SPRINGFIELD, Mo (KOLR) — Five hunters from across Missouri have won the chance to hunt elk, an animal well-known in the western United States.
Francis Skalicky, with the Missouri Department of Conservation, says elk were once native to Missouri.
“The last time elk where being hunted in Missouri, Missouri was still being settled. When Lewis and Clark crossed Missouri, elk were found statewide. By the time of the Civil War, elk were scarce in Missouri, and by the late 1800s, they had disappeared,” says Skalicky.
Skalicky says elk were extrapolated from Missouri, which is different from extinction. Extrapolation, Skalicy says, means the animal is gone from a specific area. In 2011 the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) began an elk reintroduction program.
“Now, the population has grown to more than 200, and the population has reached a point to where we can have a limited hunting season, which is what this is going to be,” says Skalicky.
So for there to be an official elk hunt in Missouri is a big deal, according to Skalicky. The five winners were drawn randomly in a group of over 19,000 hunters who applied for the permit to hunt the elk.
One of the five hunters is from Mount Vernon, Joseph Benthall. The hunters could decide to use archery or a firearm. Benthall is hunting with a rifle.
Benthall told the MDC he has been deer hunting off and on for 25 years and has not hunted elk before. Benthall applied for the permit because he has always wanted to hunt elk but has not had the time or money for a trip out west.
Here are the five hunters who won:
- Bill Clark of Van Buren, who was drawn for the resident-landowner antlered-elk permit.
- Joseph Benthall of Mount Vernon, who was drawn for an antlered-elk general permit.
- Michael Buschjost of St. Thomas, who was drawn for an antlered-elk general permit.
- Samuel Schultz of Winfield, who was drawn for an antlered-elk general permit.
- Eugene Guilkey of Liberty, who was drawn for an antlered-elk general permit.
The five will hunt the elk in a 20-acre elk restoration zone covering parts of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties. The archery hunters will take part in a nine-day hunt from October 17-25, and the firearm hunters will hunt from December 12-20. Skalicky says the hunt will not interfere with public elk viewing areas at the Peak Ranch Conservation Area.