EDITOR'S NOTE: Larry Case's "Gun & Cornbread" column is moving to Sundays in the Times Free Press.
I did a pretty cool and unusual thing this morning. I applied for a license to take an elk this fall.
The season is a quota hunt, and there will be a drawing for the five tags for antlered bull elk only. Now, folks, you know your humble outdoors scribe is nothing if not realistic. I do not expect to draw one of these coveted tags, no way, but if I do, I will then go out and buy several dozen Powerball lottery tickets — because I will figure I am on a run of phenomenal good luck.
What's great about all this is that you can apply for a chance to hunt elk here east of the Big Muddy in at least three states: Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Along with the wild turkey, the elk is one of the greatest conservation success stories of the past century. For many of us in the hunting and fishing world, elk have always been a symbol of the wilderness. As kids we dreamed of hunting them in the Rocky Mountains, hearing the bugle of bull elk in the high meadows and packing out our kill on the horses in a pack train. Many of the hunters I know have done that, often at great expense, on guided or do-it-yourself hunts in the western states.
The elk is an animal that drew us out of our eastern woodlands world, and we could dream of tracking them in the western boondocks.
West Virginia has joined other eastern states with an active elk reintroduction. Kentucky, as you may know, has a very successful elk program, with a thriving population of them in the eastern part of the state. Twenty years ago, did we think we would ever have elk in the coal field area of Kentucky, West Virginia, and southwest Virginia?
No, I don't think most of us did. It is a modern conservation success story, to say the least.
I don't want to leave out our friends in Pennsylvania. They have an active elk program and a lottery drawing and hunting season on elk that is much more liberal than Virginia, and I would say second to Kentucky in that regard. (I'm going to apply for that license as well.)
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources website tells us its elk hunt for the 2022–2023 season is Oct. 18-14 of this year. There are five antlered elk tags available for this year's hunt via lottery. The application period for the elk lottery opened Tuesday and will close March 30. Applications for a special elk hunting license can be obtained online on the Virginia DWR website or by calling their customer service line for assistance in applying via phone.
Applications require a nonrefundable fee of $15 for Virginia residents and $20 for those from out of state. Winners of the elk hunting application will then need to purchase a special elk hunting license ($40 for residents, $400 for out of state). Winners of the randomized computer drawing will be notified by May 30, although you can also check the status of your application by visiting the DWR's website.
Once awarded a special elk hunting license, applicants will have 30 days from notification to purchase the license. Licenses that are not purchased by the deadline will be awarded to alternate hunters who will be drawn concurrently with the original hunters. Alternates will not be announced or notified unless they become eligible to purchase a special elk hunting license. Elk hunters ages 15 and younger or holders of an apprentice hunting license must be accompanied by and directly supervised by an adult who has a valid Virginia hunting license or is exempt from purchasing a hunting license. All applicants who are drawn for a Virginia special elk hunting license must read and acknowledge the "Elk Hunting Considerations" prior to beginning their hunt.
DWR has many partnerships and agreements with private landowners in its elk management zone that will allow public access for elk hunting. Check back in the coming months for more details on specific properties, maps, acreages, etc.
Even though I don't really expect to draw an elk tag east of the Big Muddy, I can dream. You can, too: The elk drawings in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia are open to residents of these states as well as those of us who live elsewhere.
Oh, in case you didn't know, elk are delicious. Remember what Bear Claw Chris Lapp said in the movie "Jeremiah Johnson": "Can't figure all those people down below eating hog when they could be feeding on elk."
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.