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DWR proposing decrease in general season deer permits

DWR proposing decrease in general season deer permits

By Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

For the fourth consecutive year, Wildlife Resources biologists are recommending a decrease in the number of general-season deer hunting permits.

The DWR is asking for the public's feedback on the recommendations for the number of big game hunting permits for the 2022 seasons, as well as a variety of other big game proposals.

"We've had several years of drought and are still facing ongoing extreme drought conditions in the state, which has a significant impact on the survival rates of deer," said Covy Jones, big game coordinator.

"We currently have more demand for deer hunting in Utah than we have the supply for. While it is antlerless deer permits, not buck permits, that impact deer population numbers, we are recommending a decrease for both types of permits. We use the data and management plans to make proactive recommendations for the herd health of our wildlife."

The current management plan includes an objective to have just over 400,000 deer across Utah; there are currently an estimated 305,700 deer in the state.

DWR biologists are recommending a total of 73,075 general-season deer hunting permits, a 950-permit decrease from the previous year. Of the 29 total deer hunting units across the state, 13 are being recommended for decreased permit numbers from the previous year.

"The number of permits we're proposing for 2022 will help us achieve or maintain the objectives detailed in Utah's mule deer management plan for harvest size, animal quality and hunting opportunity," Jones said.

The current management plan includes an objective of an average age of bull harvest between 4.5 to 8 years of age. DWR biologists are recommending decreases on some units, but an overall increase in bull elk permits for the 2022 public drawing.

The DWR manages deer, elk and other wildlife in accordance with approved management plans in order to help maintain healthy wildlife populations across the state. DWR biologists evaluate the health of deer populations throughout the year (through GPS collaring efforts and surveys), and also assess the previous year's harvest data from the deer and elk hunts.

That data is factored in with current habitat and environmental conditions across the state — which includes the extreme drought conditions — before the hunting permit recommendations are made for the upcoming hunting seasons.

DWR biologists are also recommending adding one new antlerless deer hunt to address damage to agricultural areas caused by deer. Five new antlerless elk hunts are also being proposed, as well as a new doe pronghorn hunt.

"Antlerless deer hunts are designed to reduce depredation on private lands, tackle urban deer issues, address chronic wasting disease hot spot areas, and to help slow the decline of range conditions," Jones said.

Elk are impacted differently by drought. Survival of adults typically remains high, while pregnancy rates have been shown to decline during extreme drought conditions. DWR biologists do a census on the state's elk units on a three-year rotation. This year, the northern parts of the state were surveyed, and elk populations actually slightly increased in some of those areas since they didn't experience the same extreme drought conditions as some of the central and southern portions of the state.

Many of these hunting areas are largely made up of private lands, so DWR biologists are working with private landowners to address depredation issues where moose populations are above objective.

Much of the rest of the state, including central, southern and southeastern Utah, have elk populations that are at or slightly below their population objectives. As a result, DWR biologists are recommending a slight decrease in public draw antlerless elk permits in 2022.

The DWR is proposing changes to several rules and is requesting the public's feedback. Over the next month, each of Utah's five Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) will meet to discuss these proposals and submit recommendations to the Utah Wildlife Board. The Utah Wildlife Board will then vote on the proposals.

To give feedback on any of the Division's proposals, citizens may do so electronically, using the feedback form, or may attend a RAC or Board meeting in person.

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