If you’ve dreamed of hunting elk right in your own back yard, you have an opportunity to apply for a chance to do so.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has opened its application period for this fall’s elk quota hunt on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.
The North Cumberland’s elk herd is the second-largest herd east of the Mississippi River, trailing only the herd in Kentucky.
For hunting purposes, TWRA breaks down the 145,000-acre wildlife management area into eight different zones, and awards 15 permits for either archery hunting or gun hunting.
The archery hunt will run from Sept. 25 through Oct. 1, with seven tags awarded. The tags are for Zone 1 (Chestnut Ridge and Fork Mountain), Zone 2 (Adkins and Turley Mountain) and Zone 6 (Braden Mountain), Zone 3 (Horse Gap and Wolf Ridge), Zone 4 (Anderson and Massengale Mountain), Zone 5 (Cross Mountain and Red Ash), Zone 7N (Tackett Creek North) and Zone 7S (Tackett Creek South).
The gun hunt will run from Oct. 9 through Oct. 15, with seven tags awarded. The tags are for Zone 2 (Adkins and Turley Mountain) and Zone 6 (Braden Mountain), Zone 3 (Horse Gap and Wolf Ridge), Zone 4 (Anderson and Massengale Mountain), Zone 5 (Cross Mountain and Red Ash), Zone 7N (Ed Carter Zone North) and Zone 7S (Ed Carter Zone South).
In addition to the 14 archery or gun permits, there is one young sportsman permit available for youths ages 13 to 16. Entries for the young sportsman permit are limited to Tennessee residents. The young sportsman hunt is Oct. 2 through Oct. 8.
Each permit is for one antlered elk, and is awarded through a lottery system. The cost to apply is $12 except for hunters with a sportsman’s license or lifetime sportsman’s license, who may apply for free.
The deadline to apply is July 23. Hunters can apply by going to gooutdoorstennessee.com.
TWRA began its elk reintroduction program in the Cumberland Mountains in 2000. Elk once roamed the entirety of Tennessee prior to the arrival of the first white settlers, but habitat destruction and over-hunting led to elk being extirpated from the entire eastern U.S. The last known elk in East Tennessee was shot in 1849.
The wildlife resources agency first began exploring an elk restoration program in the mid 1990s. The chief of the agency’s wildlife division at the time was Scott County native Larry Marcum. Initially, TWRA proposed to reintroduce elk at Land Between the Lakes in West Tennessee. However, the proposal failed due to agricultural concerns. Meanwhile, support grew for reintroducing elk in the Cumberland Mountains, and TWRA ultimately established a 670,000-acre elk restoration zone consisting of parts of Scott, Campbell, Morgan, Claiborne and Anderson counties.
Several factors led to the elk restoration program being shifted to the Cumberland Mountains. Kentucky was in the process of restoring elk just to the north of the TN-KY line, also in the Cumberland Mountains. The human population in the region is relatively low. The North Cumberland WMA represents a significant chunk of contiguous public land — the second largest in the state, behind Cherokee National Forest. And, finally, there is little crop land in the vicinity of the Cumberland Mountains.
The first 50 elk were transported from Alberta, Canada to the North Cumberland in December 2000, and released less than one week before Christmas on Horsebone Ridge high above Montgomery Junction off Norma Road. A total of 201 elk were released in the mountains between 2000 and 2008.
Tennessee’s first elk hunting season was held in 2009, with four hunters randomly selected to participate, while a fifth permit was auctioned with proceeds benefiting the elk program. All five hunters were successful in harvesting bull elk.