2022 Kentucky elk draw open through April 30

594 elk hunting permits up for grabs in 2022 drawing

tagged bull Kentucky elk standing in field facing camera
This Kentucky elk is truly out standing in its field. (Photo by Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources)

About the 2022 Kentucky elk draw

Big-game hunters hoping to bag a majestic Kentucky elk can enter the state’s 2022 elk hunt permit drawing through April 30. Entries are $10 per application.

A total of 594 elk permits will be issued in 2022, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources: 244 cow firearm permits, 175 archery/crossbow (either sex) permits, 150 bull firearm permits and 25 youth permits for hunters aged 15 and younger.

If a hunter’s name is drawn in the computer-randomized elk lottery, he or she will be given an option to purchase one elk permit for which they applied.

Kentucky’s bull elk Firearm permit and archery/crossbow permit (either sex) are currently $100 for Kentucky residents or $550 for non-residents.

The cow elk firearm permit is $60 for residents or $400 for non-residents.

A youth elk permit is $30 for residents or $200 for non-residents. Elk hunters 11 and younger don’t need a Kentucky hunting license, but those aged 12 through 15 do.

After being selected for an elk quota hunt, a second draw is held to determine which of six geographic units a hunter will be assigned to within the 16-county Elk Restoration Zone. Hunters will have the opportunity to select up to five choice and a random draw will determine their assignment.

Once selected for a unit, each individual hunter is responsible for finding their own place to hunt within that unit. Kentucky elk may be hunted on public land within the unit or on private land with the landowner’s permission.

Eastern Kentucky’s Elk Restoration Zone includes all of 16 counties: Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Perry, Pike and Whitley. The zone is divided into seven different elk-hunting units, totaling 4.1 million acres. Six of these units are currently open for hunting (see map below).

Kentucky’s 16-county Elk Restoration Zone is divided into seven elk hunting units, six of which are currently open for hunting. (Map by Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources)

For all permit types, the quota is one animal. Complete regulations are available on the KDFWR website.

Drawing odds

Odds of being drawn for an elk permit vary according to the number of applicants in each draw. The 2020 Kentucky elk draw odds — the most recent year for which KDFWR has released numbers — were as follows:

2020 Kentucky Elk Draw Odds
Bull Firearm 1 : 179 1 : 1,137
Cow Firearm 1 : 72 1 : 395
Archery/Crossbow (Either Sex) 1 : 87 1 : 776
Youth (Either Sex) 1 : 60 1 : 310

Source: Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources

No more than 10 percent of elk permits can be awarded to non-residents each year.

Elk draw alternatives

No elk can be harvested in Kentucky without a hunting license and appropriate permit, regardless of geographic location. But all hunters can now purchase an Out-of-Zone elk permit instead of — or in addition to — entering the annual elk draw. The cost for an Out-of-Zone elk permit is $30 for residents or $400 for non-residents.

This permit allows elk to be hunted in any of the 104 Kentucky counties located outside the 16-county Elk Restoration Zone. Out-of-zone elk hunters may use any legal elk-hunting equipment and must follow deer season regulations, but no deer permit is required.

More than 150 Out-of-Zone elk permits were sold in 2020 (the vast majority to residents), but not a single elk was harvested outside Eastern Kentucky’s 16-county Elk Restoration Zone.

Kentucky hunting license fees

In addition to an appropriate elk permit, all hunters over the age of 11 need a license to legally hunt elk in Kentucky.

The cost of an annual hunting license is $27 for Kentucky residents or $150 for non-residents. Annual youth hunting licenses for hunters aged 12 through 15 are $6 for residents and $10 for non-residents. Hunters younger than 12 don’t need a hunting license in Kentucky, but can’t hunt elk without a permit.

Kentucky residents who wish to both hunt and fish can take advantage of discounted “combo” licenses. Combo licenses aren’t currently available to non-residents.

Kentucky’s basic annual combination hunting/fishing license currently costs $42.

For $95, residents can obtain the sportsman’s license, which includes a combination hunting/fishing license, statewide deer permit, spring and fall turkey permits, Kentucky migratory bird/waterfowl permit and the trout permit. A Youth Sportsman’s License for residents ages 12 through 15 costs $30.

A senior sportsman’s license is available to residents 65 and older for $12. In addition, a disabled sportsman’s license is available for $12 to those who qualify. Both the senior sportsman’s license and disabled sportsman’s license include everything in the regular sportsman’s license plus additional deer permits.

About Kentucky’s elk herd

Kentucky now has the largest elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. “The Kentucky elk project is widely regarded as one of the most successful wildlife restoration efforts in the eastern United States,” according to the department.

Elk are native to Kentucky and were present throughout the state until approximately the mid-1880s, by which point the population was virtually eliminated due to habitat degradation and overhunting.

Kentucky’s modern-day elk herd is wild and free-ranging, established from 1,550 wild elk captured elsewhere and released into the southeastern part of the state between December 1997 and March 2002. The majority of those animals were captured in Utah, with others being relocated from Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oregon.

Those elk were released in Harlan, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Martin, Perry, and Pike counties, growing to an estimated herd size of 15,876 animals in 2021. Among the 21 states where elk are known to live, Kentucky currently ranks ninth in estimated herd size — just over one-fourth the size of Washington’s herd, and 27 percent larger than California’s — according to statistics provided by Wikipedia.

Have you ever entered the Kentucky elk draw? If so, what happened? Let us know in the comments below.

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