Utah Looks to Increase Elk and Bison Permit Numbers

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Utah's hunters might have more elk and bison permits to draw for this year.

The Division of Wildlife Resources is recommending raising permit numbers for almost all of Utah's big game animals. Permits for elk and bison would increase the most.

The DWR is also recommending adding an additional 1,000 general season buck deer permits to the Northeastern Region.

You can learn more about the recommendations and share your suggestions at a series of upcoming meetings. Citizens representing Utah's public Regional Advisory Councils will take the input received to the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets April 5 in Salt Lake City to approve big game hunting permits for this fall's hunts.

Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

Southern Region
March 13, 7 p.m.
Beaver High School
195 E. Center St., Beaver

Southeastern Region
March 14, 6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
885 E. Main St., Green River

Northeastern Region
March 15, 6:30 p.m.
Western Park, Rm. #2
302 E. 200 S., Vernal

Central Region
March 20, 6:30 p.m.
Springville Junior High School
165 S. 700 E., Springville

Northern Region
March 21, 6 p.m.
Brigham City Community Center
24 N. 300 W., Brigham City

More elk permits

Some record-sized bull elk have been taken in Utah over the past few years, but there are still plenty of big bulls out there for hunters to take.

Biologists manage each of Utah's limited entry bull elk units so the average age of the bulls taken by hunters falls within a certain age category.

The bulls that hunters took on 24 of Utah's 28 units was higher than the age objective for those units. That means the animals were older than what the objective for those units calls for.

The age of the bulls taken on four units was at the objective for those units. None of Utah's limited entry units was under the age objective.

"This means we can allow more hunters in the field and still leave plenty of big bulls for hunters to take in years to come," says Craig McLaughlin, Wildlife Section chief for the DWR.

With that in mind, the DWR is recommending 2,182 limited entry bull elk permits for this fall's hunts. A total of 79 of those permits would be management bull elk permits. These permits allow hunters to take bull elk that have five or less antler points on at least one side.

Management permits are being offered for the first time to reduce the number of smaller bull elk on four of Utah's best limited entry units. All of these units have extremely high bull to cow ratios.

More bison permits

Hunter's choice and cow bison permits for the Henry Mountains in southeastern Utah would also increase under DWR proposals.

Under the proposals, permits would jump from 18 in 2006 to either 47 or 71 permits in 2007.

The final bison permit numbers will be determined later this spring, when the Henry Mountains Bison Working Group finishes revising a management plan for the bison on the Henry's.

"In 2005, our biologists flew two aerial surveys of the Henry Mountains," McLaughlin says. "They didn't see many bison during either survey."

Even though bison are big animals, McLaughlin says they tend to gather in small groups and are effective at hiding under pinyon/juniper trees.

"Bison are strong animals, and we were pretty sure that the herd had not experienced a big die-off," he says. "We guessed that the bison had probably moved into thicker cover where it was harder for us to spot them."

DWR biologists decided to be cautious, however, and hunting permits were cut in 2006.

"Our biologists flew another survey this past August, and this time they spotted the bison," McLaughlin says. "They saw lots of bison.

"We've confirmed that the herd is doing really well, and that's why we're recommending more bison permits for this fall's hunts."

More deer permits

Under DWR recommendations, the number of general season buck deer permits would begin moving back to the 97,000 permit cap that began in Utah in 1994.

In 2005, general season buck deer permits in the Central and Northeastern regions were cut by 1,000 permits each. The permits were cut because the three-year buck-to-doe ratio in each region had fallen below the minimum of 15 bucks per 100 does called for in Utah's Deer Management Plan.

As a result, the statewide permit cap was reduced from 97,000 permits to 95,000 permits.

Surveys conducted by DWR biologists after the 2005 and 2006 hunts found that the three-year buck-to-doe average in the Northeastern Region had increased to 15 bucks per 100 does. That number meets the objective called for in the state's deer management plan.

In the Central Region, the three-year average has fallen slightly to 13 bucks per 100 does.

"Based on the findings, we're recommending that 1,000 permits be added to the Northeastern Region for this fall's hunt," McLaughlin says. "Adding 1,000 permits would increase the total number of general season buck deer permits in Utah to 96,000."