DWR announces 2019 big game hunts

A mule deer is photographed in northern Utah. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recommends expanding the number of big game permits it will issue this year.
Photo courtesy of UDWR

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists have released their recommendations for the 2019 big game hunts and are asking for the public’s feedback, according to a statement from DWR spokesperson Faith Jolley.

DWR big game coordinator Covy Jones said that the recommended number of hunting permits each year is based on a few factors.

“There is always an opportunity-vs.-quality debate when it comes to managing wildlife, but for us, biology and the health of the herd always come first. As a result, plans are an essential part of effective wildlife management.”

Several big game populations are doing quite well in Utah, and biologists are recommending an increase in permits for several hunts this fall, including for doe deer and for buck and doe pronghorn, said Jolley.

Deer

Biologists said that the statewide deer population increased slightly in 2018, bringing the total to 372,500 deer in Utah.

“The increase was primarily due to the growth of deer populations in the central and northern portions of the state,” Jones said. “The total statewide deer population increased by about 8,850 animals.”

Pronghorn

Utah’s pronghorn management plan was revised in the fall of 2017, and the populations are doing well. Biologists are recommending an additional 115 doe pronghorn permits, as well as several additional doe pronghorn hunts, and an additional 180 buck pronghorn permits.

Data collected in Utah and other states suggests that, excluding bucks that are taken by hunters, survival rates for pronghorn bucks are relatively low (typically less than 80 percent). The data also suggests that buck pronghorns attain most of their horn size by two years of age.

“Due to the 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. Now that we are managing for younger animals, we can offer more hunting opportunities this fall, while still providing a quality opportunity for hunters.”

Buck pronghorn permit numbers were also increased in 2018, said Jolley.

New hunts

Several new hunts were also proposed to help manage doe deer, cow elk and doe pronghorn populations. Biologists recommended adding five new doe deer hunts in 2019 to help address declining range conditions in certain parts of the state and to help reduce deer depredation on private lands. They also recommended adding 18 new cow elk hunts and eight new doe pronghorn hunts, Jolley said.

A new rule amendment was also proposed which would allow handgun-archery-muzzleloader-only hunts for big game. Weapons used in these hunts would have to meet current specifications in the rules, including additional pistol specifications. No scopes would be allowed on the weapons used in these hunts. Hunter orange would not be required on these hunts if they occurred outside an area where the any weapon general-season bull elk or any weapon general-season buck deer hunts were occurring, said Jolley.

“There has been a desire from local hunters to have hunts using less technology,” Jones said.

If approved, this type of hunt would be added in a future management plan. It won’t take place during the 2019 hunting season.

Give feedback

All of the proposed changes can be viewed on the DWR website. After reviewing the proposals, the public can give feedback via email or by attending one of the upcoming Regional Advisory Council meetings.

Email addresses for the RAC members are available on the DWR website. The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each member’s email address, and the public should direct their feedback to the RAC member in their area who represents their specific interest, Jolley said.

The Southeastern Region meets at 6:30 p.m. April 17 at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main Street in Green River.