2002 Quota Bull Elk Hunt Concludes As Big Success

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Six hunters tagged out within a 24-hour period during Kentucky's second bull elk quota hunt of modern times. The hunt was held October 5-6 at Addington Wildlife Management Area near Hazard, Kentucky.

Five hunters took bulls the first day while the sixth hunter, Tom Rogers of Lexington, harvested the final bull early Sunday morning. Kentucky began its elk restoration efforts in 1997, and held its first hunt in 2001.

"All the bulls were big, healthy animals," said Jonathan Day, who oversees the state's elk program for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "All the hunters were happy with what they harvested."

Burlington resident Craig Wheeler downed the first elk of the hunt from 15 yards with his bow. The 6x7 bull weighed 785 pounds and was one of the first elk stocked in eastern Kentucky. The bull received a preliminary (green) antler score of 288 points, which could qualify it for Pope and Young Club trophy recognition once a final score is taken after the mandatory 60-day drying period.

Chris Morris of Boone County took the second elk of the hunt with an impressive 268-yard shot on Saturday morning. The 5x5 elk registered a net preliminary antler score of 264 and weighed 675 pounds.

Other hunters taking elk late Saturday afternoon included Bob Biggers of Spencer County, Jared Fields of London, and Andy Phillips of Kerrville, Texas.

Biggers shot a 7x8 bull on the same ridge where Wheeler took his elk earlier in the day. The elk was 16 yards away when Biggers took his shot.

Fields, a 17-year-old student at North Laurel High School, was the youngest hunter participating. Fields' father and grandfather accompanied him on the hunt. Jared Fields' 7x8 bull was so large that he said he'll have trouble finding a place for the mount. "I don't know where I'll put him, but I'll find a place," said the young hunter.

Phillips took his 6x7 with a 300-yard shot from his .300-caliber magnum rifle. The 700-pound bull was five-and-a-half years old.

Rogers took the final elk of the hunt with a 200-yard shot from the .30-06 rifle he's owned since 1969. The 5x6 bull weighed 550 pounds and was the only Kentucky-born elk taken during the hunt. The others were transplants from western states.

Phillips hunted under a special permit issued to Shikar-Safari Club International. The conservation group auctioned the permit, with the proceeds going toward Kentucky's elk restoration efforts. Wheeler hunted under a special permit issued to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). RMEF also auctioned the permit and donated the proceeds to elk restoration.

The remaining four bull hunters were awarded their permits during a public drawing held last July in Hazard. Six more drawn hunters were selected to hunt cow elk this December in the same location.

Applications for the 2003 quota elk hunts go on sale December 1 wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold. It costs $10 to apply, and is open to both residents and non-residents.

Biggers said a Kentucky elk hunt is an event of a lifetime. "Anybody that doesn't apply is crazy," he concluded.