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    DWR proposes changes to upland game hunting season dates

    New rule could allow airguns for hunting turkeys, rabbits; boaters subjected to new quagga mussel regulations

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    The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing several changes to upland game and turkey hunting in the state, including a recommendation that would allow airguns during the fall turkey hunts and throughout the rabbit and hare seasons. The DWR also proposes changes to some season dates for upland game, as well as a few other proposals. The public can watch the biologists’ presentations and give their feedback online about each of the proposals.

    Quagga mussels
    Quagga mussels cover the front hull of this boat at Lake Mead. Photo courtesy of DWR

    Upland game hunting

    The DWR is proposing to slightly change the season dates for several upland game species. The proposed changes would include:

    Starting the ptarmigan hunting season on Sept. 1 rather than the fourth Saturday in August; extending the sandhill crane hunting season in the East Box Elder area from nine to 60 days (to reduce crop damage and encourage the birds to migrate sooner); holding the youth quail hunt on the last Saturday in October through the following Monday; and extending the youth pheasant season and having it run from the last Saturday in October through the following Thursday.

    “The statewide youth quail and pheasant hunts have been underutilized for years,” DWR Upland Game Coordinator Heather Talley said. “The youth quail hunt has traditionally been held beginning on the Saturday closest to Oct. 13, and we hope that moving the season dates closer to the general-season opener will increase participation in these hunts. We are also proposing to extend the youth pheasant hunt through the first Thursday in November. Many youth hunt on areas where we release pen-reared pheasants, and we would like to give them the opportunity to harvest these birds throughout the week.”

    Another proposal includes a rule change to allow airguns as a legal method of hunting for turkeys in the fall season only, as well as for hunting rabbits and hares. The air rifle would be a firearm that fires a single projectile with compressed air released from a chamber, and would be required to be a .22 caliber or larger and could fire either a pellet or slug or a broadhead-tipped bolt or arrow.

    Turkey Hunting

    One possibility is extending the Utah Wild Turkey Management Plan for three more years. Because it was originally approved as a six-year plan, it is due for revision this year; however, no significant changes are needed at this time, officials say.

    Another proposal is allowing translocation of sage-grouse broods during the summer (between May 1 and July 31) or any time of the year. Previously, only spring translocations of adults have been approved, but this proposal would give DWR biologists a chance to finish their population counts during the spring when the birds are breeding. That would allow biologists to more accurately confirm population numbers and stability before birds are relocated from an area to augment a population in another part of the state.

    DWR biologists also propose that sage grouse relocations can include adults and/or chicks to provide the best chance of success for augmenting populations.

    Another possibility is closing Wildlife Management Areas as needed for DWR-sponsored and co-sponsored public events, including for several youth pheasant hunts throughout the state, as well as clarifying the rules for tagging harvested swans. The proposed clarification states that a hunter can retrieve the carcass prior to tagging it.

    Aquatic invasive species

    This DWR proposal incorporates a new law passed during the 2020 legislative session to help prevent invasive quagga mussels from spreading throughout Utah. The new law, which takes effect July 1, includes a $20 fee for non-resident boaters who launch a watercraft on any water body in Utah. The law also requires all boat owners to complete an online education course about preventing the spread of quagga mussels, and to show proof of the course completion before they launch at a Utah water body.

    In addition, the new law requires anyone transporting a boat on a Utah highway, which includes any public road, street, bridge or other public-use structure, to remove all drain plugs from the boat and to drain all water from the live wells, bilges, ballast tanks or other similar compartments on the watercraft. Boats must be transported with all drain plugs removed. Anyone who fails to do so could be cited with a class C misdemeanor.

    Along with adding the new law to the administrative rule, the DWR proposal includes a rule clarification about watercraft with complex mechanical or water systems. Any watercraft with systems that cannot be fully drained at the boat launch are required to complete a mandatory 30-day dry time, even after receiving a professional hot-water decontamination, if DWR personnel determine that there is still a risk of quagga mussels remaining. The DWR is also proposing an administrative rule to prohibit the alteration of an attached seal or inspection sticker on a boat.

    Other proposals

    The DWR oversees a walk-in access program in Utah that provides hunters and anglers access to privately held lands and waters for the purpose of hunting, trapping, and fishing.

    In order to follow health officials’ recommendations of avoiding large gatherings to decrease the spread of COVID-19, the public meetings for these proposals will be held online. Interested parties can view the biologists’ presentations and share feedback about them on the DWR website. The presentations can also be viewed on the DWR YouTube Channel, but comments can only be submitted through the forms on the DWR website.

    The Southeastern Region RAC meeting is May 20 at 6:30 p.m. (Public comments must be submitted by May 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

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