After 150-year absence, Kentucky implemented a plan to restore the elk population to the state in the winter of 1997. Since that time, 1,500 elk have been brought in to the sixteen county restoration zone, and the elk population has climbed to about 6,500 free-ranging elk, which is just shy of the 10,000 which is the goal of the project. Eastern Kentucky is now home to the largest herd of free-ranging buffalo east of the Mississippi River. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to keep the elk in the restoration zone only, and are taking measures to keep the rest of the state from becoming populated by the elk.
Throughout the entire restoration process there has always been a plan in place for an elk hunt to occur. The elk hunt has very strict guidelines, which some hunters may find confusing. Within the restoration zone a Quota Hunt occurs in October and December, while outside of the restoration zone deer hunters who are hunting legally are free to take one elk per season, be it male or female. A hunter may not take both an elk in a Quota Hunt and also take an elk out of the restoration zone in the same year.
For a chance to hunt in the Quota Hunt in the Restoration Zone each year hunters must first purchase an elk lottery application between December 1 and July 31. The cost for the lottery application is $10. Starting in 2008 the deadline to file a lottery application will be moved from July 31 to April 30. To apply a hunter does not have to be a resident of the state of Kentucky, but all hunters must provide their social security number.
Youth ages 15 and younger are entered into a special youth quota elk hunt, in which two tags are drawn, one antlerless, and one antlered. Any youth not drawn for the youth hunt are automatically entered into the lottery for the regular quota hunt.
For the 2007 hunt a total of 300 elk permits will be issued. These will be issued by a random computer drawing, and the results will be posted by August 20. The hunters who are issued an elk permit will also be assigned either a cow or bull tag, as well as assigned to either the Zone At Large or to a Limited Entry Area.
Hunters assigned to the Zone At Large will be able to hunt during the firearm, crossbow, or archery seasons, while Limited Entry Area hunters will only be allowed to hunt during a seven-day season in which they may use any legal weapon for elk.
Hunters who are drawn for the Quota Hunt will also be required to have a valid Kentucky Hunting License, as well as purchase an elk tag prior to hunting, which costs $30 for residents, and $365 for non-residents.