Prized Tennessee elk hunting permit available via raffle versus auction
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is offering up a prized Tennessee Elk Hunting Permit via a raffle-style system for the upcoming season, rather than an auction as has been done in the past. Tickets are already only on sale at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation website.
TWRA provides a total of 15 elk hunting permits. Fourteen of those permits are issued via a random computer drawing. However one of those 15 permits has always been provided to a "non-government organization" for sale. Traditionally that permit has always been sold via auction on eBay. The single NGO hunting permit has sold at auction for as low as $6,800 up to $17,000 the first year it was ever offered.
The raffle for the NGO permit is being administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, a self-regulating, non-profit organization that works in association with TWRA. Participants pay $10 for each chance in the raffle. In addition to the hunting permit, Bass Pro Shops will award the winner a Tikka T3X Lite Stainless bolt-action rifle in 7mm Rem Mag topped with an Oculus Pro Team HD 3x9x40mm rifle scope. There is not a limit on the number of chances a hunter can buy.
The coveted tag winner will be chosen on August 15, 2018 with the recipient announced at the August meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. The proceeds of the raffle will benefit elk habitat restoration efforts in Tennessee.
TWRA recommended Thursday that they will "sweeten the pot" for the NGO permit by designating it specifically for Elk Hunting Zone #1, the zone that they say has become well-known as the most prized area in the elk hunting area on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area north of Knoxville. In addition, if the lucky recipient does not take an elk during the seven days designated for the regular elk hunt, they will be allowed to hunt for an additional seven days in any other elk hunt zone of his or her choosing.
Officials say the raffle-style system for the NGO permit will allow thousands of hunters to participate in the process versus the few dozen that would usually bid in the previous eBay auctions. In reality, there were probably only about a half-dozen people participating in the auctions with enough money to have a chance at the NGO permit. Wildlife officials say that virtually everyone can afford at least $10. They say that as of Thursday morning 181 raffle tickets had already been sold even though the program hasn't even been officially announced.
In addition biologists are proposing that hunters who apply for the 14 random computer drawn permits will be required to designate specifically which Elk Hunt Zones they prefer. That change could potentially increase, or lessen, each individual's chances of being successful in the random draw depending upon the hunt zone(s) they designate.
TWRA Elk Program Leader Brad Miller also recommended that they allow "incidental take of elk by deer hunters in non-restoration counties." The official elk restoration zone includes 670,000 acres in five counties (map above). However Miller said there have been elk sighted well outside that area in places such as Cocke, Sevier and Jefferson counties. Miller said those animals could be coming into Tennessee from elk populations in North Carolina or Kentucky. Miller recommended that wildlife commissioners vote to allow licensed deer hunters to be allowed to take those animals if they happen to see one during the regular deer hunting season.
More information about the 2017-2018 hunting seasons will be forthcoming with the opportunity for the public to comment. The recommendations made Thursday will not be voted on by wildlife commissioners until their meeting May 16-17.