Bull elk

Missouri residents can apply this month for the first regulated elk hunting season in the state. The season will be open to the harvest of a limited number of elk with antlers.

Missouri residents can apply for the first regulated elk hunting season in the state the entire month of May.

The Missouri Department of Conservation will issue five permits for hunting bull elk for the 2020 season this fall.

Four general permits will be for the public and one will be reserved for qualifying area landowners within Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties.

Aaron Hildreth, an elk biologist, said bull elk with at least one antler greater than 6 inches in length would be legal for harvest.

To apply for an elk permit, applicants must be Missouri residents who are at least 11 years of age by the first day of the hunt.

Those selected to receive a permit must have their hunter-education certification or be exempt by age (born before Jan. 1, 1967) before they may purchase the permit. Apprentice hunter authorizations do not quality as hunter education exemptions for elk hunting.

For this first elk season, the conservation department has designated a nine-day archery portion running Oct. 17 to 25 and a nine-day firearms portion running Dec. 12 to 20.

The five permits will be for one elk per hunter and will be valid for both portions. All permits will be assigned through a random drawing.

“The timing of the season was designed to come after the peak of elk breeding during late September and early October and to avoid the elk season coinciding with portions of the firearms deer season,” Hildreth said.

The conservation department will require a $10 application fee for those applying for the general permits. Qualifying landowners will not be required to pay the $10 application fee when applying for the landowner permit. Those selected for each of the five permits must pay a $50 permit fee.

The department will limit the random drawing to one application per-person, per-year with a 10-year “sit-out” period for those drawn for a general permit before they may apply again.

If selected for a landowner elk permit, qualifying landowners will not be required to wait 10 years before again applying for a landowner elk permit. Qualifying landowners may apply once each year for a general elk hunting permit and for a landowner elk permit but are eligible to receive only one permit annually.

The landowner elk permit is limited to resident landowners with at least 20 acres within the “Landowner Elk Hunting Zone” of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties. Zone boundaries are shown in the application. The landowner permit is nontransferable and may only be filled on the landowner’s property.

“Local landowners have been supportive of the reintroduction of elk to the area and many have worked hard to create habitat that benefits elk and many other wildlife species,” Hildreth said.

Hildreth said the reintroduction of elk into the state is a conservation success story.

Elk are a native species in Missouri but were hunted to extinction in the state through unregulated hunting during the late 1800s.

With the help of numerous partners and supporters including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the conservation department reintroduced about 100 elk to a remote area of the Missouri Ozarks in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Most were cow elk with some calves and immature bulls.

Their numbers have grown to more than 200 and their range has expanded in recent years to cover portions of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties. The area consists of nearly 80% public land interspersed with tracts of private property.

Hunters can apply for the random elk-permit drawing online at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, through MDC’s MO Hunting app, through a permit vendor or by calling 800-392-4115.

Applicants can check to see if they have been selected for an elk-hunting permit online starting July 1 at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, after logging into “Manage Your Account” and selecting “View My Special Hunt History.”

For more information on elk hunting in Missouri, visit huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/elk.

Margaret Slayton can be reached at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.