Dedicated Hunter Program Growing

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The number of deer hunters training for and joining Utah's Dedicated Hunter program is growing at a pace Division of Wildlife Resources officials haven't seen in years.

Hunters must complete a wildlife conservation course to join the program. Offering the course on the Internet this year might be one reason for the rapid growth.

"In the past, hunters have had to travel to various locations to take the course, but now they can take it right from their home," said Larry Dalton, Conservation Outreach Section chief for the DWR. "In 2003, 1,036 people completed the course. This year, 2,200 have already completed it, and hunters still have about two more months to take it. At this rate, there will be tremendous growth in the program this year."

Under the current program, hunters who join the program receive a guaranteed buck deer permit for three years in the region of their choice and may hunt all three general seasons (archery, muzzleloader and rifle) each year. To join the three-year program, hunters must complete the wildlife conservation course and pay their program fee ($180 for most residents and $867 for most nonresidents) by April 1, 2004. The fee includes a participant's deer hunting permits during the three years they're in the program.

The wildlife conservation course can be taken online at the Dedicated Hunter section of the DWR Web site. The course takes about one hour to complete.

In addition to completing the conservation course and paying the program fee by April 1, during their three-year enrollment participants must also attend a Regional Advisory Council meeting and provide a total of 24 hours of service on approved conservation projects that benefit wildlife.

Participants are allowed to take a total of two deer during the three-year period and may not take two deer in the same year.

One Important Change

Hunters who are already in the program, or who join this year, are alerted to an important change. All of the 24 hours of conservation project work the program requires must be completed by each hunter prior to their being issued their second deer permit. If hunters don't complete their 24 hours by their second year in the program, they will not be issued a permit that year. They will not be issued a permit during the third year, either, until the work is completed.

"Unfortunately, we had to make this change because some of the hunters who took their second deer during their second year in the program didn't do any conservation project work during their third year," Dalton said. "About 10 percent of the program participants were doing this, and we were not receiving the valuable help we needed on conservation projects around the state. Annually, this work equates to more than $1 million in labor.

"The Dedicated Hunter program provides tremendous hunting opportunity and facilitates the hunters to become involved with hands-on conservation projects and Utah's wildlife rule-making process," he said. "This group of wildlife enthusiasts is truly dedicated to Utah's wildlife resource."