JEFFERSON CITY – Thousands of hunters are taking their shot at participating in the first elk hunt in modern Missouri history.

The state began taking applications for five elk hunt permits last Friday and had received 7,181 applications by Monday, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The winners of the permits will be determined in a drawing in early summer.

"Given this is the first time we have added an entirely new hunting opportunity in Missouri in many decades, it is hard to predict how many people will apply," said Aaron Hildreth, cervid biologist and elk expert for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The first elk season will include an archery portion from Oct. 17-25 and a firearms portion Dec. 12-20. The five permits will be for bull elk and will be valid for both portions.

The state's conservation department began restoring elk to Missouri in 2011 and the herd has grown to more than 200, with their range stretching into parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties.