• Elk Hunting In Tennessee
  • Season Dates
  • Elk Biology

  • Bull Elk


    It had 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 400. 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 www.tnelkhunt.org

    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.

    Elk Hunting Permits

    Elk harvest is regulated by a quota permit system. Landowners are not exempt from this permit requirement and must be drawn for a quota permit to hunt. Fifteen (15) quota permits will be issued in 2017. One of the fifteen (15) permits will be issued to a qualifying non-profit wildlife conservation organization with all proceeds benefiting the TWRA Elk Management Program. Another one of the fifteen (15) permits will be issued to a resident Young Sportsman.

    Elk permits are valid for designated Elk Hunt Zones (EHZs) on North Cumberland WMA and on private lands in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan and Scott counties. All public land other than North Cumberland WMA is closed to elk hunting. It is the responsibility of elk permit holders to obtain verbal or written permission to hunt on private property. TWRA does not guarantee hunter access on private lands.

    After the elk permit holders have been drawn, additional hand-held drawings will be held to allocate the seven (7) open EHZs designated on the North Cumberland WMA to permit holders. Each permit holder will be allocated a separate EHZ. The Young Sportsman is able to hunt all seven (7) open EHZs.

    Check here for the application period for quota hunts.

    READ THIS: Carcass Importation laws are in effect, don't let ignorance of the law cost you a trophy of a lifetime!

  • Season Dates


    Season Type Season Dates Hunt Area Permits Bag Limit
    (Regular Hunt)
    Sep. 30- Oct. 6, 2017 EHZ's
    and Counties designated
    open by TWRA
    7 1 antlered
    elk per
    (Regular Hunt)
    Oct. 14 - 20, 2017 7 1 antlered
    elk per
    (Young Sportsman Hunt,
    Ages 13-16)
    Oct. 7-13, 2017 1* 1 antlered
    elk per

    Seven Elk Hunting Zones (EHZs) have been designated on the North Cumberland WMA. Each of the seven hunters is assigned a separate EHZ. EHZs are located on North Cumberland WMA only, located off I-75, north of Knoxville; all other public land is CLOSED to elk hunting. Hunting on private lands within the following counties is allowed with landowner permission: Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan and Scott Counties. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) importation restrictions for deer/elk apply.

    Resident youths 13-16 may apply for quota permit. Young sportsmen must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult, 21 years of age or older, who must remain in a position to take immediate control of the hunting device and who must also comply with fluorescent orange regulations, as specified for legal hunters.

    EHZs are located on North Cumberland WMA only; all other public land is CLOSED to elk hunting. Hunting on private lands within the following counties is allowed only with landowner permission: Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan and Scott Counties.

    Application Period

    The application period for the 2017 WMA Big Game Quota & Elk hunts will be available from June 14, 2017 until midnight July 26, 2017.

    Customers who are interested in applying for both the WMA quota hunt and elk quota hunt will have to submit two applications, one for each. The computer drawings will be handled separately. Quota Hunt applications can be conveniently submitted via Internet, TWRA Licensed Agent locations, or TWRA Regional Offices, via the TWRA Mobile App. Applications cannot be accepted by mail.

    All hunting seasons are closed unless opened by specific Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission Proclamation. Big game animals are deer, turkey, bear and elk.

    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 on the day of harvest.
    • The harvest location must be adequately marked so that TWRA employees can identify the harvest site. This must be accomplished by either providing GPS coordinates or accompanying a TWRA employee to the harvest site
    • 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.
  • 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.

    Semi open 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 mountains in spring, down in fall; males shed antlers Feb.– March; velvet shed in Aug.  Attains adult dentition at 2 1/2-3 years.  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.