Elk viewing is growing in popularity in the mountains ... so much so that three eastern Kentucky state parks are expanding their number of fall and winter tours to keep up with the demand.
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park officials are doubling the number of elk tours they offered last fall. The number of tours is also up at Jenny Wiley and Pine Mountain State Parks ... And they're getting booked faster than ever.
Buckhorn's elk tour program supervisor Susan Thomas says, "I think word's getting out, of course with our gas prices as people are staying closer to home."
People from all over the country have plans to see the majestic animals during mating season, which starts this time of year.
"Now in September and October you can hear the bugle of the elk, so it's easy to find them then," says Thomas.
Park officials will start their tours with this new informational video from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This year Buckhorn guides are taking tourists to this re-claimed coal mining land in Knott County.
Tour bus driver Jason Eversole says, "They'll be down in the open areas feeding just before they go back in the timber line."
"It looks like they've got good foliage up here," adds Thomas
Average elk weigh about 900 pounds, but Jason Eversole looks for 1500-pound animals here.
Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo says, "We suspect that we will have a world record elk in eastern Kentucky within the next five years. There are no natural predators in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and the winters aren't as harsh as the western part of this country."
"I see the economy getting better in this area due to the fact that we have elk," says Eversole.
With overnight tour packages at 150 dollars per couple, tours are growing source of revenue at Buckhorn. The elk tour alone is 30 dollars.
Additional elk tours are taking place at an Elk Expo September 12th and 13th at the Knott County Sportsplex.