Historically many wildlife species, including whitetail deer, elk, turkey and ruffed grouse, were common across Kentucky.
Then following a myriad of disrupting factors, primarily human encroachment and habitat loss, deer, turkey, and grouse numbers plummeted. Native elk were actually eliminated from Kentucky, the last one having been recorded around 1860.
Following decades of restoration work deer and turkey have recovered to near pre-settlement levels and are thriving. Kentucky has become a destination state for both deer and turkey hunters. Elk were re-introduced about 20 years ago and have flourished beyond anyone’s expectations. Kentucky is currently home to the largest free ranging elk herd East of the Mississippi River and, annually, the number of applications for a Kentucky elk tag far exceeds the number of tags available.
Grouse, however, are still struggling.
Zac Danks is working to change that. But he knows that it will be an uphill struggle. And the reason has as much to do with politics and marketing as it does biology and wildlife management.