avoid the expected last-minute rush of applicants.

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Jenkins said. “Hunter success rates are high. It is easier than going out west and you have a nice, quality animal that makes excellent table fare.”

Kentucky residents and those living out-of-state are eligible to apply for all four permit types, such as bull or cow firearms and bull or cow archery/crossbow permits. However, they can only be drawn for one. Each application costs $10.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will issue 900 general quota hunt permits and 10 youth permits this year through a random computer drawing conducted in early May by the Kentucky Commonwealth Office of Technology. Results will be posted online at www.fw.ky.gov within the first two weeks of May.

Based on last season’s numbers, Kentucky residents have a 1 in 149 chance to be drawn for a bull firearm tag, while they have a 1 in 30 chance for a cow firearm tag. Residents applying for a bull archery/crossbow tag had a 1 in 86 chance. Those residents applying for a cow archery/crossbow tag had an excellent chance to be drawn at 1 in 14.

Kentucky’s elk herd is the largest east of the Rocky Mountains and more than all the states east of the Mississippi River combined. The elk zone in southeast Kentucky covers 16 counties and more than 4 million acres.

Traditionally, the hunter success rate for bulls is greater than 80 percent during the firearms seasons and around 60 percent for the archery season. For cow elk, the archery success rate typically is about 50 percent while firearms hunters traditionally experience success more than 60 percent of the time.
“The hunt has definitely changed,” Jenkins said. “You are no longer going out, shooting an elk and going home. You have to put your time and effort into this. Scout, scout and scout some more. When you think you’ve done enough scouting, go back. The time and effort will pay off when it is your time to hunt.”
The season limit this year is 250 bulls and 650 cow elk. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will issue 150 firearms permits and 100 archery/crossbow permits for bulls; 390 firearms permits and 260 archery/crossbow permits for cow elk.

Hunters ages 15 and younger can apply for the youth-only quota hunt during the same application period as the general elk quota hunt drawing. They may also apply for the general quota elk hunt drawing, but cannot be drawn for both in the same year.

The youth-only option does not appear until the child’s birthday is entered in the drawing application process. The youth permit is good during all seasons and is for either sex elk.

The proposed 2015-2016 hunting seasons for elk open in September and close in January 2016.
Bull elk firearms Hunt 1 opens Oct. 3 and closes Oct. 9 while bull elk firearms Hunt 2 opens Oct. 10 and closes Oct. 16.

Cow elk firearms Hunt 1 opens Dec. 12 and closes Dec. 18 and cow elk firearms Hunt 2 opens Jan. 2, 2016 and closes Jan 8. Bull elk archery season opens Sept. 19, 2015 and closes Jan. 18, 2016 while cow elk archery season opens Oct. 17, 2015 and closes Jan. 18, 2016. Bull elk crossbow season opens Sept. 26 and cow elk crossbow season opens Oct. 17, and both run through Dec. 25. Of note, hunters drawn for a bull or cow archery and crossbow permit may not hunt when an elk firearms season is open.

Check the 2015-2016 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details on elk hunting. This guide will be available in July. You may also visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website atwww.fw.ky.gov.

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