Buck deer, buck pronghorn, bull moose and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are among the animals for which Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are recommending a permit increase.
Covy Jones, big game coordinator for the DWR, says most of the state’s big game species are doing well. “If you enjoy hunting or viewing big game,” Jones said. “It’s a great time to live in Utah.”
Starting March 19, all of the DWR’s big game permit recommendations should be available at wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.
“The recommendations are arranged by unit,” Jones said. “You can visit the web page and zero in on the units you applied for.”
Learn more, share your ideas
After reviewing the ideas at wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings, hunters can let Regional Advisory Council members know about concerns by attending an upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an email to them.
RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on April 26 to approve big game permit numbers for Utah’s 2018 hunts.
Hunters can also provide comments to RACs via email. Email addresses for RAC members are available at wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/rac-members.html.
The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person’s email address. Hunters should direct emails to the people on the RAC who represent their interests.
While all of Utah’s big game species are doing well, Jones is especially excited about the following:
General buck deer
After the deer hunts are over each fall, DWR biologists go afield and classify the number of bucks, does and fawns on each unit.
On 11 of Utah’s 29 general season units, biologists want to see 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does. On the remaining 18 units, the objective is 18 to 20 bucks per 100 does.
Based on the number of bucks observed after the hunts last fall, biologists are comfortable allowing more permits on 10 units. On six units, they’re recommending a permit decrease. On 13 units, permit numbers would stay the same as 2017.
On most of the units where an increase is recommended, the general rifle hunt has been split into two hunts — an early hunt in September and a later hunt in October.
“Permits will be split between two hunts,” Jones said. “That should help reduce hunter crowding and hopefully allow everyone to have a good experience.”
A new management plan for pronghorn will give more hunters a chance to hunt buck pronghorn in Utah this fall.
Data collected in Utah and other states suggest two things about buck pronghorn in the West: excluding bucks that are taken by hunters, survival rates for bucks are relatively low (typically less than 80 percent). And they attain most of their horn size by two years of age.
“Because of these lower survival rates, and because most of their horn growth occurs by two years of age, it doesn’t make sense to manage for older animals,” Jones said.
Utah’s pronghorn management plan was revised in fall 2017. “The plan directs us to manage the population such that the average age of pronghorn taken by hunters is between two and three years of age,” he added.
In past years, most pronghorn taken by hunters in Utah were almost four years old.
“Because we are now managing for younger animals, we can offer more hunting opportunities this fall while still providing a quality opportunity for hunters,” Jones said.
In the case of Rocky Mountain bighorns, a new population on the Oak Creek Mountains has increased to the point that hunters can take a few rams.
“And the population on the Newfoundland Mountains is doing really well,” Jones said. “We’re excited that more Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep opportunities might be offered in Utah this fall.”