“The Hunt Starts Here” as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources celebrates the 25th anniversary of the 1997 elk release. Elk quota hunting applications for the celebratory season are on sale through April 30.
The annual random drawing will take place and successful applicants will be announced via livestream on Saturday, May 14, from The Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg. Those selected for the elk quota hunt are assigned to one of six units within the elk zone, by way of a second drawing. Hunting season begins Sept. 10 and continues through Jan. 4.
Kentucky is at the forefront of wildlife conservation with successful natural resource stewardship. Each year, tens of thousands of hunters play a role in these important conservation efforts by applying for the elk hunt draw or participating in the hunt.
“Interest in elk hunting in Kentucky grows each year, and we expect that trend to continue as word spreads,” said John Hast, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources elk/deer coordinator. “Last year, in 2021, we issued 594 permits after receiving more than 90,000 entries to the elk hunt draw for a second straight year.”
From 1997 to 2002, Kentucky reintroduced elk in eastern Kentucky, nearly 150 years since the last native species was spotted. Elk have few natural predators in the region and began thriving quickly.
Now, Kentucky’s thriving, wild, free-ranging herd is the largest herd east of the Rocky Mountains. The herd inhabits more than 4 million acres in 16 southeast Kentucky counties. It has flourished in the past quarter-century and helped other states – including Wisconsin, Virginia and Missouri – establish their herds.
“The success of the elk restoration effort is truly remarkable,” said Gabe Jenkins, Information and Education Division director and former deer and elk program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The benefits touch many aspects of our life and lands – from biodiversity enriching our ecosystem, to generating funds, to extending our efforts in other areas, to creating valuable experiences for resident and tourist hunters.”
Kentucky’s ambitious elk restoration program has been an overwhelming success and paved the way for an entire region to reintroduce a long-absent native species. Starting in 1997, 1,541 elk from seven western states were released in southeastern Kentucky.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources receives no money from the state’s General Fund. The agency is funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, boating registration fees and federal grants. Proceeds from entries into the elk hunt drawing are important to continue funding the department’s mission to conserve, protect and enhance Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources and provide outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, shooting sports, wildlife viewing and related activities.
How to Apply
For more information about the elk hunt draw, or to sign up, visit fw.ky.gov until April 30.
General drawing quota permits are available by applying to the Kentucky elk hunt draw online. Permits are offered for bull firearm, cow different and either-sex archery/crossbow permit; individuals may apply separately for each permit type, for a total of three possible applications per year. However, individuals can only apply once for each permit type. General drawing quota permits cannot be bought or sold, and hunters must follow season requirements for the permit for which they were drawn.
Guests are encouraged to attend the two-day elk hunt draw at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg. The weekend kicks off with a concert, food and vendors on Friday evening, followed by a reveal of selected hunters’ names on Saturday, May 14, from noon to 2 pm The Mountain Arts Center has hosted the draw since 2018.
“The attendance during the elk hunt draw weekend grows each year, which gives us the opportunity to provide more entertainment and educational programming for those seeking to hear their names called or enthusiasts of the hunt,” said Mountain Arts Center Executive Director Joe Campbell. “It’s an honor to host the event here at the Mountain Arts Center, which is the perfect venue to accommodate a large, growing audience in the region.”
“The draw is always an exciting event, when you see someone win a draw for the first time or to hear stories about someone’s previous hunt,” said Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton. “We are honored to host this event and hope everyone is enjoying the atmosphere. Best wishes on the draw.”
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources