Kentucky to Issue 200 Elk Permits this Year

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Elk hunters in Kentucky have twice the opportunity this season. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will issue 200 elk hunting permits this year, double the number permitted last year.

Those wishing to experience the hunt of a lifetime in Kentucky must hurry, however – the deadline to apply for this year’s quota hunt is July 31.

Kentucky began restoring elk in the winter of 1997-98; today, the eastern part of the state is home to 5,700 free-ranging elk, the largest herd east of the Mississippi River.

Elk hunting returned to Kentucky in 2001, after an absence of 150 years. Since that first modern day hunt, the number of permits has steadily increased as the elk population has grown. Not only are there more permits available this year, but the amount of public land available for elk hunting has increased, too.

Results from last year’s hunt and ongoing research projects show that Kentucky’s elk herd is extremely healthy. Hunter success remains high, even as the number of permits has increased from 12 during the 2001 hunt to 100 permits last year.

Hunters enjoyed a record season in 2005. Mt. Vernon resident Paul Cummins took the new state record for a bull with typical antlers, which scored 319 6/8 points in the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system. Cummins took his elk in Knott County. Matthew Hall of Middlesboro also took the new state record for a bull with non-typical antlers. Hall’s elk, taken in Bell County, scored 320 2/8 points. Rita Tharp of Bedford held the previous state record with a 310 3/8 bull.

Other state records could fall this year because the number and size of mature bulls continues to increase.

Applying for a Hunt

Kentucky’s quota elk hunts occur in October and December. To apply, you must purchase a $10 elk application permit. An individual hunter may apply only one time a season. Quota hunt applications are available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold, by phone at 1-877-598-2401, and over the Internet at Residents and nonresidents are eligible to apply.

Applicants must provide their social security or driver’s license number. An active hunting license is not required to apply. Hunters who apply before the July 31 deadline of this year’s hunt will be drawn at random electronically from the pool of permit buyers. Drawing results will be made public by Aug. 20 and will be viewable on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website, or by calling the department at 1-800-858-1549 weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. Hunters must have their permit application number to check whether they were drawn.

The drawing will determine whether the hunter will receive a bull or cow elk permit. Hunters cannot choose the type of permit issued.

Successfully drawn hunters are assigned to either a limited-entry area or to the zone-at-large. Limited entry areas are selected wildlife management areas within southeastern Kentucky’s 16-county elk zone. The at-large zone includes all areas in the elk zone except for the limited entry areas.

Hunters drawn for a zone-at-large permit may hunt during the elk firearm season, or during the elk archery/crossbow season. Limited-entry area hunters have only a 7-day season to hunt for bulls and 7 days for cows, but may use any legal weapon for elk during that season.

Drawn hunters must purchase a valid annual Kentucky hunting license and an elk tag before their hunt begins. An elk tag for resident hunters costs $25, while non-resident hunters must pay $300.


Firearms seasons for elk include:
Bulls, Limited Entry Areas and Zone-at-Large, Oct. 7-13
Cows, Limited Entry Areas, Dec. 9-15
Cows, Zone-at-Large, Dec. 9-22
Archery and crossbow season for elk includes:
Zone-at-Large, Oct. 7 – Jan 15 (2007)
There is no separate archery and crossbow season in Limited Entry Areas.
There will be no separate muzzleloading firearm season.

Outside of the 16-county elk zone, hunters with valid Kentucky deer permits and hunting licenses may take a bull or cow elk. While these hunters do not have to have an elk permit, they must possess the elk application permit. Whatever equipment is legal for deer hunting at the time is also legal for elk outside of this 16-county zone. The exceptions are that rifle hunters have a minimum requirement of .270-caliber, and handguns are allowed for elk under certain restrictions. Last season, hunters took five elk outside of the elk zone.

There is a season bag limit of one out-of-zone elk. These elk must be telechecked. Hunters are no longer required to call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to notify officials of an elk taken legally outside of the elk zone.

The elk zone includes Magoffin, Johnson, Martin, Floyd, Pike, Breathitt, Knott, Perry, Letcher, Leslie, Harlan, Clay, Knox, Bell, Whitley and McCreary counties.