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Utah to Overhaul Elk Management Plan
The current elk management plan was approved in Utah in 2015. The plan was updated in 2020 and is set to expire at the end of 2022. Things have changed drastically in the demand for hunting licenses in the state of Utah since 2015. “The demand for elk hunting in Utah has continued to grow over the years,” DWR Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus said. “In 2014, the over-the-counter any-bull elk permits sold out in 77 days, and the spike-only elk permits sold out in 84 days.
In 2022, the any bull elk permits sold out in five hours and the spike elk permits sold out in only nine hours. We are proposing several strategies to respond to these dramatic increases in demand for general-season elk hunting opportunities, as well as find ways to address continued ‘point creep’ in the limited-entry system.” This plan will go into effect in 2023 and will hold in effect until 2032 with a mid-plan review in 2028. The changes are as follows:
GENERAL-SEASON HUNTING CHANGESAdding six additional general-season hunting units to the any-bull elk hunt. Dividing the current general-season 13-day any legal weapon any bull hunt into two separate seven-day hunts. Issuing 15,000 general-season permits for the early season any-legal-weapon any bull hunt. Having no cap on permit numbers for the late season any-legal-weapon any bull hunt. Capping multi-season any-bull permits at 7,500. Expanding the general spike hunt to the Diamond Mountain unit. Continuing to issue 15,000 spike bull permits each year, with a cap of 4,500 available as multi-season permits. Creating an unlimited youth general-season elk permit that will be valid during all general seasons on both any bull and spike units.
LIMITED-ENTRY HUNTING CHANGESRestructuring the harvest age objectives for traditional limited-entry units to include three age objectives: 6 ½ to 7 years old, 6 to 6 ½ years old and 5 ½ to 6 years old. Adding the mid-season any legal weapon hunt on most traditional limited-entry elk units. Adjusting the weapon splits for traditional limited-entry hunts to place more of the any-legal-weapon hunts in the mid-season hunt. Moving the season dates for the beginning of the hunt and end of the traditional limited-entry archery season to four days later than in past years. Adjusting the length of the early any-legal-weapon traditional limited-entry elk hunt to five days long. Maximizing hunting opportunities by maintaining the units/hunts managed for restricted-weapon hunts, September archery hunts and HAMS hunts (hunts that allow the use of handgun, archery, muzzleloader, and shotgun). Developing and recommending adaptive opportunity limited-entry hunts to seize unusual opportunities. Examples include December archery hunts on limited-entry units, additional restricted weapon or HAMS hunts on units with very high success rates and/or high bull-to-cow ratios, and limited-entry hunts on general-season units using unique timing or the migration of available bulls.
“The major theme for the elk plan committee — and the resulting proposed plan — has been to increase elk hunting opportunity, while maintaining quality, through increased challenge and creativity,” Mangus said. “We believe these proposed changes will help reach those goals. The recommended changes are all related and provide synergy to the overall management plan, with the general-season hunt changes providing additional opportunities and the limited-entry changes helping maintain the quality of the hunt.”
Some other new hunts being presented are general antlerless elk archery only hunts as well as more general elk hunts. Some new limited-entry elk hunts will also be proposed. These hunts will great effect trophy quality over the years as Utah seems to be moving towards an opportunity state much like its surrounding western states.