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.
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!