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Bull elk

DWR proposes decrease in general-season deer, antlerless permits for 2020 hunts

Salt Lake City — Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists recommended a decrease in the number of general-season permits for the 2020 deer hunt and are asking for the public's feedback on a variety of big game proposals.

Bull elk
Bull elk

The current mule deer management plan, which was approved by the Utah Wildlife Board in December 2019, has an objective of 18–20 bucks per 100 does on 18 general-season hunting units and an objective of 15–17 bucks per 100 does on the other 11 general-season hunting units. In order to manage toward these objectives, DWR biologists are recommending a total of 80,725 general-season permits for the 2020 deer hunt, a decrease of 9,175 permits from 2019. Nineteen of the 29 general-season hunting units will have decreased permits, with no changes on the other units.

"In 2019, the statewide deer population estimate decreased by approximately 51,000 animals to a total of just over 321,000 deer," DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said. "This decrease was primarily due to drought conditions in the spring, summer and fall of 2018, followed by a heavy winter in 2019. Deer populations in areas of the southern, southeastern, northeastern and northern parts of the state showed the most loss."

Biologists also propose decreasing the antlerless deer permits for the 2020 hunting season. They recommend decreasing the doe permits by 1,045 permits for a total of 1,175 permits. The DWR also proposed adding one new doe deer hunt in 2020 to help address chronic wasting disease concerns, while discontinuing 11 other antlerless deer hunts.

"Antlerless deer hunts are designed to reduce depredation on private lands, tackle urban deer issues, address chronic wasting disease hotspots and help slow the decline of range conditions," Jones said.

Statewide, elk populations also decreased slightly in 2019, so biologists recommended a decrease in cow elk permits, as well. The statewide elk population objective is 78,215, and currently there is a statewide estimate of 76,550 elk. Biologists recommended 8,165 cow elk permits for the 2020 public drawing, a decrease of 1,470 from 2019.

Here is a breakdown of the proposed permit numbers for all the 2020 big game hunts:

Hunt 2019 2020
General-season buck deer 89,900 80,725
Premium limited-entry deer 184 184
Management buck deer (including "cactus" buck) 74 74
New handgun, archery, muzzleloader, and
shotgun (HAMS) limited-entry buck deer hunts
Hunt didn't exist 15
Limited-entry deer 1,144 1,229
Doe deer 2,220 1,175
General any bull elk 15,000 15,000
General spike bull elk 15,000 15,000
Cow elk 9,635 8,165
Youth any bull elk 500 500
Limited-entry bull elk 2,938 2,943
Buck pronghorn 1,061 1,147
Doe pronghorn 760 525
Bull moose 97 107
Cow moose 38 31
Bison 242 115
Desert bighorn sheep 69 82
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep 56 66
New Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ewe hunt Hunt didn't exist 10
Mountain goat 126 122

Plan for implementing recently approved H.B. 125 predator bill

H.B. 125, which became a new law during the 2020 legislative session, authorizes the DWR director to take immediate action (under certain conditions) when a big game population is under the established herd-size objective for a management unit.

As a result of the new legislation, DWR biologists will draft management strategies to decrease the number of specific predator species in certain parts of the state, if deemed necessary. The predator species that prey on big game populations, such as deer and elk, include cougars, bears and coyotes.

New data from GPS collars helps DWR biologists determine the cause of death for many species. When the biologists determine that predators are preventing the growth of big game populations, the big game populations are under their management objectives, and several other conditions are met, the predator-management strategies will be implemented.

"Predator control may allow a suppressed, low-density deer population to increase," DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said. "These predator-management strategies will only be considered when bighorn sheep populations are under 90% of their management objectives and/or have fewer than 125 individuals in a herd, when a deer population is being suppressed by predators, and when large population declines for big game occur or are anticipated."

Changes after recently approved H.B. 228 livestock depredation bill

H.B. 228, which was also recently passed during the 2020 legislative session, added a few clarifications to when and how a predator that is killing or damaging livestock can be removed. The DWR will update its current rules for bear and cougar depredation to reflect the following changes:

  • The 72-hour response period following a livestock depredation incident will be changed to 96 hours.
  • The bear rule will be updated to allow depredation permits for the removal of bears involved in chronic losses of livestock.

Other Proposals

The DWR is also proposing a rule change that will allow over-the-counter bison permits to be sold, and specifically, for this type of hunt to be held in southeastern Utah on the Nine Mile, Range Creek Unit, beginning in the fall of 2020. Several hundred bison migrate to this area each year, and there is currently no management plan for the Nine Mile, Range Creek Unit.

Another proposal would recommend a few changes to the rule regarding Cooperative Wildlife Management Units. It would clarify that a CWMU that falls within a general-season unit could be managed more like a limited-entry unit. It would also allow reciprocal antlerless hunts across multiple CWMUs and remove the limit on how many leftover reciprocal permits could be donated to charitable organizations.

Give feedback

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. Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order on March 18, authorizing all public comment meetings to be held electronically.

You can view the biologists' presentations and share your feedback about them here 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. Please only submit feedback for your region — the region boundaries can be found here.

The public comment period for each of the Regional Advisory Council meetings opened on March 27 and will close at 11:59 p.m. three days prior to each respective meeting. The public comment period for the Utah Wildlife Board meeting also opened on March 27, but will close at 11:59 p.m. six days prior to the meeting. The public comments previously submitted will be shared with the RAC and wildlife board members. There will be no public comments accepted during these electronic meetings.

The electronic meetings will be held on the following dates and times:

  • Central Region RAC meeting: April 7 at 6 p.m. (Public comments must be submitted by April 4 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northern Region RAC meeting: April 8 at 6 p.m. (Public comments must be submitted by April 5 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southern Region RAC meeting: April 14 at 5 p.m. (Public comments must be submitted by April 11 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southeastern Region RAC meeting: April 15 at 6:30 p.m. (Public comments must be submitted by April 12 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northeastern Region RAC meeting: April 16 at 5:30 p.m. (Public comments must be submitted by April 13 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Utah Wildlife Board meeting: April 30 at 9 a.m. (Public comments must be submitted by April 24 at 11:59 p.m.)
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