Elk herd thrives 25 years later

By G. Sam Piatt - Contributing Columnist



It’s difficult to believe that 25 years have flipped the calendar pages since a couple of horse trailers were backed down into a hollow in southeastern Kentucky, the doors were opened, and seven elk stepped cautiously out and walked away.

They had a reason to be cautious.

A crowd of people estimated at 4,000 lined the grassy slopes of the reclaimed coal fields to see this historic event.

These elk were far from their home in the Western mountains.

I was there that day in 1997, covering activities as a reporter for the Ashland Daily Independent.

The elk released that day were the first of 1,541 procured from seven western states.

Today Kentucky’s elk herd is the largest east of the Rocky Mountains.

It had been 150 years since elk had been seen in Kentucky.

They were once native to the region.

But overhunting for fresh meat by Danil and the Pioneers and eventual loss of habitat wiped them out.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources gets no money from the state’s general fund to help with management of game animals.

The agency is funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, boating registration fees and federal grants.

Hence comes the lottery system for permits to hunt elk with bow or gun.

Proceeds from the elk hunt drawing go to help preserve and protect fish and wildlife resources.

The $10 permits are available from now until April 30 to anyone who wants to put their name in the drawing for the hunts.

The annual random drawing will take place and successful applicants will be announced via livestream on Saturday, May 14, from The Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg, Ky.

Those selected for the elk quota hunt are assigned to one of six units within the elk zone, by way of a second drawing.

Hunting season begins Sept. 10 and continues through Jan. 4.

In 2021, for the second straight year, the department issued 594 permits from those more than 90,000 entries to the elk hunt draw.

“Interest in elk hunting in Kentucky grows each year, and we expect that trend to continue as word spreads,” said John Hast, the department’s elk/deer coordinator.

The thriving, free-ranging herd inhabits more than 4 million acres in 16 southeastern Kentucky counties.

General drawing quota permits are available by applying to the Kentucky elk hunt draw online.

For more information about the elk hunt draw, or to sign up, visit fw.ky.gov/solar until April 30.

Permits are offered for bull firearm, cow firearm and either-sex archery/crossbow permit; individuals may apply separately for each permit type, for a total of three possible applications per year.

However, individuals can only apply once for each permit type.

General drawing quota permits cannot be bought or sold, and hunters must follow season requirements for the permit for which they were drawn.

Guests are encouraged to attend the two-day elk hunt draw at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg.

The weekend kicks off with a concert, food, and vendors on Friday evening, followed by a revealing of selected hunters’ names on Saturday, May 14, from noon to 2 p.m.

“The draw is always an exciting event, when you see someone win a draw for the first time or hear stories about someone’s previous hunt,” said Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton. “We are honored to host this event and hope everyone enjoys the atmosphere.”


“Dear Mr. Piatt,

“I’ve read conflicting stories on the internet about whether homeowners should feed deer in the winter months. Some say it is harmful to feed them corn even though it is advertised as ‘deer corn.’ I know a lot of people in our area do feed them as I have. Maybe you could shed some light on this subject in one of your newspaper articles.

My husband and I both enjoy your column.”

Thank you.

Karen Young

Does anyone out there have comments on feeding deer during the winter, and especially deer corn?


Mary Martha Questel and husband Bill commented on last week’s column about catching blue crabs using chicken necks as bait.

‘Great article. Bill’s macular keeps him from reading. So, I read him what I think he should know. We save your Saturday article and I read it to him over the weekend. So funny and enlightening.

“When we were first married and went to the Drive-In Theater, I would fix chicken necks or wings to take with us. They were only 10c per pound.

“We are doing reasonably well. We pray that you and your Bonnie are faring well. Prayers.”

Old Bill & MM


By G. Sam Piatt

Contributing Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.