Wharton: Deer hunt proposals would limit opportunity, increase costs
The Division of Wildlife Resources is offering two proposals that will reduce the number of general deer permits by between 7,000 and 13,000 annually from the current 94,000. If this happens, the cost of a hunting tag will almost certainly go up.
These radical ideas, designed to increase the number of bucks available to hunters, continue a disturbing trend to make it more difficult for families to hunt together by continuing to reduce opportunity.
There are actually three proposals. The best basically keeps the present system. In Utah's general season, hunting areas are managed so biologists can find at least 15 bucks per 100 does when the fall season is complete. There are 94,000 available permits, all of which usually sell out quickly, as well as options to apply for other specialty hunts.
The other two proposals for 2011 would raise that management goal to 18 bucks per 100 does. There is no real biological need to do this. The only goal is to provide more and larger bucks for the lucky hunters who manage to get a permit. Reducing hunters and opportunity during the general season is the only way to reach this goal.
The DWR's preferred option would continue the system of hunting within the five regions Utah operates, though areas within those regions would be managed separately. Under this proposal, the number of hunters afield would be reduced by about 7,000. There is little doubt that the cost of permits would be raised to make up for the lost revenue.
In another even more radical proposal, the state's deer hunting areas would be split into 29 units, each being managed individually to reach the goal of 18 bucks per 100 does. This would reduce the number of permits by about 13,000 and likely result in an even steeper price increase. Under this proposal, archery hunters would likely be required to hunt within a single unit instead of being able to hunt statewide. It would also require changes to the Dedicated Hunter program.
The suspicion here is that many average hunters may not be paying attention to this proposal, especially since it comes soon after most of the big-game seasons are over and right in the heart of waterfowl and some upland game hunts.
That is no doubt fine with many of those hunters favoring the change. These folks, many more interested in the trophy aspects of hunting, know how to work the system, often hijacking the process from the average sportsmen.
I fear that the average hunter is slowly but surely abandoning the sport because regulations are too complicated, permits are getting too expensive and tags are so difficult to obtain because of demand that families find it difficult to hunt together.
It's not as if those who want a trophy buck don't have that opportunity. There are limited entry, premium limited entry and conservation wildlife management units permits available to meet that need. The very rich can also bid for a conservation permit.
The key point to remember is that these proposals are only designed to increase the number of bucks for hunters.
The bottom line of this proposal is that Utah deer hunters will have fewer opportunities to obtain a hunting permit and, if they are successful, will have to pay more. And the only reason to do this is to make it easier to bag a trophy buck.
The whole idea of getting a trophy is to outsmart a creature who has managed to survive longer than its peers. The easier it is to kill a trophy, the less of a trophy it is.
Hunters who want to comment on this proposal can either attend Regional Advisory Council meetings Tuesday in Brigham City, Wednesday in Springville, Nov. 16 in Beaver, Nov. 17 in Green River and Nov. 18 in Vernal.
They can also provide comments via e-mail to council members.
E-mail addresses can be obtained at http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.
The Utah Wildlife Board will make the final decision when it meets on Dec. 2.