A Head Scratcher and Kentucky Elk

For the last several years, I have joined some 35,000 individuals who have entered an annual lottery for a Kentucky elk tag. In all, 90 hunters will receive a tag to bow hunt the burgeoning herd that roams the Bluegrass State.

Waddell and Mundt, who are both among my favorite professional outdoorsmen, pose behind Waddell’s 2012 Kentucky elk. Photo borrowed from facebook.com/RealtreeOutdoors

Before I go further I want to go on the record, and be crystal clear, that this post is not in any way a bash on celebrity hunters. In fact, it’s far less about them – in this case two of the most popular in the country – and more about a program that decided to provide tags to celebrities sans the normal procedure for obtaining one.

I noticed a Facebook post this evening highlighting the successful exploits of Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt of each taking a bull elk this week in Kentucky. Congrats to those two Bone Collectors for closing the deal.

But I’m left scratching my head a little bit on what the “deal” actually was here. If I’m doing my scratch-pad math correctly, the chances of both hunters (neither a resident) drawing a Kentucky tag this year is less than .00013%. And that’s rounding up!

Providing “media” tags to out-of-state hunters for the purpose of highlighting and promoting a state’s hunting attributes is not a new practice. For years the state of Iowa has provided annual tags in order to get their state in focus on television. And they’re certainly not alone.

I point to both of those states, though, after feeling the same level of confusion with why they’re doing it at all.

Here’s why:

In both cases – Kentucky for elk tags, and Iowa for whitetail deer – the demand for tags far outweighs the supply of tags. The famous economic supply/demand curve shows that in this case, the two are in different countries.

It takes no fewer than two years to be selected for a non-resident archery tag in Iowa, considering that most hunters try in the first year, are denied and provided a preference point, and then re-apply the following year. That’s the minimum time I’m aware of for the large contingent of hunters I know who apply each year. Three years is becoming more the norm for those hunters.

Winning the lottery, literally, in Kentucky is seemingly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So why do either of these states, or the large groups of others, supply these tags to hunters in order to be featured on their television program? My spidey senses say at the core it has something to do with dollars and little sense, but I’m sure some politician getting ready to seek re-election can provide a better explanation than me.

Perhaps it’s to shine light on the successful conservation efforts by a lot of groups to re-introduce elk to Kentucky (side note: pretty amazing is the success of this program, by the way. It’s a testament that pretty much pokes anti-hunters, ones who doubt hunting as a fantastic conservation tool, right square in the eye).

For now, though, I’m left to ponder the logic alongside more than 34,000 other hunters who don’t stand a chance of getting drawn for a Kentucky elk tag next year!

7 responses to “A Head Scratcher and Kentucky Elk

  • Dyrewulf

    Reblogged this on 323 Archery Shoot and commented:
    I agree with Kurt – if states are going to pull tags for celebrity hunts, which is GREAT advertising, spell it out in the regulations, such as “90 tags will be given out, with X number of additional tags reserved by the state game agency for advertising purposes.”

  • Nick Pinizzotto

    Excellent post Kurt and thanks for keying in on this. First, because you’re such a polite guy you were too nice to assign any fault to celebrity hunters but I believe some of the blame falls at their feet. They know when they take a tag like this that they’re getting it unfairly, and that someone in Kentucky who has been applying each year with the hopes of drawing a tag are likely missing out. They do share some of the blame in my opinion.

    Secondly, and what really disturbs me, is that Kentucky has no reason to promote elk hunting in the state when they issue just 90 tags. It’s very similar to my native state of Pennsylvania in that there are a tiny number of tags and even someone who has been applying for their entire lives may not draw one. In this year’s PA drawing, most of those who drew had been applying for more than 10 years and had a good number of preference points.

    I don’t dislike most celebrity hunters and I think they have done a good job of promoting hunting in general. Most of the ones I met are down-to-earth people who don’t mind chatting with you, and I appreciate that. However, I have the most respect for those who do it fairly and pass on opportunities that they gain at the expense of someone else. Fair chase, in my opinion, also includes obtaining tags fairly just like everyone else who is not a celebrity has to. Maybe by some miracle we’ll learn that these guys were drawn fairly, but I won’t hold my breath.

  • denny harvey

    I agree. Kentucky runs a shoddy operation. Preference points should be considered. Also tags should be a once in a lifetime draw for successful hunters.

  • Joel Walters

    It is my understanding that the pair were given the tags that the NWTF received from the Commission. The Commission gives a limited number of tags to nonprofit organizations as a way for them to raise money. The show probably donated funds to get the tags or other possible financial considerations. Some large landowners are also given a small number of tags based on the amount of land they make available for the public to hunt. This allows people to have access to land otherwise unavailable. It can be argued that there are faults with this system, but it isn’t quite the situation you describe.

  • Allen Poe


    I think it’s bad PR. The Bone Collectors have a great show so why add a distaste to it for not getting there tags through a drawing like the rest of us. I have been in the drawing since day one and NO draw, Then I watch Waddell and company getting two tags!!! I guess as with most things it’s not what you know but who you know. Bone Collectors would have done much better to HAVE PUT THE TWO TAG IN A DRAWING FOR THE SHOW AND LET SOME AVERAGE PERSON ENTER TO WIN. Both Waddell and Mundt harvest elk almost every year, why add insult to injury to us that can’t afford a big western trip, but can afford a trip to Kentucky. I see Bone Collectors and the Kentucky Fish and Game need to make some changes to fix their image.

  • Keith Joye

    It’s simple economics…imagine how many more people will see these guys hunting elk in KY and plunk down a few bucks for the chance to draw a tag? 34000 x $10 = $340000 so if they can increase the number of applicants by, say, 50% then that is another $170000 in the state coffers…

  • Andyhugenberg

    I live and hunt in Kentucky. I used to buy chances on the elk draw. No longer! The elk restoration in Kentucky was funded by sportsman in Kentucky. Our boat tags, hunting licenses, fishing licenses fund the KDFW. Because the number of elk tags are limited, the drawing should be limited to residents of Kentucky. The KDFW receives no money from the general fund. The people who run the KDFW have no principles or morals they are now all about the money, power and attention that doling out elk tags and selling them to the highest bidder bring them. The average working man in Kentucky cannot compete with the TV stars and out of state money the elk draw brings in.

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