Tipton County Elk Herd

Chuck Canady, (L. to R.) and Ron Swope display several elk antlers they sell at shows like this year's Wild Indiana. Photo by: John Martino

Editors Note: We recognize that elk and deer farming are a controversial topic in Indiana.  While we steadfastly oppose high-fence hunting or the trade of genetically-engineered animals for that industry, we recognize that animal enthusiasts and hobby farmers such as Chuck Canady can legally own cervids in Indiana.

The majestic bull elk stretched out his neck, massive antlers nearly touching his back. A shrill, three note cadence pierced the damp morning air as his bugle issued a challenge to other bulls in the area.

This is something you would expect to encounter during the fall in remote wilderness areas of our western states. But this was taking place in central Indiana.

It was 1994 when Chuck Canady embarked on his first elk hunting trip. He was successful which ignited a lifelong passion for the magnificent animals. Annual hunting trips, besides being expensive, were not enough to satisfy him. After careful consideration he decided one day he wanted to become an elk farmer where he could encounter the animals on a daily basis. Their lives and his intertwined.

After years of considerable research, and a lot of work, in 2006 Canady and his wife Marcia started the Little Wildcat Elk Farm. He began by purchasing four cows that were already bred. Today 27 elk roam his rural Tipton County property. Together, with his good friend and business partner Ron Swope, they care for the animals on a daily basis. Keith Wilson, another friend and avid outdoorsman, also spends his time working at the farm.

“I love everything about them, said Canady, “and I feel fortunate to turn a hobby into my business.” Raising elk may not be as hard as some would believe. Females, or cows as they are called, are great mothers, Canady explained. “They do a fantastic job caring for their young which makes it easier on me,” he added. He also said because of their size and protective nature resident predators are not an issue. “Coyotes, foxes, dogs and larger birds of prey can cause problems for some farmers who raise domestic animals but they don’t pose any issues for elk,” Canady said thankfully.

What would motivate someone to become an elk farmer? Some landowners embark on this type of an endeavor as a way of diversifying their current farming operations. Others may do it as a hobby, like those who enjoy raising dogs. A few may do it as a way of generating another revenue stream. Then there are those, like Canady, who raise elk out of pure love and admiration for the majestic animals. However, as any smart businessman, Canady does try to make a profit in order to help sustain the herd. Feed, veterinarian care, fencing and other maintenance items can come at a costly price.

Males can grow huge antlers each year reaching impressive sizes. They are the fastest growing bone in nature, expanding up to an inch every day. Each year, in late winter or early spring, antlers fall off and the cycle begins again. The dropped antlers, or “sheds” as they are called, are often times sought by people who buy them for commercial purposes. They are used for taxidermy, knife handles, buttons, jewelry and dog chews. They are even ground up and used in some types of vitamin supplements.

Canady and Swope try to offset costs by selling the antlers, either whole or in sections. “We have people purchase them for a number of reasons, but believe it or not the dog chews are the biggest sellers,” he said with a laugh.

Raising large bulls has become a passion for Canady, who is a member of the North American Elk Breeders Association. His biggest sported over 540 inches of antler, something rarely seen in the wild. “Few things are more impressive than a huge elk,” he added. “And having quality bulls help keep the genetics of the entire herd healthy.”

“The elk industry is booming,” Canady continued. But raising these large ungulates does have an added element over raising common livestock. “Even though they can be raised domestically, deep down they are still wild animals and deserve respect,” he added. “You have to use common sense and be more cautious around them.”

If you are interested in learning about elk farming or purchasing elk related items, you can give Canady a call at (765)860-8811. “I love raising these animals,” said Canady. “Then my next favorite is talking about them,” he said with a smile.

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John Martino
Martino is a well-known outdoor writer throughout Indiana and has served as longtime outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Tribune newspaper. Martino has won numerous awards for both his writing and his service to youth, conservation and the community. He recently retired as Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kokomo and now works as Ivy Tech Executive Director for Facilities for the Kokomo region.

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