Between April 1st and May 1st this year, Norwegian hunters will be able to apply to hunt on almost 300 different Statskog-owned grounds. Last year, 1,000 would-be hunters applied for the lower number of 220 grounds, according to broadcaster NRK.
“Interest in hunting is still great in Norway, so we expect even greater demand this year,” Jo Inge Breisjøberget, head of Statskog, told NRK.
The high demand has prompted Statskog to find the fairest possible way of handing out its licences.
“The grounds are drawn using a Lotto machine untouched by human hands, so we cannot affect it,” said Breisjøberget.
Hunting is an important resource for keeping elk numbers under control in Norway. In February this year, a reduction of the elk population by as much as 25 percent was recommended by Midt-Troms district administrator Willy Ørnebakk, according to an NRK report, with an estimated 800-820 more elk reported to be present in the Målselv Municipality alone compared with 2014.
The practice is also a key part of Norway’s outdoors culture, with thousands of men and women taking part each year. A recent Norwegian study concluded that "significant physical and mental benefits" were to be gained from elk hunting.
Statskog controls coastal, forest and mountain areas that range from having easy road access to requiring several hours' hiking to reach.
The most popular areas for hunting are those where hunters are able to use hunting dogs and where there is a larger number of elk. These include mountainous regions in both the southern and northern parts of the country. In other areas, where wolves are prevalent, hunters tend to shy away and find other options, partly out of fear for their dogs, said Breisjøberget.
Last year, Statskog earned around 14 million kroner ($1.7 million) from 60,000 elk hunters.
“We could probably have earned a lot more. We have many large, excellent elk-populated areas. If we had put these on offer, prices could have been quite different. But we don’t do that. We aim to offer grounds to all those who want to hunt, and the price must not be exclusive,” Breisjøberget continued.
Whatever the results of the Statskog lottery, however, all hunters will have to be patient – the Norwegian elk season does not begin until September.