The 2023 Kentucky elk quota hunt application period is open. Instructions on how to apply for the 2023 Kentucky elk quota hunt application period is open. Instructions on how to apply for the 2023 elk drawing can be found at http://fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Pages/Elk-Hunting-Regs.aspx. The deadline to apply is midnight (ET) on April 30th.
The Kentucky deadline to apply for elk is April 30, 2023. Our online/print magazine has everything in one location: Application info, draw details and odds, fees, hunter requirements, point structure, age restrictions, youth information, weapon restrictions, other tag opportunities, hunt planning and much more. If you would like access to all of our research join today!
Kentucky accepts online applications for the elk drawing. If you have questions about or need assistance with applying, call the Information Center at 800-858-1549. Kentucky allows applicants to apply for both bull and cow permits. In total, applicants can apply for three quota applications - bull firearm, cow firearm, or either-sex archery/ crossbow. Kentucky does not accept party applications for elk in the initial drawing. However, successful applicants may apply in groups of three for the elk hunting units.
No more than 10% of the tags may be issued to non-residents. Hunters who are successful in drawing a bull elk permit will not be eligible to apply for three years for another bull elk permit. Also, a three-year waiting period applies to those drawn for cow elk permits. Hunters must first apply to draw a permit. The main drawing will be conducted in early May with results posted mid-May. Successful applicants will then have the option of applying in a second draw held in July for one of the six available units. If they decide to not apply for a zone, they will be placed into whatever areas are available after the draw.
The application fees must be paid for using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, or a debit card. Each drawing application you apply for will cost $10, which is non-refundable. If an applicant applied for both archery and firearm bull permits, it would cost them $20.
All hunters born on or after January 1, 1975 must carry a valid hunter education card. If you are a bowhunter and are not in possession of a firearm, you can just carry a bowhunter education card. All hunters and persons accompanying them must wear solid, unbroken hunter orange that's visible from all sides on the head, back, and chest, if hunting during the rifle season. Children younger than 12 years old are exempt from the hunter education certification but must be accompanied by an adult who meets the hunter education requirement.
Kentucky does not have a minimum age to apply.
Kentucky does not have a preference or bonus point system.
In 2022, there were 94,295 applicants in the elk draw. Of those applicants, 44,644 were non-residents. A total of 57 non-residents drew elk tags in 2022.
Youth-only elk hunt applicants must be 15 years of age or younger. They may also purchase elk applications for the regular elk quota hunt drawing. A youth may not be drawn for the youth-only quota hunt and a regular hunt in the same year. If a hunter is drawn for a youth-only hunt, they will be permanently blocked from applying for the youth-only hunts in the future. Youth-only successful applicants have a reduced price permit fee and can harvest either-sex elk. There are 25 either-sex youth permits for 2022.
The following are legal weapons to hunt elk in Kentucky: a .270 caliber or larger rifle, a muzzleloader (.50 caliber or larger), a shotgun (20 gauge or larger slug), or a centerfire handgun with a case length of 1.285 inches or larger, firing bullets of .270 caliber or larger. Full metal jacketed or tracer bullets are prohibited. For archers using a crossbow, longbow, recurve, and/ or compound bow, there is not a draw weight limit, but you must hunt with a fixed blade or mechanical broadhead that has at least a 7/8" wide cutting edge. Any legal elk hunting weapon may be used during the rifle season dates.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission issues up to 10 elk permits a year to non-profit organizations. These organizations can sell or auction these permits as they so choose as long as the proceeds are used for Kentucky conservation projects. Average auction permits range from $10,000 to $18,000. A hunter with one of these permits may hunt during any elk season but must hunt within the zone the permit was assigned to.
Kentucky also issues landowner tags to those landowners who have enrolled 5,000+ acres in the program for public access. Annually, about 50 landowner tags are issued. Landowner Cooperator tags can be sold and allow hunters to hunt only the land enrolled in the program. Better quality landowner tags run $7,500-$15,000. Voucher Cooperator tags allow access to private land for tag holders who have selected their area. Only successfully drawn applicants and Commission tag holders can sign up to hunt these properties on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for more information.
Voucher Cooperator elk permits are provided to landowners/lessees who provide elk hunter access to their property. The Voucher Cooperator Elk Permit Program links people who own or lease elk hunting land with hunters who have drawn an elk permit. Hunter access is accomplished by offering landowners/lessees an elk permit when they accumulate 10 points (1 point for each elk harvested). Hunters will sign up to hunt voucher properties on a firstcome, first-served basis through an online system after the area drawing is complete. Interested landowners and lessees may contact Kentucky Fish and Wildlife at 800-858-1549 to learn more about the Voucher Cooperator Elk Permit Program.
