Utah Wildlife Board approves changes to weapon technology use, mandatory harvest reporting for general-season deer and elk hunts and other items
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Looking down at a buck deer on the Nash Wash

Utah Wildlife Board approves changes to weapon technology use, mandatory harvest reporting for general-season deer and elk hunts and other items

Salt Lake City — During a public meeting Tuesday, the Utah Wildlife Board approved several changes to big game hunting that will go into effect in 2024. Some of the changes affect the weapon technology allowed for various hunts, as well as requiring mandatory harvest reporting for general-season deer and elk hunts. A few other changes were also approved during the meeting.

Changes to archery and muzzleloader technology

Looking down at a buck deer on the Nash Wash

In January 2022, the Utah Wildlife Board asked the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to create a technology committee to address the increased use of new technology in hunting. The committee — made of a diverse group of stakeholders — has met nine times since April 2022 and has proposed a variety of changes since then.

"The goals of the committee are to preserve hunting traditions into the future, help wildlife managers meet their objectives in species management plans and to increase opportunities for hunters," DWR Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative Coordinator Blair Stringham said.

After assessing the committee's feedback and recommendations, the board voted to approve the following changes, which will go into effect in 2024:

  • Remove the length restrictions on arrows and bolts for airgun, archery and crossbow hunting in Utah.
  • Prohibit the use of scopes stronger than 1× power on muzzleloaders for all muzzleloader hunts. This restriction would apply to all big game muzzleloader hunts, including general-season, limited-entry, management, and handgun-archery-muzzleloader-shotgun-straight walled rifle-only hunts. Scopes of any power will still be allowed on muzzleloaders during any-legal-weapon hunts, and visual-impairment certificates of registration for scopes would still be allowed. Otherwise, only open sights, peep sights, a red dot or scopes with 1× power or less will be allowed on muzzleloaders in those hunts.

Harvest survey requirements

Harvest surveys have been required for all limited-entry big game hunts in Utah for approximately the past 20 years. This year, mandatory harvest reporting was implemented for all the 2023 antlerless hunts. The Utah Wildlife Board voted to require mandatory harvest reporting for all of the general-season buck deer and bull elk hunts in Utah as well, beginning in 2024. This will include:

  • General-season buck deer
  • Dedicated hunter buck deer
  • Youth general-season buck deer
  • General-season archery elk
  • Spike bull elk
  • Multi-season spike bull elk
  • Any bull elk
  • Youth general-season elk

"Hunters have been requesting this data for years, and technology now makes it easier to conduct these surveys and collect this information after the hunts," DWR Big Game Projects Coordinator Kent Hersey said. "This will also help us to maintain more comprehensive and quality harvest data and will provide better insights into Utah's big game hunts."

Starting in 2024, permit holders will have 30 days to report the results of their hunt after their hunting season ends. Anyone who doesn't report will be excluded from the following year's big game and antlerless applications. Beginning in 2025, anyone who reports their information late will be required to pay a fee of $50 to be eligible for the following year's big game hunting applications.

Changes to pronghorn translocation sites

Severe winter snowfall and extreme drought impacted some of Utah's pronghorn populations over the past several years. As a result, the board voted to approve some changes to where pronghorn could be translocated to in the coming years. Pronghorn will be relocated from other parts of Utah where populations are thriving and will help bolster populations in negatively impacted areas. The board approved adding eight pronghorn units across Utah to the list of pronghorn populations that could potentially be augmented.

Dedicated Hunter Program amendments

The Dedicated Hunter Program is a service-based hunting program that allows participants to have more time to hunt deer each year. There are 7,800 people who currently participate in the program. Participants are required to complete 32 hours of DWR-approved service (or pay for their hours) in order to qualify for deer permits through the program. They enroll in the program for a three-year period and can harvest two deer during that period if they meet the service requirements.

