Elk Restoration Update and Hunting Information

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Restoration Project

Kentucky began restoring elk in the winter of 1997-98 to counties in the southeastern part of the state. Over the next few years about 1,500 animals were trucked in from Kansas, Utah, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Arizona. Today, eastern Kentucky is home to 5,000 free-ranging elk, the largest herd east of the Mississippi River. The goal is to reach a herd size of about 8,000 animals and maintain that population within the zone. In addition to the important achievement of returning a native wildlife species to Kentucky after a 150-year absence, this project offers viewing, as well as hunting opportunities no one alive has ever had in the Bluegrass State.

In collaboration with the University of Kentucky, many different research projects have been completed or are underway to document the elk project, to examine the possible effects of elk on other species, and elk – habitat relationships. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Shikar Safari, University of Kentucky and Cyprus-Amax Coal were among the major partners in this historic effort by the KDFWR.

Counties in the elk restoration zone include Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Perry, Pike, Whitley. Elk hunting within these counties is by quota hunt only. Outside these counties, any legal deer hunter who carries an elk application/out-of-zone permit from the KDFWR can take an elk.

Quota Hunts

Kentucky’s quota elk hunts occur in October and December. To apply, you must purchase an elk application permit between December 1 and July 31 for a cost of $10.00. An individual hunter may apply only one time. Permits are available from all license outlets, by phone at 1-877-598-2401, and over the internet at fw.ky.gov. Remember, the deadline to get in the draw is July 31. Drawing results will be posted by August 20 on this website, or can be obtained by calling the KDFWR at (800) 858-1549 weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern. You must have your permit number to check whether you were drawn.

For 2005, a total of 100 elk permits will be issued by random computer drawing. Two additional bull permits are awarded annually to conservation organizations that agree to auction the permits to raise money for wildlife conservation in Ky. Permits will be drawn electronically from the pool of permit buyers. Successfully drawn hunters will be assigned to either limited-entry areas or zone-at-large, and will be selected for either a cow or bull permit. Hunters can not choose what type of permit or area they want to apply for. Hunters drawn for a zone-at-large permit may hunt during the firearm season for elk, or during the archery/crossbow season to fill their permit. Limited-entry area hunters have only the 7-day firearm season to hunt.

Drawn hunters will be required to have a valid annual Kentucky hunting license when the hunt begins. They will also be required to purchase an elk tag prior to hunting. Cost of a resident elk tag is $25.00, non-resident is $300.00.

Residents and nonresidents are eligible to apply. Applicants must provide their social security or driver’s license number. Hunters may apply at any license outlet, over the internet or toll free by phone at 1-877-598-2401.

The Season for all firearm hunts within the zone is:

a) Bulls – 7 days starting the 1st Saturday in October. (Oct. 1-7, 2005)

b) Cows – 7 days starting the 1st Saturday in December. (Dec. 3-9, 2005)

c) Hunter orange clothing law applies during these periods within the restoration zone. Any equipment legal for deer is permitted on these hunts with a few exceptions noted in the hunting guide (e.g. minimum rifle caliber is .270).

d) Hunters may take two other individuals with them on the limited entry area hunts to assist or guide. Other than providing on-site check in for successful hunters in limited-entry areas, KDFWR personnel will not be involved in the hunt.

e) All elk harvested from a limited entry area must be checked with KDFWR staff on site. Elk harvested from the zone at-large must be Telechecked by calling 1-800-245-4263.

Hunters drawn for a zone-at-large quota elk hunt, which is anywhere inside the zone, except a limited-entry area, may also use Archery/Crossbow equipment legal for deer beginning the 1st Saturday in October through 3rd Monday in January (Oct. 1 – Jan. 16). There will be no separate muzzleloading firearm season.

**Limited entry areas are as follows:

Starfire Limited Entry Area – Begins at the intersection of Rte. 1098 and 80 near Softshell, KY. The boundary proceeds west along 1098 to the junction of Rte 1098 and Rte 15. The boundary then goes south along Rte 15 to the junction of 15 and Rte 80 at the town of Hazard, KY. It then turns east along 80 and intersects 1098 at Softshell completing the boundary.

Begley WMA / Redbird Limited Entry Area – Starting at the Thousandsticks exit on the Hal Rogers Parkway, the boundary proceeds east along Ky Rte 118 to the junction of US Rte 221 at Hyden, KY. The boundary then proceeds south along 421 to the intersection of 421 and Ky Rte 221. It then proceeds west along 221 to the intersection of 221 and Ky Rte 66. The boundary then goes north following 66 to the intersection of 66 and US 421/Ky Rte 80 (Hal Rogers Parkway). The boundary then goes east along the Hal Rogers Parkway to the Thousandsticks exit completing the boundary.

1. Elk taken in limited entry areas must be checked in at the following locations:

1. Starfire Limited Entry Area -- Robinson Forest Camp

2. Begley Limited Entry Area -- Begley WMA

It is highly recommended that harvested elk be immediately field-dressed. Elk will spoil quicker than deer.

Elk Hunting Outside the Restoration Area

Legal deer hunters are permitted to take either sex elk from counties outside the elk restoration area, as long as they have an elk quota hunt application/out-of-zone hunt permit. Hunters who buy this permit by July 31 are entered in the quota hunt drawing described above. After July 31, this permit becomes an out-of-zone hunt permit needed if you want to elk hunt, or think you may come across an elk while deer hunting and want to take it. You have to have the appropriate hunting license and deer permit, as well, to be legal to take elk, and use the equipment allowed for deer at the time you hunt.

There is a season bag limit of one (1) on Out-of-Zone elk. Instead of telechecking the animal such as with deer or turkey, harvested elk must be immediately reported to the KDFWR and checked on site before the carcass is moved. Hunters should field dress the animal. However, it cannot be transported until checked by a KDFWR enforcement officer or biologist. Hunters must call (800) 252-5378 and report the kill. Hunters, who fail to properly report harvested elk taken in counties open to hunting, are subject to severe fines and other penalties.