If you are looking for a unique experience in Utah’s outdoors, consider applying for permits to hunt greater sage grouse, sandhill crane, swan or sharp-tailed grouse this fall. The application period for these four Utah bird hunts opened Wednesday, July 1.
Qualifying to hunt most bird species in Utah is simple: buy a combination or small game license and head afield. However, some bird species also require a special permit in addition to a hunting license. Those species include band-tailed pigeon, tundra swan, sharp-tailed grouse, greater sage grouse, white-tailed ptarmigan, sandhill crane and turkey.
The permits for band-tailed pigeon and white-tailed ptarmigan are available for free, starting at 8 a.m. July 30 on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website or from any license agent. The permits for greater sage grouse, sandhill crane, swan and sharp-tailed grouse are available through the Utah hunt drawing. You can apply for those permits from July 1-16.
“These permits provide a unique opportunity for hunters to pursue species that aren’t widely available everywhere,” said Blair Stringham, DWR migratory game bird program coordinator. “Utah is one of only nine states that allows swan hunting, and sage grouse can only be found in the western United States. It’s a great chance for people to do something different and have an incredible outdoors experience.”
If you hunt mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons, sandhill cranes, geese, ducks, coots or snipes, you are required to register in the Migratory Bird Harvest Information program. It is free to register and Utah has a simple, online HIP registration process. And if you are over 16 years old, you must purchase a federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp, often referred to as a “duck stamp,” if you are hunting waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans, coots and snipes). Those stamps can be purchased at your local post office, from some license agents or by phone at 1-800-782-6724.
To participate in the hunt drawing, you must apply for permits through the DWR website no later than 11 p.m. MDT on July 16. You should be notified of your drawing results by Aug. 3.
If you’re not going to hunt swans, grouse or cranes this year, you can still apply for a preference point. Hunters with preference points have a better chance of obtaining a permit for the following year.
If you have questions about applying for a permit, call 1-800-221-0659 or the nearest DWR office.
The hunting season dates for the white-tailed ptarmigan and sandhill crane hunts were recently changed during the Utah Wildlife Board meeting on June 4. The hunting seasons for the birds that require a permit in Utah are as follows:
Band-tailed pigeon: Sept. 1-14.
Sharp-tailed grouse: Sept. 26 to Oct. 18.
Greater sage grouse: Sept. 26 to Oct. 18.
Tundra swan: Oct. 3 to Dec. 13.
White-tailed ptarmigan: Sept. 1-Oct. 31.
Sandhill crane: Sept. 5-13 for Cache and Rich counties; Sept. 5 to Nov. 3 for east Box Elder County; Oct. 3-22 for early hunt in Uintah County, Oct. 23 to Nov. 11 for middle hunt in Uintah County and Nov. 12 to Dec. 1 for late hunt in Uintah County.
Turkeys: Multiple turkey hunts take place in both fall and spring. For season dates and how to obtain permits, see the 2020-2021 Utah Upland Game & Turkey Guidebook.
For more information about the hunts listed above — and how to obtain permits — see the 2020-2021 Utah Upland Game & Turkey Guidebook or the 2020-2021 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook.
Utah’s trial hunting program
If you are new to hunting and wondering where to start, you might want to try Utah’s Trial Hunting Program. This program allows you to tag along and hunt upland game or waterfowl with a licensed hunter who is over 21. You can try this for up to three years before you are required to take hunter education yourself.
Faith Jolley is the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesperson.