Tick, tock. The clock is running on your chance to win what might be the most coveted big-game tag in America, one of 125 permits for a trophy Kentucky bull elk.

You heard right. Elk hunting is alive and very well east of the Mississippi, and Kentucky’s management of wapiti make it one of the most remarkable wildlife restoration stories in American history.

You can participate in the story, but time’s running out. Tonight (April 30) is the deadline to enter the lottery to win one of 800 permits to hunt Bluegrass State elk this fall. Go to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ excellent web site to get an overview of the lottery and hunting opportunities, then follow links to enter the drawing.

It costs only $10 to enter the lottery, but the payoff is rich, indeed. The state plans to issue 600 antlerless elk permits, but the rich fruit is the 125 trophy-bull permits that will be issued. Another 75 permits are for spikes, or immature bulls with up to two points on each antler. The spike permits are new for this year.

Thanks to thousands of acres of suitable habitat, much in the state’s Coal Belt, and help from volunteer sportsmen and groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Kentucky’s elk herd now stands at about 10,000 head, more than all the other states east of the Mississippi River combined.

The management is so restrained, and the habitat is so good, that trophy bulls are being produced every fall. Some observers think Kentucky has the potential to produce a bull that might contend for a world record, pushing 500 inches of antler mass.

But you know the old saw: you can’t play if you don’t pay. And for $10, every would-be elk hunter in America should be playing.