Application Strategy 2023: Virginia elk

Information to help you apply plus draw odds

Nathan Bare

VIRGINIA’S 2023 ELK: AN OVERVIEW

If you’re a gambling person and looking to expand your elk reach to the far eastern edge of the country, then Virginia is the place to throw your name in the hat. This is the second year in a row that Virginia has offered an elk drawing and there are only a handful of licenses available. That might not sound very appealing — and it’s true that the odds of drawing are quite steep — but at a small price to enter, why not take a chance? Virginia offers elk licenses through the state draw and through a conservation raffle. The draw system is purely random with a potential for both residents and nonresidents to have a shot, but we’ll dive deeper into that later. The Virginia elk herd was reintroduced back between 2012 and 2014 from Kentucky and has grown into a healthy herd of approximately 275 animals. The licenses are valid only within the boundaries of the elk management zone (EMZ) and are valid for bull elk only. For the 2022 season, all hunters were successful with the biggest bull scoring well over 400”. There are elk that do reside outside the EMZ boundaries, but they are few and far between. Those who are unsuccessful in the elk draw who possess a valid deer tag are actually allowed to harvest a stray elk outside the EMZ if they happen to stumble on one. You’ll find more information on that below as well.

Note: The application deadline for elk in Virginia is March 30, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. You can apply online here.


State information

Be sure to view important information in regards to Virginia’s state rules and regs by going here. There you will find details on rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map of the EMZ.

You can also access the Virginia EMZ map on GOHUNT Maps. Once you're in GOHUNT Maps, select the Library, then tap on Virginia, and finally tap on Hunt Units, then turn on the Elk Management Zone.

Jump over to GOHUNT Maps here

IMPORTANT DATES AND INFORMATION

  • You may begin applying now.

  • The deadline to apply is March 30, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

  • You can apply online here.

  • Successful applicants will be notified by May 30, 2023.

  • The deadline to purchase a hunting and elk license is 30 days after being notified.

  • The 2023 season runs Oct. 14 to 20.

Apply online here


2023 Virginia License Fees

The only upfront cost is the nonrefundable elk application fee. Hunting licenses and elk licenses do not need to be purchased beforehand — only if you are successful in the draw. Costs are as follows:

Virginia elk pre-draw fees

Type of license

Resident fees

Nonresident fees

Elk application

$15

$20

Type of license

Resident fees

Nonresident fees

Elk application

$15

$20

Virginia post-draw fees (if successful)

Type of license

Three-day huntinglicense

Resident fees

NA

Nonresident fees

$60

Type of license

Annual huntinglicense

Resident fees

$23

Nonresident fees

$111

Type of license

Youth hunting license(12 to 15 years old)

Resident fees

$8.50

Nonresident fees

$16

Type of license

Elk permit

Resident fees

$40

Nonresident fees

$400

Type of license

Resident fees

Nonresident fees

Three-day huntinglicense

NA

$60

Annual huntinglicense

$23

$111

Youth hunting license(12 to 15 years old)

$8.50

$16

Elk permit

$40

$400

*Hunting and elk permit only need to be purchased if successful.


HARVEST REPORTS

All hunters, even for those who are not required to purchase a license, a harvest report must be completed through the Virginia Department Wildlife Resources’ (VDWR) telephone reporting system or through the online portal on VDWR’s website.

Licensed hunters have another option in reporting their harvest through the department's Go Outdoors Virginia mobile phone app.


The Virginia Elk Draw

Virginia’s elk draw is a true random draw. Both resident and nonresident applications go into the same bucket and are assigned a random draw number. The state starts with the first applicant and continues the draw until all slots have been filled. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will be notified by the state and will then have 30 days to purchase your hunting license and elk license. Those who are unsuccessful will be placed on an alternate list in the order their application was pulled. This is used on the chance that one of the successful applicants fails to purchase their tag within the allotted time frame, which does occasionally happen. In fact, this is how a nonresident was successful in getting an elk license for the 2022 season. The tag allocation split for resident and nonresident is a little different, which I’ll explain below:

  • No more than one or 10% (whichever is greater) of elk licenses may go to nonresidents. The award of a license to a nonresident is NOT guaranteed.

