I was really happy when they started planting elk in the five county restoration zone. That was over 10 years ago. Since then, the restoration zone has been extended to include counties where I have kin. I'd have a place to stay if I ever got drawn for the lottery. The elk are surviving better than expected, and they're migrating more. This was all good news.
After we got our property, we started hearing about elk sightings close by. Mind you, my place is about 50 miles from downtown Cincinnati, and the closest county in the restoration zone is about 5 counties over. They were coming down the Licking River-- we're only a couple of miles from the Licking-- and then walking up the branches. At that time, anyone with a valid deer tag to take an elk that was out of the zone during an appropriate deer season. All you had to do was call the CO out to tag it for you. I couldn't wait for one of those guys to show up on my land.
Then a herd did show up. Go to my weblog and check out September 2004
. I had two close encounters.
Since then, they've made it such that you need to buy $300+ out-of-zone elk tag to hunt them. Also only 10 % of the lottery tags go to non- residents. Also, this is not like going to the Rocky Mountains to hunt elk. I correspond with guys in the restoration zone. The fascination seems to wear off quickly. Some claim they are a bloody nuisance. If they stayed up on the rocky crags it would be one thing, but these beasts prefer good pastures. The two biggest complaints I've heard is that 1) They are fond of descending on your garden 2) They like to congregate in the middle of highways.
For both the good and the bad of it all, you will find no better resource than www.KentuckyHunting.net
and theirelk forum
. I would encourage you to go there and form your own opinions.
I'm still putting in for KY elk tag every year, but until there is a point system put in, as an out-of-stater, I stand little chance of drawing. If I were to get a tag, there are plenty of guides. Success rates are very high. Nobody seems to walk away disgruntled.
Check out the KDFWR website
. It has all the season and license info.
So shaman, what's the real skinny on the elk?
Honestly, when there was a chance to be out during deer season and bag an elk free and clear, I was hot on the idea. Now that I would have to buy $365 tag for the chance to bag one and plan a hunt . . .
Now we're starting to get into the whole beyond-fair-chase thing. It's really hard to miss a 600 lb cervid. If I get a tag and hire a guide, I know I'm gonna get one. Now the question becomes how badly do I want elk meat? Do I want to make it harder and use a pistol, a bow, a muzzleloader? Go solo? Exactly what do I want to prove to myself? These elk got me to thinking about a lot of things-- about why I hunt. The guys I know who go to the Rockies for elk talk little about the elk when they get back. It's all about the trip, the camp, the buddies, and the mountains. Here I am, contemplating a trip of -- conceivably, I could have opened up my back window and capped one back in 2004. Hmmmm.
On the other hand, I would put the majesty of Eastern Kentucky up against any other place on Earth. I've spent my adult life hiking in places like the Big South Fork region, Boone National Forest, etc.. I've been places that boggle my poor little mind. If I got drawn, I'd want to hunt a place like that, and not the back end of my farm or a re-habbed strip mine.
My bottom line: I'm still going to ante-up the $10 lottery fee every year.
My advice: before hunting elk in KY, put some time in and go elk watching in KY. I know Jenny Wiley State Park has a program. Go down to the Big South Fork and Boone National Forest and hike and backpack. It will be time well spent, and it will help kill the time waiting to hit the lottery.