For Big Game
elk hunt an adventure
for young Shelbyville hunter
gives budding hunters
chance of a lifetime
Helen E. McKinney
SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (December 2010) When 14-year-old
John McKinney found out he was chosen to participate in the 2010 Kentucky
Youth Elk Hunt, he was speechless. For many youth, this is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to view these animals up close, much less kill one.
by Helen McKinney
McKinney, 14, of Shelbyville, Ky.,
was one of five yougsters out of 9,000
chosen to participate in this years
Youth Elk Hunt in Eastern Kentucky.
I couldnt believe it, said McKinney.
He found out he had been drawn when his father, Kent, told him to go
online to the Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife website and see if
names had been released yet. This is the second time McKinney
and his twin brother, Ben, put in for the draw.
McKinney only had from mid-May until Sept. 25 to prepare for his hunt.
He had to spend time learning about elk and their habits, gathering
supplies, scouting the hunting area and practice shooting at targets.
Hes been in the woods hunting with his father and brother since
he was 8 years old. Hes shot squirrel, deer and turkey, and said
his favorite kill was white tailed deer because they are more challenging.
You have to put a lot of time, effort, preparation and patience
into it, he said.
McKinney was one of five youth drawn out of 9,000 for the Youth Elk
Hunt held in eastern Kentucky. Having scouted out the area twice before
the hunt, I knew exactly where Id be, he said.
Of course, his chances werent hurt any by his guide, Tim Farmer,
host of KETs longest running hunting show, Kentucky Afield.
He was a good guide and he knows the biologists in the area,
said McKinney. Farmer contacted McKinney about going along on the hunt
and filming the experience for his show.
Farmer was the one who actually picked the spot where we would hunt,
said McKinney. On one of their scouting excursions they saw signs of
elk in the area, such as acorns and autumn olive bushes with the berries
having been eaten off.
The free-ranging elk herds are located in the eastern and southeastern
portions of Kentucky. Most of the elk are within the states 16-county
Elk Restoration Zone. McKinney hunted on the Paul Van Booven Wildlife
Management Area in Breathitt County, one of the original elk release
Even though the Youth Hunt lasted three days, all five youth shot an
elk on opening day. McKinney took down his elk around 7:15 a.m. with
a Remington 30.06 using a Hornaday Superformance 180 grain bullet. The
elk weighed between 700-800 pounds and was guessed to be about 3 years
Tim called the elk in that morning, he said. Farmer was
probably the more excited of the pair, said McKinney.
Cow calls are used to draw the elk closer, and bugles are used to locate
the elk. During rutting season, the elk are more vocal but hard
to call in when paired up with all the cows, he said.
The kids and their families have been universally excited about
the hunt, and our staff and partners work hard to ensure the experience
is a positive one, said Kristina J. Brunjes, Ph.D, Deer and Elk
Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The restoration of elk into Kentucky officially began in December 1997.
About 1,500 elk were initially released across eight release sites
from 1997 until 2002, she said. We estimate there are now
about 10,000 elk in Kentucky.
Biologists are constantly studying the elk. Various university
research projects have been conducted since the first elk were released
and we have continuously monitored various biological parameters along
with that, said Brunjes.
The target population for elk in Kentucky is 10,000 head. Brunjes said
the department is constantly working to maintain that number and continuously
working to provide additional hunting and viewing access for the public.
Doug Hensley has been commissioner of the area, District 7, for 24 years.
This volunteer position is a labor of love for me, he said.
This hunt is not just for fathers-sons or mothers-daughters. We
want the whole family to be involved.
Hensley wanted to seek elk return to Kentucky because its part
of our heritage. He studied other states that had accomplished
restoration and knew Kentucky had a pretty good chance.
He sited the state as having the proper habitat for the program.
The Paul Van Booven area is on land that is leased from the University
of Kentucky. They liked the idea of the teaching aspect youve
got there, said Hensley. The youth had a better chance of getting
an elk in this smaller, quieter area that was used for archery only.
The site is on reclaimed coal mine land.
This is the hunt of a lifetime, but the kids probably dont
realize it at the time, Hensley said. Elk hunting is a lot
like turkey hunting on a big scale. But most Kentuckians and people
from the eastern United States do not get the opportunity to elk hunt
out west because its so expensive.
Eastern Kentucky was chosen as an elk release site because there was
not much farming around, said Hensley. Weve finally got
something in Eastern Kentucky that nobody else has.
McKinney plans to have his elk mounted to remember the experience.
It was a unique experience because, It came from Kentucky; it
was one born here.
Coming from a family that loves to hunt, I enjoy being out in
the woods, he said, seeing the deer, turkey and wildlife.
Back to December 2010