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Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

Elk Restoration Update and Hunting Information

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 5,700 free-ranging elk, the largest herd east of the Mississippi River.  The goal is to reach a herd size of about 10,000 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 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 2006, a total of 200 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 season to hunt and hunters may use any legal weapon for elk during that season.

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 – Limited Entry Areas and Zone-at-Large - 7 days starting the 1st Saturday in October. (Oct. 7-13, 2006)

b)    Cows – Limited Entry Areas - 7 days starting the 2nd Saturday in December. (Dec. 9-15, 2006)  

                    Zone-at-Large - 14 days beginning 2nd Saturday in December (Dec. 9-22, 2006)

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, whether on a Limited Entry Area, zone at large, or outside the restoration zone, must be telechecked.  In addition, all elk harvested from a limited entry area must be checked with KDFWR staff on site. 

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. 7 – Jan. 15).  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 476 near Lost Creek, KY.  It then turns east along 476 to the intersection of 476 and Hwy 80, then east on Hwy 80 to 1098 at Softshell completing the boundary.

Begley WMA / Redbird Limited Entry Area – Beginning at the intersection of Rte. 2058 and 421 near Helton/Manchester boundary 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 Rte. 1850, then east along Rte. 1850 to the intersection of 1850 and 1780 at Warbranch.  It then proceeds south on 1780 to intersection of 2058 near Spruce Pine, then east on 2058 back to 421 at Helton.

    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 possess an elk application permit.  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 and they must be telechecked.  Hunters are no longer required to call KDFWR CO's/biologists to check out-of-zone elk on-site.


For the 2007-2008 season, there will be a special youth-only quota elk hunt during the regular elk seasons.  Persons 15 years old or younger at the time of application may enter the special youth draw.  Two (2) tags will be drawn (one antlered and one antlerless), and the tags will be valid for use in the elk restoration zone at large.  The application process and fee will be the same as for the regular elk quota hunts.  The special youth elk quota hunt application permit will be available for purchase from Dec. 1, 2006 to July 31, 2007.  THOSE YOUTHS NOT DRAWN FOR THE SPECIAL YOUTH TAGS WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE ENTERED INTO THE REGULAR ELK QUOTA HUNT DRAWING. There are no separate youth elk tags available for the 2006-2007 season, however youngsters can enter the regular elk quota hunt.

Last Updated: 09/11/06
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