In order to simplify the program and to accommodate other changes, the board voted to approve a few administrative changes, including:

  • Redistributing the minimum service hour requirements. Now, participants will be required to finish a minimum of six hours of service in their first year in the program, instead of eight. They will still be required to finish an additional 16 hours during their second year, and 10 more hours of service in their third year in the program.
  • Revising the procedure for one-year extensions given to Dedicated Hunters who draw a limited-entry buck deer permit in the Utah big game drawing. This change would automatically apply a one-year extension to the hunter's enrollment in the program.
  • Removing the requirement for returning paper permits in order to report a non-harvest on a hunt. Dedicated Hunter harvest reporting will occur via a new online method instead, which would allow for consistency with the new mandatory harvest-reporting proposal.

The board also voted to have the DWR provide a yearly update to the board on how the funds generated from the Dedicated Hunter program were allocated that year.

Changes to CWMU and LOA permits, rules and committee members

The Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit program is a DWR program that allocates hunting permits to private landowners who then provide hunting opportunities to public and private hunters for a variety of wildlife species. The CWMU program in Utah has opened more than 2 million acres of private land to the public for hunting. The program provides an incentive to landowners to maintain their land as open spaces, improve the areas that serve as wildlife habitat and work with the DWR to manage for increased wildlife populations.

The board voted to approve seven new CMWUs, 78 CWMUs that want to renew their participation in the program and eight CWMUs that have requested specific changes. If approved, these 93 CWMUs — along with another 38 that don't need any type of approval this year — would result in a total of 131 CWMUs for the 2024 hunting season. The board approved allocating 1,848 private permits and 306 public permits for those 93 CWMUs.

The DWR also oversees the Landowner Association program. This program helps build tolerance for wildlife on private lands within limited-entry units by providing transferable vouchers for hunting permits for those landowners whose properties are located on limited-entry hunting units and provide habitat for deer, elk or pronghorn. Depending on the amount of private land enrolled in the LOA program, the association receives a percentage of the total number of limited-entry permits for bull elk, buck deer or buck pronghorn on the unit where the association properties are located.

The board also approved a few changes to the LOA program, including:

  • An option allowing an LOA to hunt only the private property participating in the program. This removes the public access requirement, and still requires over 50% of the private land that is habitat in the unit to be enrolled in the program.
  • Creating a special drawing for landowners on limited-entry units that are not enrolled in an LOA. The landowners must have at least 640 acres of habitat and up to 5% above the total number of unit permits would be available in the drawing with a minimum of one permit. The landowner also can't sell permits or charge trespass fees.
  • Creating a general-season landowner permit that is only valid on private property. The landowner must have 640 acres of habitat and up to 6% above the total unit permits can be issued over the counter. These permits can be sold.

The board also approved some new members to serve on the LOA advisory committee.

Hunt structure research study

As part of the big game recommendations, the DWR had proposed to implement different deer-hunting strategies on five hunting units in southern Utah from 2024–27 as part of a research study. The purpose of the study would be to determine if hunt restrictions based on antler points, weapon technology and/or season length can improve mule deer population performance, hunting opportunity or hunter satisfaction in Utah.

However, the board voted to not approve the proposal during Tuesday's meeting and to instead refer it to the mule deer committee for further evaluation.

Other items

The board also voted to implement an extension to the timeline for transitioning the West Desert, Deep Creek elk hunting unit from a limited-entry bull elk hunting unit to a general-season any bull elk hunting unit (as part of the Utah Statewide Elk Management Plan that was approved in December 2022). Much of the elk habitat on the Deep Creek mountain range includes tribal trust lands belonging to the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, and consultation and collaboration with the tribe is ongoing.

The board also approved some changes to bison hunting on the Book Cliffs, Little Creek/South hunting unit, due to unusual animal movements and migrations in 2023. Those changes include closing a muzzleloader cow bison hunt on the Book Cliffs, LIttle Creek/South unit (hunt #6533) to the public hunt drawing for the 2024 hunting season, as well as extending the season dates for 14 permit holders from the 2023 season to allow them to continue hunting next fall. This is a one-time change, and the DWR will re-evaluate the hunt structure for the Book Cliffs bison hunts for the future.

Lastly, the board voted to approve a few clerical corrections to the Collection, Importation, and Possession of Animals rule. The rule was updated and approved by Utah Wildlife Board on June 8, but a few species had been incorrectly classified in the rule at that time.

You can watch the full meeting on the Utah Department of Natural Resources YouTube channel.

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