UTAH’S PROPOSED ELK HUNTING CHANGES – Utah’s 10 year elk plan will be coming to an end this December, and it’s time to make some changes. On Tuesday, the Utah DWR announced its proposal for the upcoming statewide elk management plan, and it looks very different.
Why Change the Current Plan
The current elk management plan has been in effect for 10 years. During those 10 years, the demand for hunting has risen significantly. Especially as it relates to general season elk tags. Hunters have also expressed concerns about the ever-growing point creep in the state of Utah and are demanding that it be corrected.
“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.”
Due to the higher demand for opportunities, the decline in herds due to drought, and the point creep, Utah is looking for a new 10 year plan.
In the press release that went out on Tuesday, the Utah DWR proposed the following changes to the elk management plan:
- Adding 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 Hunts
- Restructuring 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.
Impact on Applicants
The proposed changes for the upcoming hunting seasons can and will impact hunters. Hunters that have few points may have more opportunities to obtain hunting permits for elk. However, hunters that have high point numbers may be impacted in ways that could negatively affect the time and money they’ve invested in Utah elk hunting.
Are you in favor of these proposed changes? Do you think they will help or hinder elk hunting in the future?