Seven Canadian residents are among the record 35,390 applicants registered so far for the 1,007 quota elk hunt tags being issued this year by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Hunters from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Puerto Rico have paid the $10 fee to register for the elk hunt drawing.
“Although this season will be only the ninth hunt conducted since our elk restoration project started in 1997, Kentucky already has the reputation as the premier place to hunt elk in the eastern United States,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett. “We’re proud that Kentucky is home to one of the most successful wildlife restoration efforts in the country over the past decade.”
Kentucky’s elk herd numbers approximately 10,000 free-roaming animals in the southeastern region of the state – more than all the states east of the Mississippi River combined. Kentucky also offers more elk hunting permits than anywhere else in the eastern United States.
Hunters throughout the country are anxious to try what Kentucky has to offer, noted Wildlife Division Director Karen Alexy.
“So many people want to hunt elk in Kentucky because 300-class bulls are commonplace, and hunter success rates are world-class,” she explained. “Last season, 96 percent of our bull hunters and nearly 90 percent of our cow elk hunters took an elk. That’s an incredible harvest rate.”
Kentucky is already home to two bulls recognized as trophies by the Boone and Crockett Club. That number is likely to grow this year as more bulls grow old enough to reach trophy proportions.
“We’ve found that elk in Kentucky grow faster than in the western United States because the winters here are milder, and they have plenty of food available all year round,” said Tina Brunjes, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s big game coordinator. “Their growth rate and survival rate actually exceeds our original expectations.”
Kentucky’s experiment with a free-roaming elk herd began with the release of seven Kansas elk near Hazard in December 1997. Over the next few years, 1,549 elk from six western states made the cross-country journey to their new home in Kentucky. In 2001, Kentucky held its first elk hunt in some 150 years. As the herd has grown, the number of quota hunt permits has increased from 10 in the first year to more than 1,000 this fall.
“The odds of being drawn for a Kentucky elk hunt are better than they’ve ever been,” Alexy said. “And a Kentucky elk hunt is truly the hunt of a lifetime.”
The deadline to apply for the 2009 elk hunt is midnight (Eastern time) April 30. Applications are available online only at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website, www.fw.ky.gov. The cost to apply is $10. The hunt is open to residents and non-residents, with special drawings for seven youth hunters.
For more information about season dates and elk hunting in Kentucky, call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife at 1-800-858-1549, or visit the department website and click onto the “Elk Hunting” icon.
(Information for this staff report was submitted by Dave Baker, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.)