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Elk Hunting

2023 Permit Application Schedule 

Elk | Public Land   Elk | Private Land
May 1, 8 a.m. Application period begins | Apply
(Select the Special Hunt Applications button)
May 15 Permits go on sale
May 15, 11:59 p.m. Application deadline     
June 23-24 Public land permits will be drawn at the annual Ponca Elk Festival.     


Public Land Elk Hunting Information
18 permits will be available for public draw through online applications for Arkansas's 2023 elk hunting season. All elk permits will be drawn at the Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper, scheduled for June 23-24, 2023. Winners will be notified via email and phone once the draw is concluded. Three additional on-site permits will be drawn at the festival. Only people who attend the festival in person will be eligible for the on-site permit drawing.

Public Land Elk Permit Application Requirements

  • Only Arkansas residents with a Resident Sportsman Hunting License or holders of a Lifetime Sportsman's Permit may apply. 
  • A $5 nonrefundable application fee is required to apply.
  • Applicants must be 6 or older as of the beginning of the hunt to participate (Oct. 2).
  • Applicants with 18 or more violation points are ineligible to apply.

Public Land Elk Hunt Details
Public land elk hunts are held on designated areas of the Buffalo National River, Gene Rush WMA, Richland Valley Sonny Varnell Elk Conservation Area and Bearcat Hollow WMA.

Private Land Elk Permit Requirements

  • Permits will be sold through the online license and permitting website.
  • Permits will be added to the hunter’s license.
  • There is a $5.00 application fee.
  • Applicants must be 6 or older as of the beginning of the hunt to participate.
  • It will be up to the hunter to obtain landowner permission in accordance with AGFC Code of Regulations.

Private Land Elk Hunt Details | Core Elk Management Zone Map
The Private Land Elk Hunt takes place only in the Core Elk Management Zone (Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties). All private land elk permits will be purchased through the AGFC online license and permitting website. Paper applications will no longer be accepted. The quota-based hunt system will still be used as in past years. AGFC must be contacted immediately after harvest by calling 870-204-0576 to receive check station information. Each day, hunters must call the AGFC Wildlife Hotline (833-345-0398) and select option Elk Quota Status to determine if the season quota has been met. Bull hunters must call after 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day to see if the quota has been reached. Antlerless hunters only have to call in after 8 p.m. each day. All harvested elk have to be checked online at within 12 hours of harvest. The private land elk season ends early if the quota is reached.  Limit of one elk per person, per year.

Statewide Elk Hunt Information
Any hunter outside of Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties who incidentally sees an elk while legally hunting for deer may take that elk with a limit of one, either sex per year. Hunters must call 870-204-0576 immediately after harvest for instructions on checking elk and submitting samples. 

CWD Testing Mandatory
All elk harvested in Arkansas must have CWD samples taken and submitted. The test is free, and hunters will be given the results in a timely manner. Instructions for sampling will be given when the hunter calls to check the elk as harvested. Visit the CWD page for more information.

Elk News

2023 Elk Season Dates

Core Elk Management Zone Public Land Hunts (By Drawn Permit Only)
Youth Hunts: Oct. 7-8 and Oct. 28-29, 2023
Regular Elk Hunts (youth eligible): Oct. 2-6 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 2023
Core Elk Management Zone Private Land Hunt (By Private Land Elk Permit Only)
Youth Hunts (antlerless elk only): Oct. 7-8 and Oct. 28-29, 2023
Regular Elk Hunts (youth eligible): Oct. 2-6 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 2023
Private Land Quota | Core Elk Management Zone Map
The Core Elk Management Zone Private Land Hunt only takes place in Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties and has a quota is 35 total, 10 bulls and 25 antlerless elk. Bull hunters must call 833-345-0398 after 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day to see if the quota has been reached. Antlerless hunters only have to call in after 8 p.m. each day. The season ends Nov. 3 or the evening the quota is reached, whichever comes first.
Statewide Elk Management Zone
In all counties outside the Core Elk Management Zone (Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties), hunters may take any elk they see while deer hunting with muzzleloaders and archery equipment legal for deer or with modern guns of at least .24 caliber.
Season Limit
One elk, either sex

Elk populations once numbered in the millions and occupied habitats across most of North America. Shrinking habitat and overhunting reduced these large populations to a few persistent herds in the West.

The eastern elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) lived in eastern pine and hardwood forests, and was native to Arkansas. Records indicate it persisted no later than the 1840s, and is now extinct.

The USDA Forest Service introduced Rocky Mountain elk (Cersus elaphus nelsoni) in Franklin County's Black Mountain Refuge in 1933. Three bulls and eight cows from Wichita National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma were released. This herd increased to an estimated 200 by the mid 1950s, then vanished. No one knows for sure what caused the elk to disappear. Some speculate illegal hunting, natural mortality and shrinking habitat through forest growth eventually caused their demise.

In 1981, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, in cooperation with private citizens, initiated another elk restoration project in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Between 1981 and 1985, 112 elk from Colorado and Nebraska were released in Newton County. All release sites were near the Buffalo National River.

The AGFC monitors the elk herd with the cooperation of the National Park Service. Through field observations, records on public comments and non-hunting mortalities and harvest data, the herd is estimated at about 450 animals. Arkansas's elk range covers approximately 315,000 acres, of which 85,000 are public land. Public land within the elk range include National Park Service land, a small portion of National Forest land, and the AGFC’s Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area, bordering National Park Service property along the Buffalo River.

Without suitable habitat, elk would soon disappear from Arkansas. Realizing this, state, federal and private interests have worked together to expand and improve elk habitat along the Buffalo River. Since 1992, the AGFC, cooperating with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, has done extensive habitat improvement work on Gene Rush WMA. Year-round elk use of the WMA has increased significantly, and more habitat work is planned.

The National Park Service also wants to ensure the future of the elk herd. Their efforts to create and maintain beneficial elk habitat along the 95,730-acre Buffalo National River includes conducting prescribed burns, planting wildlife friendly grasses and legumes, reclaiming old fields, maintaining hay fields and establishing native grass openings.

Elk continue to slowly expand their range toward the mouth of the Buffalo River; however suitable habitat and the potential for developing more elk habitat on the lower portion of the river is limited.

The modern day Arkansas elk hunt was established in 1998. Hunters are selected by a random draw for a limited number of public land elk permits. There also are private land permits based on a quota system. Hunters applying for private land permits must have written landowner permission to qualify for an either-sex elk permit.

Interest in Arkansas elk increases each year. Not only in hunting these animals, but viewing them as well. More Arkansans visit the Buffalo River area each year to observe and photograph these magnificent animals, especially in late September and early October when elk are breeding. The herd will never be large compared those in western states, but these elk provide an exceptional wildlife-viewing and hunting opportunity.