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Elk Hunting In Tennessee

Elk in a field

It has been about 150 years since elk wandered throughout Tennessee. Early records indicated that elk were abundant in the state prior to being settled by European explores and colonists. As these settlers moved westward the elk population declined.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) decided to reintroduce elk to the state in the late 1990’s. Part of the agency’s mission is to restore extirpated wildlife when and where it is biologically and sociologically feasible. Beginning in December 2000, the agency began conducting small releases of elk from Elk Island National Park (AL, Canada) into the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. There were 201 elk in total that were released over a period of eight years.

It is currently estimated that the Tennessee elk herd numbers a little over 300 head strong. With this estimate, in 2009, Tennessee announced their first ever elk hunt in almost 150 years. For more information on Tennessee’s elk hunts visit

Several partners have been involved with the project and contributed by doing the things they do best. The partners include the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation, Parks Canada, Campbell County Outdoor Recreation Association, Tennessee Wildlife Federation, University of Tennessee and the U.S. Forest Service and TWRA. Recently, the Safari Club International (SCI) and the Chattanooga Chapter of SCI have also assisted with funding.

2014 Elk Hunt

Season Dates

Season Type Season Dates Permits Bag Limit
(Regular Hunt)
Oct. 20 - 24, 2014 5 1 antlered
elk per
(Young Sportsman Hunt,
Ages 13-16)
Oct. 25-26, 2014 1* 1 antlered
elk per

Tennessee’s sixth elk hunt is scheduled to be held Oct. 20 - 24, 2014 at the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area, located off I-75, north of Knoxville. Five Elk Hunting Zones (EHZs) have been designated on the North Cumberland WMA. Each of the five hunters is assigned a separate EHZ.

*The Young Sportsman elk hunt is scheduled to be held Oct. 25-26, 2014. The youth hunter is allowed to use all 5 EHZs. A youth entering the draw must select the regular elk hunt or youth elk hunt.

Get more information at

Application Period

The application period for the 2014 Elk Hunt has ended.
Check Your Quota Hunt Application Status

Special Regulations

  • Hunters will be assigned an EHZ as designated by TWRA. However, if during the course of the hunt, one hunter remains with an unfilled tag, that hunter may be re-assigned an EHZ according to TWRA specifications.
  • Upon harvesting an elk, the hunter must immediately attach the elk harvest tag provided by TWRA to the carcass. All harvested elk must be checked out at the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area
    Office before leaving the Wildlife Management Area.
  • The harvest location must be clearly marked with flagging tape. The location must be adequately marked so that TWRA employees can identify the harvest site. This must be accomplished by doing one of the following:
    • Providing GPS coordinates
    • Accompanying a TWRA employee to the harvest site
    • Flagging a trail that can be easily followed from the harvest site to a road
  • Use or possession of electronic tracking equipment is prohibited.
  • Bugling or calling of elk is prohibited within the EHZs during all elk hunts except by permitted hunters and their assistants.

Elk Biology

Cervus canadensis

Height 4-5 ft. (122-152 cm). Wt.: males, 700-1000 lbs. (315-450 kgs); females, 500-600 lbs. (225-270 kgs). Beam length of antlers to 64 3/8 in. (164 cm); record spread 75 in. (188 cm). A large deer with pale yellowish rump patch, small white tail, general reddish-brown body (chestnut-brown neck with a mane in males), and huge spreading antlers on males in late summer and autumn.  Skull (Plate 32) has 34 teeth.  There are 4 mammae.

The Dwarf, or Tule Elk, now confined to a reserve in Kern Co., California, is considered a distinct species (C. nannodes) by some authors.  Some would place the N. American Elk in the Old World species elaphus.

Similar species

  • Moose has a large overhanging snout and brown rump.
  • Mule Deer is smaller and has black on the tail.
  • Whitetail Deer is smaller; no rump patch.
  • Woodland Caribou has whitish neck.

Semiopen forest, mt. meadows (in summer), foothills, pains, and valleys.

Most active mornings and evenings.  Usually seen in groups of 25 or more; both sexes together in winter, old bulls in separate groups during summer.  Feeds on grasses, herbs, twigs, bark.  Migrates up mts. In spring, down in fall; males shed antlers Feb.– March; velvet shed in Aug.  Attains adult dentition at 2 1/2-3years.  Calf has high-pitched squeal when in danger; cow has similar squeal, also sharp bark when traveling with herd; males have high-pitched bugling call that stars with a low note and ends with a few low-toned grunts, heard during rutting season, especially at night.  Lives 14 years (25 in captivity).  Females breed at 2 1/2 years.  Rut starts in Sept.; old males round up harems.

Born May-June; normally 1, rarely 2; gestation period about 8 1/2 months.  Spotted.  Able to walk a few minutes after birth.

Economic status
Can do considerable damage to vegetables, pastures, grainfields, and haystacks; a prize game mammal for meat and trophies; formerly ranged over much of continent, now restricted.  There have been numerous attempts to reestablish them, some successful, others not.  May be seen commonly in following national parks: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Olympic, Glacier, Rocky Mt., Banff, and Jasper; also other places where they have been introduced.  Apparently established on Afognak I., Alaska (not on map). 

Source: Peterson’s Field Guide, Third Edition. 1976.