Kentucky hunters go for elk

September 21, 2013

G. Sam Piatt

PDT Outdoors Writer

Kentucky’s elk seasons opened yesterday with bull elk archery season.

Allowing hunting for bulls with bows debuted in 2011. Archery hunters have enjoyed an extraordinarily high success rate for these hunts since, averaging about 60 percent.

Biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources hold a positive outlook for the upcoming elk seasons, for both bow and gun hunters.

“We think it will be a productive elk hunting season,” said Tina Brunjes, deer and elk coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Our elk hunters have excellent success rates.”

Brunjes said the reason bull elk archery hunters are so successful is partly based on the timing of the season.

“The bull elk archery season opens at the beginning of the bull elk rut and runs throughout the rut,” she said.

She also said the limited number of bull archery tags makes for a well-balanced hunt.

“And, too, bull elk archery hunters put in a lot of sweat equity,” she said. “They do their homework.”

The bull elk archery season closes for the first time Oct. 4. The second segment of this season opens Oct. 19 and runs until Dec. 13. The third segment begins Dec. 28 and ends Jan. 20, 2014. The cow elk archery season mirrors the final two segments of the bull elk archery season.

Last season, elk hunters in Kentucky took 595 elk composed of 39.5 percent male and 60.5 percent female. There were 900 permits awarded for the elk quota hunts in 2012.

The number of elk hunting permits increased to 1,000 for the 2013-2014 elk season.


The first Kentucky elk hunts began in 2001 when Kentucky Fish and Wildlife issued 12 permits. The herd goal is 10,000 elk. Kentucky’s elk restoration area encompasses 16 counties and roughly 4.2 million acres.

“We have the new system in place that we think hunters will find better distributes hunting pressure and maximizes hunter opportunity,” Brunjes said. “A hunter with an At-Large tag now has eight counties to search for a place to hunt. Although we have a lot of public access where our elk herds are most numerous, we are excited to see the number of elk harvested from private lands continues to increase.”

Hunters may now choose between the At-Large North and At-Large South hunting areas or three limited entry areas (LEAs). The key to a healthy herd is the harvest of cow elk, the reason Kentucky Fish and Wildlife issues 750 cow elk tags and 250 bull elk tags.

Bull elk, however, are the draw for most hunters.

“Kentucky bull elk hunters have a success rate of about 90 percent for harvesting bull elk with a firearm,” Brunjes said. “Most of our hunters are taking mature bulls.”

The typical bulls taken are 3 1/2 years to 5 1/2 years old. A 3 - year-old bull has already grown a 4 x 4 antler rack and a 5 1/2 year-old bull usually has 6 x 6 antler rack that scores about 280 inches in the Boone and Crockett scoring system.

Minimum entry into the Boone and Crockett record for an elk with typical antlers is 360 inches. So far, three bull elk with typical antlers harvested in Kentucky qualified for entry into the Boone and Crockett record books.

Terrell Royalty set the record with a typical bull elk taken in Knott County in 2007 with a modern gun that scored 371 inches on the Boone and Crockett system.

The first week of bull elk firearms season opens Oct. 5 and closes Oct. 11. The second week of this season runs from Oct. 12 through Oct. 18.

The first week of cow elk firearms season opens Dec. 14 and closes Dec. 20 with second week of opening Dec. 21 and ending Dec. 27.

The crossbow season for either sex bull runs Oct. 19 and Oct. 20 from Nov. 9 through Dec. 13 and Dec. 28 through Dec. 3.

Lee McClellan, who put together most of this report, is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.


There’s considerable differences in the white-tailed deer that roam the forests and valleys of southeastern Kentucky and the elk so prevalent there now.

For one, the hunter who’s fortunate enough to bring down an elk won’t drag his carcass out of the woods as he would a deer. The meat will have to be quartered. A mature white-tailed buck will weigh 150 to 250 pounds, while a bull elk will weigh 850 to 900 pounds!

The adult Kentucky elk are 15 percent bigger that western elk, wildlife officials report.


The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources began the restoration program on reclaimed strip-mine land and portions of Daniel Boone National Forest in December 1997, releasing seven animals that had been trapped in western Kansas.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which has 138,000 members in all 50 states and Canada, contributed $1.4 million to the restoration project.

Fifteen hundred elk had been trucked out of western states and released in Kentucky be 2002. Officials decided no further stocking was needed as the herd experienced a 90 percent breeding success rate, with 92 percent of calves born surviving to adulthood.


Bids are being taken on the “Ultimate Waterfowl Package.” The high bidder gets a blind for four hunters on the Ballard Wildlife Management Area in western Kentucky, plus four Poly Duck calls and four Field Proven hats.

Bids can be submitted until noon Wednesday by e-mailing Chad Miles at and giving your name and address — and your bid.

All proceeds go to the Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Foundation.


The Ashland Friends of NRA will be holding a public meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Northeast Kentucky Fish and Game Association clubhouse near Cannonsburg.

Those who love the hunting and shooting sports are urged to attend, especially those who believe their shooting traditions and rights of gun ownership are at risk.

For more information, contact National Rifle Association field representative John LaRowe at (859) 363-7681 or

G. Sam Piatt can be reached at 606-932-3619 or