The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has released its recommended number of big game hunting permits for the 2023 seasons. For the fifth year in a row, the DWR is suggesting a decrease in the number of general-season deer hunting permits. They are also asking for the public’s feedback on the proposed recommendations and other proposals.

The DWR manages deer, elk, and other wildlife to maintain healthy populations across the state. In recommending hunting permit numbers for deer, they use approved management plans and consider additional factors and data such as buck-to-doe ratios, current population estimates, GPS collar data, and hunter-harvest rates. Habitat and environmental conditions across the state are also considered, including the impacts of this winter’s heavy snowfall in some areas.

The current deer management plan aims to have 404,000 deer across Utah, but there are currently an estimated 335,000. Factors that can negatively impact deer populations include poor or limited habitat, predators, and weather. The survival rates of doe deer, fawn production, and fawn survival after winter are the most important factors that drive deer population numbers. The way buck deer are hunted in Utah doesn’t drive deer populations, but what happens with deer populations drives how they are hunted.

The DWR is proposing changes to general-season deer permits in different areas of Utah. Below the changes will be listed:
  • Northern Utah: Proposing a decrease of 4,800 permits (about a 20% decrease from last year).
  • Central Utah: Proposing an increase of 600 permits (a 4% increase from last year).
  • Northeastern Utah: Proposing a decrease of 1,000 permits (about an 11% decrease from last year).
  • Southern Utah: Proposing an increase of 3,275 permits (about a 28% increase from last year).
  • Southeastern Utah: Proposing an increase of 450 permits (about a 3.5% increase from last year).

While most of the deer had good body fat conditions going into winter, the fawn and doe survival varied throughout the different parts of the state, depending on the severity of the snowfall in each area. Biologists look closely at each hunting unit and individual situation when they make permit recommendations. Ten of the 31 total deer hunting units across the state are being recommended for decreased permit numbers from the previous year.

“For several years, we have had more demand for deer hunting in Utah than we have the supply for. While it is hard to see the negative impacts of the severe winter in northern Utah, it is exciting to see high fawn production and very high survival of does and fawns in southern Utah. We use the best available data and our management plans to make proactive recommendations for the herd health of our wildlife.” – DWR Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus.

Elk Proposals

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) also has released its recommendations for the 2023 elk seasons. Biologists are suggesting a slight increase in public draw bull elk permits to maintain a healthy elk population, which is currently estimated at 82,960. Elk populations are resilient to drought and winter conditions, but pregnancy rates can decline during extreme drought. The statewide elk management plan aims to have 80,000 elk in Utah. The table below outlines all permit recommendations for 2023. These recommendations will be presented to the Utah Wildlife Board for final approval later this year, most likely in May.

  • General-season any bull elk: 15,000 for adults in the early general season any bull elk hunt (for any legal weapon and muzzleloader hunters). Unlimited for youth, unlimited for archery hunters, and unlimited for the general season any bull late hunt (sold over the counter)
  • General-season spike bull elk: 15,000 (sold over the counter, with a cap of 4,500 multi-season permits)
  • Youth draw-only any bull elk: 500 (no changes this year)
  • Limited-entry bull elk: 3,336 (roughly a 250 permit increase)
  • Antlerless elk: 19,857 (roughly a 2700 permit increase)

You can read more about these proposed permit numbers and more changes by clicking here. Likewise, you can read more Utah hunting news by clicking here.

So, what are your thoughts on these changes? Do you think they should have done something different with the deer and elk herds? Let us know in the comments!

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