With conservation efforts across the country, the future of elk hunting is looking bright.
When most think of elk hunting, western states like Colorado, Montana, Utah, Idaho and Oregon come to mind. However, with wildlife management programs in place in a lot of Eastern states, you don't have to hunt the Rocky Mountains anymore to find some seriously big bulls. These days, all an elk hunter needs to do is look up when the elk season is in what could be a nearby state and apply for a tag. The odds of getting drawn in some states aren't great, but it's only a matter of time because those elk herds continue to grow in big ways.
If you want to talk about success stories in the world of elk hunting, Wisconsin opened their first elk hunt in a very, very long time. After 22 years of reintroduction, efforts and wildlife management, select bull elk tags were permitted via a resident-only draw. Even though 38,000 people applied, only four people were randomly chosen with one additional tag going to a raffle winner. This hunt to set to take place this year starting Oct. 13.
Speaking of comeback stories, the Michigan elk population is also really taking off. The Michigan elk hunting season starts on Aug. 28. Here, tags are awarded based on a weighted draw in accordance with built-up preference points. For Michigan, the elk herd is so strong, the DNR can add additional tags based on achieving population goals. Most of the elk live on public land, but finding them can be tough. Big elk don't get big by being stupid.
Now, western and northern states aren't the only states with a solid elk herd. Just look at Kentucky, for example. This herd's flourished and other states actually take elk from this herd to start populations in their respective states. So, it could offer your best chance at getting a trophy elk outside of the Rocky Mountains.
Your Best Chance
Overall, Kentucky issues 710 tags through a random computerized drawing. Elk hunting is allowed in a 3.5-million-acre section of the state known as the "elk zone." From there, elk hunters are allowed to hunt anywhere inside the 16 counties of the zone, so long as it's public land or they have land owner permission.
The states mentioned above aren't the only options, though. As a matter of fact, many other states are currently running programs to restore former elk populations. For example, most recently, reintroduction efforts have been established in the Ozark's, the Smoky Mountains, Virginia and into West Virginia. It may sound crazy, but even Illinois and New York are looking at this very concept right now. As you can tell, big-game elk hunting is on a comeback in a big way.