Kentucky's Cow Elk Season Opens Dec. 11th

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Kentucky's quota firearms hunt for cow elk opens in southeastern Kentucky's 16-county elk zone this Saturday, December 11.The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources issued 600 quota hunt cow permits this year.

"While our bull elk season is timed to coincide with the rut, cow season starts after the breeding ends, when cows congregate in large herds," said Tina Brunjes, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "In large herds, elk are more visible, and more likely to stay out in the open."

Firearms seasons for cow elk consist of two, week-long seasons. Cow hunt week 1 is Dec.11-17, while cow hunt week 2 is Dec. 18-24.

Elk hunters with a permit receive an assignment to one of 10 areas in the elk restoration zone. The 4.1 million-acre elk zone includes nearly 580,000 acres open to public hunting.<

Last season hunters took 502 cows, or 65 percent of the 778 elk taken during the 2009-10 season.

"Success on antlerless elk, which includes cows and bull calves, was 75 percent for those who hunted," said Brunjes. "Seventy hunters (drawn to hunt) did not buy a cow permit."

Hunters with cow permits can also hunt with archery gear after the firearm hunts end. The season bag limit is one elk.

Kentucky's elk herd has a target population of 10,000. Today's elk herd is the result of a five-year stocking program that began in 1997. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife brought in 1,556 elk from Kansas, Utah, North Dakota, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico to form the nucleus of the herd.

Elk are now thriving in Kentucky. A high percentage of cows reproduce, and the survival rate of calves tops 90 percent. "Cows normally don't breed until they are mature at age 2½ years," said Brunjes. "Cows have a single calf, born in May."

Elk also thrive in Kentucky because of the absence of predators, the relatively mild winters and abundant food sources, which create excellent body condition for animals and remarkable population growth. Kentucky elk grow 15 percent larger and develop larger antlers at an earlier age than elk living in western states. A mature cow in Kentucky can weigh more than 500 pounds.

Winter elk herds segregate themselves by sex. In groups of cows, there's always a lead cow, just as there are herd bulls, dominant over other bulls. Cows can live for more than 10 years.

Hunters may encounter some of these older cows with ear tags.

"We still have some elk in our herds from the original stockings, or research animals that were ear tagged," said Brunjes. "We'd like to know when and where a hunter takes an elk with an ear tag. We'll provide hunters with the details of the elk's time here in Kentucky."

To report an ear-tagged elk, telephone Kentucky Fish and Wildlife during the week at 1-800-858-1549, or e-mail: [email protected]. Be sure to include the hunter's name, telephone number, ear tag number, and the EHU (Elk Hunt Unit) where the elk was taken.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

Wow, it's amazing how well

Wow, it's amazing how well that herd has taken off. 

I can't believe they have a cow season yet there, then I see that they actually killed over 500 cows last year?

And their target is 10,000 elk.  That's a great success story!!