After major changes in the Utah deer hunting program last year, the proposed changes for the 2013 season seem tame.
Utah went from a five-region general season deer hunt in 2011 to a 30-unit system last fall. Although it had nothing to do with the change, hunters killed nearly 6,500 more deer in 2012 than the 18,929 taken in 2011. State wildlife biologists believe the increase was due to the light winter of 2011-12 that led to more deer overall last fall and snow late in the general season that helped hunters find more animals.
The change to more units did, however, allow state biologists the ability to pinpoint units where more permits could be utilized and many where fewer permits should be handed out to get the unit back on targeted buck-to-doe ratio objectives.
"We have always collected the data, but we haven't been able to take away or add hunters to specific units in the past," said Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Based on big game counts after the fall hunts and this winter, Aoude and the state are proposing an overall reduction of 1,900 general buck hunting permits for the 2013 season to 84,600 permits. The recommendation, and other proposals regarding big game hunts in Utah, will be presented to the public across the state at a series of upcoming Regional Advisory Council meetings April 9-19 in sites such as Beaver, Vernal and Brigham City.
Also among the proposals:
• Decreasing limited entry deer permits from 967 to 860.
• Reducing limited entry elk permits from 2,815 to 2,784.
• Reducing moose permits from 76 to 71.
• Decreasing bison permits on the Henry Mountains from 116 to 98.
• Adding five premium limited deer permits to the Henry Mountain Unit.
• Increasing anterless elk permits by 3,219 to 17,982 overall.
"We are very pleased to see all the work that has been done by the DWR in preparation for the big game recommendations this year," said Tye Boulter, president of the United Wildlife Cooperative. "We understand that a few hunters are concerned about some of the antlerless elk hunts being proposed, but we are confident the DWR is making the right recommendations based on a growing number of elk in Utah. We are well above the statewide objective."
Utah's statewide management objective for Rocky Mountain elk is 70,965 animals. Aoude said the estimated population is well above that number and the antlerless permits will help bring it down.
Even with a higher take in the 2012 hunt, Aoude said Utah's mule deer population is growing.
"Two years ago, after the hunts in 2011, the statewide deer population was about 286,000 deer. Despite hunters taking more bucks in 2012, about 318,000 deer were still in the state after the hunts were over last fall," he said. "That's encouraging. It shows the overall deer population is growing."
That's good news to Utah deer hunters.
"It is great to hear our deer herd is increasing in most areas of the state. Favorable weather can do quite a bit, but we still need to do more to alleviate mortality from vehicles and poaching, ever increasing on their native habitat, as well as restoring rangelands that are in poor condition due to fire suppression and overgrazing," Boulter said. "We encourage everyone who enjoys hunting big game in Utah to get involved by informing themselves about what is going on by attending the upcoming meetings."
Hear the big game hunting proposals for 2013
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is holding a series of Regional Advisory Council meetings across the state to discuss proposed changes to big game hunting in 2013. Public comments will be taken at the meetings and shared with the Utah Wildlife Board, which will make a decision on the regulations in a meeting in Salt Lake City on May 2.
April 9 • Southern Region, 5 p.m., Beaver High School, 195 E. Center St., Beaver
April 10 • Southeastern Region, 6:30 p.m., John Wesley Powell Museum, 1765 E. Main St., Green River
April 11 • Northeastern Region, 5 p.m., DWR Northeastern Region Office, 318 N. Vernal Ave., Vernal
April 16 • Central Region, 6:30 p.m., Springville Public Library Meeting Room, 45 S. Main St., Springville
April 18 • Northern Region, 6 p.m., Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West, Brigham City