JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — A person driving past Kaufman Farms on Jelloway Road can be excused for doing a double-take as he passes the fenced field at the intersection with Jefferson Road. After all, how often do you pass a herd of elk in Ohio?
Ron Kaufman acquired his new hobby about two years ago. He was driving in the Wooster area, on his way to check out some dove fields, when he spotted a sign advertising elk for sale.
He was curious, so he stopped — and wound up buying a herd of 13 elk.
Although elk have been returned to the wild in Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Ohio has no native wild elk, although that was not always the case. The Muskingum River gets its name from a Delaware word usually translated as “elk eye river.”
Although abundant when settlers arrived in Ohio, elk were gone from the state by the mid-19th century.
Today, elk in the state are raised by farmers. They are considered livestock and come under the authority of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Natural Resources.
In recent years there have been a few cases of elk being shot by deer hunters in Ohio, but they have been animals which escaped or which wandered in from Pennsylvania or Michigan.
Kaufman doesn’t have a regular market for his elk. Right now, they’re primarily a hobby and he enjoys watching the animals from his nearby house.
He’s only sold one animal, a six-year-old bull who was beating up the younger males and gored one so badly it had to be euthanized.
That’s still the only one they’ve butchered and the bull is the only one he’s sold.
The meat, he said, “is delicious.”Somebody once said, he added, that “elk tastes like what beef should taste like.”
He would like to eventually have a market so the elk could help pay for themselves, but for now he simply enjoys watching them.
Kaufman said there are places that will buy elk meat, and there are markets for the antlers. Fully-developed antlers are often used for decorations while antlers harvested while still in velvet are sold in some Asian markets, where they are used as an aphrodisiac, although that market has been down in recent years. Animals are also purchased by breeders and game farms.
“There is no regular market locally,”Kaufman said. “It would be nice if a local restaurant would offer elk burgers on their menu.”
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