2004 Big Game Hunting Rules Approved

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A simpler, fairer and more consistent approach to limited entry elk hunting in Utah in 2004 was approved by the Utah Wildlife Board at its Nov. 13 meeting in Salt Lake City.

The board also approved a change aimed at increasing the chances hunters ages 14 to 18 will obtain a buck deer hunting permit in Utah.

The board, which consists of seven citizens appointed by former Gov. Mike Leavitt, approved the changes after hearing recommendations from Division of Wildlife Resources biologists and citizens representing Utah's five public Regional Advisory Councils.

Board members also approved a revised Mule Deer Management Plan, which will guide the management of mule deer in Utah through 2008. The plan contains new goals, objectives and strategies aimed at increasing the number of deer in the state. Copies of the plan will be available soon on this Web site.

Elk hunting changes

The board approved several significant elk hunting changes.

"The thing we keep hearing from elk hunters is that the regulations are too complicated," said Jim Karpowitz, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "They also want the regulations to be fairer and more consistent across the board. At the same time, they don't want the quality of their hunting experience to decline. We believe the recommendations the board approved will provide hunters what they're looking for."

Three major elk hunting changes were approved by the board:

* Limited entry elk permits will now be allocated on all units in a consistent way, based on weapon type — 25 percent archery, 60 percent any weapon and 15 percent muzzleloader. "This distribution will reduce rifle elk hunting opportunities on some units and increase the number of archers and muzzleloader hunters on the units," Karpowitz said. "This will lay the groundwork for expanded limited entry elk hunting opportunities in the future, because archers and muzzleloader hunters are less successful than rifle hunters. It will also distribute hunting pressure over three hunts, which will lessen hunting pressure during the rifle hunt and provide a better experience for rifle hunters."

* AR301 archery elk permits have been eliminated. These were special archery elk permits that allowed 300 archers to hunt all of the state's general any bull elk units, as well as several spike bull and limited entry units. Archery hunters will still have plenty of opportunity, however, because the number of limited entry archery elk permits has been increased dramatically.

* ML300 muzzleloader elk permits have also been eliminated, and the 1,300 ML300 permits that have been available in the past have been added to the general any bull elk permit cap. In 2004, the any bull elk cap will be 14,300 permits. When hunters buy an any bull permit, they can choose whether they want their permit to be a rifle permit or a muzzleloader permit.

Fifteen percent of general buck deer permits in each region set aside for 14- to 18-year-old hunters

Hunters 14 to 18 years old will have a better chance of obtaining a general buck deer permit after the board voted to set aside 15 percent of the permits in each region for youth hunters.

"The number of young people participating in hunting has been declining for years," Karpowitz said. "It's important to the future of wildlife conservation that we recruit young people into the hunting ranks. Setting aside this many permits for young hunters should help do that."

If all of the permits set aside for young hunters aren't taken in the big game draw, they'll be available to all hunters.

Other changes

Other 2004 big game changes approved by the board include:

* The second big game draw, which took place in May, has been eliminated. Permits not taken in the first big game draw in January will be available, on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning June 17.

* Limited entry, Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit and once-in-a-lifetime hunters will be required to report their hunt success via the Internet or a toll-free telephone line. Hunters who don't report their hunt success will lose the opportunity to apply for permits the following year.

* For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.