So a nonresident has the ability to draw up to one elk license. That might sound good, but let’s not forget that you are competing against all the other resident applicants as well. These are tough odds, but there is a chance.

  • A minimum of one or 10% (whichever is greater) of elk licenses will go to those living within the EMZ.

In this case, at least one elk license will be issued to a resident who lives within the designated EMZ. The rest are available to any and all residents.


Elk draw odds

For the 2022 season, there were a total of five elk licenses available for the general lottery draw and a total of 31,947 applicants. We can assume that one of those licenses is set aside for the EMZ resident, so there were four licenses available to the masses and a nonresident had the opportunity for one of them. Here are the odds from the 2022 elk draw.

Virginia elk draw odds

Residency

Resident

Draw odds

0.02%

Tags

4

Number of applications

25,194

Residency

Nonresident

Draw odds

<0.01%

Tags

1

Number of applications

6,753

Residency

Draw odds

Tags

Number of applications

Resident

0.02%

4

25,194

Nonresident

<0.01%

1

6,753

As you can see, there was a successful nonresident for the 2022 season. This lucky applicant was not one of the originals drawn in the first round. They were actually first on the alternate list. One of the successful resident applicants failed to purchase their elk license within the 30-day purchase window and this nonresident just happened to be next in line.


PARTY APPLICATIONS

  • No party applications allowed for elk applications

  • Elk licenses are non-transferable


Youth opportunities

Whether you’re a resident or nonresident, youth applicants are treated as adults in the elk drawing. There are no elk licenses set aside for youth only. Everyone is on the same playing field. If a youth applicant is drawn, there is a reduced price youth hunting license ($8.50/resident and $16/nonresident), but the elk license is still full price ($40/resident and $400/nonresident).


2023 draw and season

For the 2023 draw, there are going to be a total of five tags available again through the state’s random lottery. Based on normal draw trends, you’ll probably see a slight increase in application numbers, but it shouldn’t be enough to sway the odds one way or another. For a minimal application fee, this could be the greatest chance you’ve ever taken.

Just like last year, there is a sixth elk license available, which is reserved as a conservation license for a conservation organization to raffle off. This additional license is completely separate from the lottery drawing. Hunters who apply for the general random lottery can also purchase a raffle ticket for a chance at this sixth elk license. No residency restrictions.

The season itself is short and sweet, but based on last year's success rates, that’s all the time you are going to need. The 2023 season dates run Oct. 14 to 20. All successful license holders must read and acknowledge the elk hunting considerations prior to beginning their hunt, which will be provided in their elk hunter orientation materials.

It’s worth noting that all elk licenses are valid for bull elk only; there are currently no antlerless opportunities available.


Conservation raffle license

As previously mentioned, there is one elk license available for raffle that is completely separate from the general lottery drawing. Last year, this license was awarded to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, whic conducted the raffle and generated $93,000 for the elk habitat work in Buchanan County, VA. The successful raffle winner was a nonresident from New Mexico and was successful in taking a great bull. Whether you apply for the general lottery draw or not, you are eligible to purchase a raffle ticket.

VDWR will award this sixth elk license to a conservation organization no later than May 1, 2023. Steps on how and where to purchase a raffle ticket for this elk license will follow.


Elk Management Zone (EMZ)

Application Strategy 2023: Virginia elk - 0d

Example of the Elk Management Zone on GOHUNT Maps.


Example of the Elk Management Zone on GOHUNT Maps.

A little background on the EMZ. It was originally part of the native elk range, which dates back to 1855. In today’s world, the EMZ consists of Buchanan, Wise and Dickenson counties and the elk population is once again thriving. Since 2012, the reintroduction of elk to this region has been a huge success. Starting with about 75 elk, the herd now consists of approximately 275 elk. Within the EMZ and thanks to many landowners working closely with the VDWR, there are over 17,000 acres available to the successful license holders. Details in regards to private landowner information in partnership with the DWR will be provided to the license holders after the draw.

Opportunities outside the EMZ

Elk may be taken from any county outside the EMZ by hunters who possess a Virginia deer tag or who are license exempt. These hunters must follow deer season regulations, including hunting dates and weapon restrictions, except that any elk (bull or cow) may be taken on any day of an open deer season. The bag limit on elk outside the EMZ is one per day.

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