Department of Fish and Wildlife
Voluntary incentive program seeks to create new opportunities for landowners, elk hunters
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s elk zone
encompasses more than 4.1 million acres in 16 counties and a new program
developed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources strives to
make more of that land accessible to the public during the elk hunting seasons.
Cooperator Elk Permit Program offers private landowners and lessees an
incentive for volunteering to open their land for elk hunter access: an elk tag
of their own. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission proposed the framework
for the program late last year.
Kentucky held its
first elk hunt in 2001 when Kentucky Fish and Wildlife issued just 12 quota elk
permits. The number of permits issued annually through the elk quota hunt draw
has increased to 900 general permits and 10 youth permits as the herd has grown
to an estimated 10,000 animals in the years since.
rates remain high overall but some traditional hunting areas in the elk zone
aren’t holding the numbers they once did.
“We’ve got to have
more places for people to go and essentially spread out hunting pressure,” said
John Hast, deer and elk program biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
“We’re seeing fewer elk on the traditional elk areas with lots of public land
around them because they have just been hunted hard now for years. The elk
essentially have been run off those open areas where you could routinely go out
and see 100 elk in an evening and are using the woods a lot more.”
The department has
used Limited Entry Areas (LEA) in recent years to manage the harvest of elk on
areas with large tracts of public land and heavy elk hunting pressure. But
unless private land becomes available for elk hunter access, biologists believe
the hunting pressure will be unsustainable on those areas.
Enter the Voucher
Cooperator Elk Permit Program, which is separate from and does not change the
landowner cooperator elk permit system already in place. Any landowner or
lessee with at least 100 acres in the elk zone would be eligible to enroll in
the new incentive program.
voucher property would have a set limit of hunters allowed on the land at any
point in the elk hunting season. That number would stem from biologists’ recommendations,
voucher cooperator input, and the number of elk using the area.
“Accessing some of
that timbered land around the traditional elk hunting areas, I think, would
provide productive hunting,” Hast said.
In exchange for
volunteering to allow elk hunting access on their property, the voucher
cooperator would accumulate points toward a Kentucky elk tag for each elk
successfully harvested on their property by drawn hunters.
cooperator would be credited two points for bull elk and one point for cow elk
harvested on their property. Points do not expire and may be accrued over
multiple years. Upon accumulating 20 points, the landowner or lessee of the
property would receive one voucher elk permit, which would be transferable and
valid for either sex on any land the landowner or lessee owns or leases in the
elk zone the next season. Any points left over would remain as a balance for
the landowner or lessee to put toward a future tag.
cooperators would have the option to close elk hunting access during other
hunting seasons, such as deer and bear seasons. And enrolling doesn’t preclude
the voucher cooperator from inviting others to hunt the land. However, only elk
harvested by hunters signed up to hunt on the property would count toward the
will have tons of control over how things are done,” Hast said.
incentive to landowners and lessees, and expanded opportunity for hunters,
biologists envision the new program spurring habitat improvement on private
land and helping mitigate elk nuisance issues while fostering relationships
between landowners and elk hunters.
there want to be in the elk game,” Hast said. “This program involves them in
the process while they work toward what is one of the most sought-after hunting
opportunities in Kentucky.”
landowners and lessees may contact Hast by calling Kentucky Fish and Wildlife
at 1-800-858-1549 to learn more about the Voucher Cooperator Elk Permit