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Utah board reduces general season buck permits

From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

-- A step has been taken to help deer hunters prepare for changes that will occur in Utah in 2012.

On May 5, the Utah Wildlife Board reduced the number of general-season buck deer hunting permits by 7,000 for the 2011 hunts.

Not all big game hunting permits for the fall hunts went down in number, though. For example, the number of general spike bull elk permits was increased to 15,000. And the number of mountain goat permits - a once-in-a-lifetime permit that's difficult to draw - was increased to 133.

Biologists estimate the total number of deer in Utah at more than 290,000 animals. While many of Utah's deer herds are doing well, biologists are concerned about the number of fawns per 100 does, and the number of bucks per 100 does, they've seen in certain parts of the state.

They're also concerned about how easy it will be for hunters to transition to deer hunting changes that will happen in Utah in 2012.

"We don't know for sure yet," says Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, "but we may have to recommend cutting general-season buck deer permits by as many as 13,000 by 2012."

Rather than hit hunters with the cuts all at once, Aoude says biologists recommended to the board that they cut some of the permits now. "If they start cutting permits now," Aoude says, "the final cuts won't have to be as severe in 2012."

The DWR recommended cutting a total of 5,000 permits. In addition to approving the DWR's recommendation, the Wildlife Board also cut an additional 2,000 permits in the Northeastern Region.

The additional 2,000-permit cut was recommended to the board by the Northeastern Wildlife Regional Advisory Council.

In addition to the rifle and muzzleloader permits, the board also approved 16,000 general archery deer permits for 2011. The 16,000 permits are the same number of general archery deer permits the board approved in 2010.

The deer hunting changes will happen in 2012 because the minimum number of bucks per 100 does has been increased in Utah's deer management plan.

In the past, biologists managed the state's deer hunts with a goal of finding at least 15 bucks per 100 does after the hunts were over in the fall.

Starting with the 2012 hunts, biologists will manage the hunts with a goal of finding at least 18 bucks per 100 does after the hunts are over.

The Utah Wildlife Board won't set permit numbers for 2012 until next year. But biologists know the number of permits will have to be reduced to reach the new 18 bucks per 100 does objective.

While members of the Wildlife Board reduced the number of general-season deer permits, they kept permit numbers for most of Utah's big game animals similar to 2010. And, in some cases, the number of permits went up.

"Overall, Utah's big game animals are doing well," Aoude says. "There are plenty of opportunities to hunt big game in Utah."

How and when a hunter obtains a big game permit depends on which big game animal the hunter chooses:

-- With the exception of Utah's general bull elk hunt, applications to hunt male big game animals have already been accepted. Results of the 2011 big game draw will be available by May 31.

-- Any limited-entry permits that aren't taken in the draw will be available - on a first-come, first-served basis - starting July 19.

-- Permits to hunt during the state's general bull elk hunt will also be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting July 27. Also, any general deer permits that aren't taken in the big game draw will also be available - first-come, first-served - starting July 27.

-- You can apply for a doe deer, cow elk or doe pronghorn permit starting June 1. Results of the 2011 antlerless draw will be available by July 14.

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