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Has enthusiasm for elk hunt cooled?
Oct 17, 2012 12:00 am
Tennessee’s fourth annual elk hunt is being held this week, and based on the decline in this year’s permit applications some of the initial excitement has worn off.
Only 5,799 applications were submitted for the random drawing of four bull elk tags. A fifth tag was auctioned off and a sixth went for a first-ever Young Sportsman hunt.
The number of applications was less than half (about 13,000) that were submitted for the inaugural hunt four years ago.
As has been the case every year, there was no application fee for holders of a Sportsman’s License or Lifetime License, which comprise the majority of applicants. So since there’s no cost involved, why didn’t more hunters submit applications?
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has conducted no hunter survey, so I can only speak from a personal standpoint. I submitted an application for the first hunt -- then began to wonder what I’d do if I were picked.
For starters, I don’t own a heavy-caliber elk rifle. My old 30-30 deer-buster won’t cut it, so I’d have to buy or borrow a suitable elk rifle.
Next, a selected hunter has to schedule considerable time for the hunt. It runs five days (Oct. 15-19) in the remote North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area, and hunters are required to attend a pre-hunt orientation.
Finally, if I bagged a big bull what would I do with it?
I’d want to mount the head, which would mean a huge taxidermy bill. Then where would I display it? I barely have ceiling room for an 8-point whitetail, much less a five-foot-tall elk head and antlers.
As for the meat, elk is delicious but I don’t have any place to store it. My medium-sized freezer barely holds my annual harvest of whitetail venison. I’d have to buy a bigger freezer to hold several hundred pounds of processed elk, then find space to put the freezer.
All of this began to dawn on me after I submitted an application for the first elk hunt. I was like a dog chasing a car – if I catch it, then what?
As it turned out I wasn’t among the four hunters drawn – after all, my odds were four in 13,000 – and I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved. Apparently more and more hunters are starting to feel the same way.
Understand, this is not a criticism of the elk hunt or the TWRA’s restoration program. I’ve talked to several hunters who have participated in the hunt and every one of them said it was a thrilling, memorial experience.
The elk hunts are conducted on vast tracts of land comprising thousands of acres, and they are legitimate fair-chase hunts. The elk are wild, free-roaming animals and hunting them requires skill and stamina.
Even though I probably will never tag an elk, I support the TWRA’s restoration of the indigenous elk to Tennessee. It’s gratifying to know that wild elk are once again roaming Tennessee’s wilderness after vanishing a century ago.
And I’m not ruling out a future hunt if the opportunity presented itself. But I’d need a lucky draw, a heavier rifle, a bigger freezer and a taller ceiling.
Guess I’ll worry about that if and when the time comes.