2023-2024 Utah big game hunt season dates and newly approved statewide elk management plan
On Dec. 2nd the Utah Wildlife Board met to consider and approve a new 10-year Utah Statewide Elk Management Plan. The plan includes several changes to elk hunting. They also discussed and approved season dates for the 2023 and 2024 big game hunts.
A diverse 19-person committee, members of the public (including hunters), members from state and federal agencies, conservation groups, and private landowners and agriculture producers worked together to develop the statewide plan. The management plan will go into effect in 2023 and will guide the state's elk management until 2032, with a review in 2026.
UWDR Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus stated, "The demand for elk hunting in Utah has continued to grow over the years. In 2014, the over-the-counter any bull elk permits sold out in 77 days, and the spike-only elk permits sold out in 84 days. In 2022, the any bull elk permits sold out in five hours and the spike elk permits sold out in only nine hours. We want to implement several strategies to respond to these dramatic increases in demand for general-season elk hunting opportunities, as well as find ways to address continued 'point creep' in the limited-entry system."
Mangus also stated, "The major theme for the elk plan committee — and the resulting plan — was to increase elk hunting opportunity, while maintaining quality, through increased challenge and creativity. We believe these approved changes will help reach those goals. These changes are all related and provide synergy to the overall management plan, with the general-season hunt changes providing additional opportunities and the limited-entry changes helping maintain the quality of the hunt."
Approved Changes to Elk hunting in Utah
General-Season Hunting Changes
- Removing multi-season permits for the any bull elk hunt. (There will still be a multi-season option for spike bulls, and anyone with a multi-season spike bull elk permit can still participate in both the spike and any bull hunts during the archery season.)
- Adding six additional general-season hunting units/areas to the any bull elk hunt. Those units include (Paunsaugunt) (West Desert, Oquirrh-Stansbury and Deep Creek) (Central Mtns, Moroni Hills and Valley Mtns) (Book Cliffs, Floy Canyon) (Box Elder, Sawtooth) and (Nine Mile, Anthro)
- Dividing the current general-season 13-day any legal weapon any bull hunt into two separate seven-day hunts.
- Issuing 15,000 general-season permits for the early season any-legal-weapon any bull hunt.
- No cap on permit numbers for the late season any-legal-weapon any bull hunt.
- Expanding the general spike hunt to the Diamond Mountain unit.
- Continuing to issue 15,000 spike bull permits each year, with a cap of 4,500 available as multi-season permits.
- Creating an unlimited youth general-season elk permit that will be valid during all general seasons on both any bull and spike units.
- Discontinuing the limited-entry bull elk hunts on the Paunsaugunt Unit and converting them to general-season any bull hunts. However, the hunts won't include archery — only rifle and muzzleloader. This will be reviewed during the three-year management plan review in 2026.
Limited Entry Hunting Changes
- Restructuring the harvest age objectives for traditional limited-entry units to include three age objectives: 6 ½ to 7 years old, 6 to 6 ½ years old and 5 ½ to 6 years old. Previously units were managed for 7.5 to 8 years old, 6.5 to 7 years old, 5.5 to 6 years old, and 4.5 to 5 years old. The age reduction will lower the overall age class over time but should allow for more permits to be offered.
- Adding the October mid-season any legal weapon hunt on most traditional limited-entry elk units.
- Adjusting the weapon splits for traditional limited-entry hunts to place more of the any-legal-weapon hunts in the mid-season hunt.
- Moving the season dates for the beginning of the hunt and end of the traditional limited-entry archery season to four days later than in past years.
- Adjusting the length of the early any-legal-weapon limited-entry elk hunt to five days long, which is a reduction of four days.
- Maximizing hunting opportunities by maintaining some units/hunts managed for September archery hunts and HAMS hunts (hunts that allow the use of handgun, archery, muzzleloader, and shotgun).
- Developing and recommending adaptive opportunity limited-entry hunts to seize unusual opportunities. Examples include December archery hunts on limited-entry units, HAMS hunts on units with very high success rates and/or high bull-to-cow ratios, and limited-entry hunts on general-season units using unique timing or the migration of available bulls.
Utah 2023-2024 Deer Hunting Season Dates
Aug. 19–Sept. 15
Sept. 27–Oct. 5
General season early any legal weapon
General-season any legal weapon
Utah 2023-2024 elk hunting season dates
General-season archery spike bull
Aug. 19–Sept. 8
General-season archery any bull
Aug. 19-Sept. 20
General-season any legal weapon spike bull
General season early any legal weapon any bull
General-season late any legal weapon any bull:
Limited-entry elk archery
Aug. 23–Sept. 19
Limited-entry late-season archery elk
Limited-entry elk early any weapon
Limited-entry elk muzzleloader
Sept. 25–Oct. 6
Limited entry any legal weapon hunt on 14 units that didn't previously have a mid-season hunt
Limited-entry elk HAMS/restricted weapons
Limited-entry late-season any legal weapon hunt on Diamond Mountain
New 2023-2024 once-in-a-lifetime hunts
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Mineral Mountains (2024)
Book Cliffs, Little Creek/South
Proposal to weapons allowed in restricted weapons hunts
Previously there were talks of weapon rules changes. The Utah Wildlife Board tasked the DWR with establishing a technology committee to revisit which types of new technologies and weapons should be allowed for hunting in Utah. A diverse committee of various stakeholders was formed to identify emerging technologies and propose some updated rules. As a result, the DWR recommended a few changes to the weapons allowed in restricted-weapons hunts for archery, handguns, muzzleloaders, shotguns and rifles, including during the HAMS (handgun, archery, muzzleloader and shotgun) hunts.
However, the wildlife board voted to table the vote on the proposal until the board meeting in April to give the technology committee and the DWR more time to flesh out that proposal and the other technology-related recommendations.
The Utah Big Game application booklet will be released early in the new year and will further outline the new hunts and instructions on when and how to apply. GOHUNT Insiders will have access to the Utah Elk Application Strategy article that will also be released in January where we will do a deep dive into these changes and offer our Insiders additional critical information to make the most of your application in 2023!