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Small hunt changes in Utah for 2011, huge changes for 2012

From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

-- The Utah Wildlife Board has split Utah into smaller deer hunting areas, with deer hunting changes taking effect in 2012.

In 2011, Utah's general buck deer hunt will run much like it did in 2010. There is one big change, though-the rifle buck deer hunt will run for nine days.

While the changes for 2011 are relatively small, the changes for 2012 are huge.

Starting in 2012, general deer hunting will happen within smaller hunting areas called units. Currently, the general hunt happens within five larger regions.

Members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved the 2012 deer hunting changes by a 4-2 vote at their meeting on Dec. 2, 2010.
For an audio recording of the meeting visit at http://wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/board-minutes.html.

The changes the board approved for the 2011 season can be found in Utah's 2011 big game application book. The free book should be available at http://wildlife.utah.gov by the end of December.

A copy of the rules hunters must follow while in the field will be available in summer 2011.

2011 hunt

A nine-day rifle hunt for all hunters, regardless of their age, was the biggest change the board approved for Utah's 2011 general buck deer hunt.

In 2010, those over 18 years of age were allowed to hunt only five days on most of Utah's deer hunting areas.

The board reduced the length of the 2010 rifle hunt to try to reduce the number of bucks hunters took. Anis Aoude, big game coordinator, thinks hunters will be happy that the rifle hunt has been lengthened to nine days.  "I appreciate what the board was trying to do," Aoude said, "but, unfortunately, reducing the length of a hunt isn't the best way to save bucks."

Aoude says reducing the length of a hunt forces hunters to make the most of the days they do have. "And they're more likely to take the first buck they see," he said.

While the rifle hunt runs for nine days across most of Utah, four small areas in the state will have a slightly shorter season in 2011. The rifle hunt on Oquirrh-Stansbury, South Slope (Vernal), Monroe, and Plateau, Boulder/Kairparowits units will run for five days.

2012 hunt

The major deer hunting change the board approved happens in 2012. That's when Utah's five deer hunting regions will be eliminated. Once the regions are eliminated, the state will be split into smaller hunting areas.

The number of bucks biologists manage for will also change. Currently, biologists manage the state's deer herds with a goal of finding an average of at least 15 bucks per 100 does across five regions after the hunting season is over in the fall.

Starting in 2012, biologists will manage smaller units with a goal of finding at least 18 bucks per 100 does on each unit after the hunt is over.  

The total number of hunting units will be determined sometime next year.

Aoude says decreasing the number of hunters in the field is the most effective way to increase the number of bucks per 100 does.

DWR biologists will have to determine how many hunting permits will have to be cut so they find at least 18 bucks per 100 does on each unit after the hunting season is over in the fall. Aoude's current estimate is about 13,000.

Since fewer permits will be offered, the price for a general deer hunting permit may go up.

The following will also change in 2012:  General-season archery hunters will no longer be allowed to hunt across Utah. Instead, they'll have to hunt on the unit they obtained a permit for.

The board approved the archery hunting change by a 4-3 vote.

There is also a good chance the state's Dedicated Hunter program will change in 2012. Exactly what the program will look like in 2012 still needs to be determined. For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801)538-4700.

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