Elk Restoration permits are provided to landowners/lessees who allow the KDFWR to relocate elk from their property as part of the ongoing restoration efforts. These landowners receive an elk permit when they accumulate 10 points (a relocated elk equals 1 point). These permits are transferable and are only valid on property owned or leased by the landowner/lessee who provided capture access for the elk relocation efforts. Outside of the Elk Restoration zone, elk may be hunted during deer seasons with over-the-counter permits. These permits are for either-sex elk and cost $400 for non-residents. There are typically very few elk, and on some years no elk, harvested outside of the zone.
All elk hunters must report their hunt via the telecheck system. Hunters must call 800-245-4263 or go online to fw.ky.gov and report their harvest by midnight of the day of recovery. All elk hunters must also complete and submit a post-season elk hunting survey no later than the last day of February.
Kentucky is home to the largest elk herd in the eastern United States. Elk were transplanted from seven western states between 1997 and 2002. Kentucky is home to over 10,000 elk. The Elk Restoration zone consists of 16 counties in the southeast portion of the state. The first elk hunt in the Restoration zone was conducted in 2001. Since 2008, permits have fluctuated between 600 and 1,000 total elk permits to the current 2022 permit number of 594. Kentucky will issue 150 bull firearm permits, 244 cow firearm permits, 175 either-sex archery/crossbow permits, and 25 eithersex youth permits for 2022. The 2021 harvest success was 45% for archery-either sex hunts and 52% for rifle bull hunts in the Restoration zone. If you do not draw your desired unit, you can try to acquire a Voucher Cooperator permit, which allows you access to hunt on specific pieces of private land that are enrolled in the Voucher Cooperator program.
Within the Elk Restoration zone, hunters simply apply for one or all of the three permit categories - bull firearm, archery/ crossbow either-sex, or cow firearm. After the draw, successful applicants can apply for an additional drawing for their choice of five limited-entry elk hunting units. If the preferred units are taken when the application is drawn, the hunter will receive assignment to one of the remaining units. Once a unit assignment is made, it is the hunter's responsibility to find a place to hunt within the unit on open public land or on private land with landowner permission.
Limited-entry units are within the following 16 counties: Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Perry, Pike, and Whitley. This area consists of 4.3 million acres. Limited-entry unit permit holders can only hunt within the specific unit they have drawn an access permit for. As far as the units go, terrain can vary and the units further south and along the Virginia border are the more rugged, higher elevation areas. Each unit will have accessible and huntable populations of elk, with most hunters focusing on reclaimed strip mines where there is plenty of terrain that isn't very difficult. Accessibility between the hunt units will vary slightly, but the Game Department tries to distribute units so each has reasonable access to hunting property. Most of the top bulls taken in the state have come from units 2, 6, and 7. Of those zone units, 2 and 6 have better access than unit 7. A 300"+ bull is a benchmark goal in any of the elk hunting units.
As the Kentucky elk population has been hunted more over the years, it has made finding a mature bull on open land more difficult. The older, more mature bulls have found sanctuary on private land and Voucher Cooperator property. The average age class of bulls is beginning to slip but is still around 5 years old. A successful applicant would be wise to hire an outfitter that is experienced in locating accessible land and older age bulls. Guided rifle bull and archery hunts will run you $4,500 or more. A successful applicant wanting to hunt self-guided will need to spend some time researching past harvest information, landowner contact lists, and become friends with some locals to make the most of their elk permit.
A highlight of the 2021 elk hunting season was that there was a great bull harvested that is rumored to score 400”. While bulls like that are extremely rare in Kentucky, most hunters should have a good hunt for 30011 type bulls. Honestly, just the thought of hunting elk in the East is what keeps us at Huntin' Fool applying for elk tags.
While the odds of drawing an elk tag in Kentucky make it a difficult task, we recommend hunters looking to hunt elk east of the Mississippi to apply as it is cheap and there is no point system. Most of the bull-only or either-sex elk season dates are during the rut, which makes for a great experience. Give us a call if you are lucky enough to draw a coveted Kentucky elk tag and we can put you in touch with the best elk outfitters in the state.
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|Elk Drawing Application (per drawing)||$10|
|Youth Hunting License (12-15 years old)||$10|
|Elk Antlered/Either-Sex Permit||$550|
|Elk Antlerless Permit||$400|
|Elk Either-Sex Youth Permit||$200|
Kentucky Elk Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine