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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Utah Elk and Antelope

 

Large bull elk bugling
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Utah's elk and antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Points System Utah Elk Breakdown Utah Antelope Breakdown

Utah still offers those fortunate enough to draw a permit one of the best elk hunting opportunities in the West. What makes Utah such a great elk state? Quality habitat, good moisture/temperature regimes, proven genetics, age class, vast amounts of public land, and some favorable season dates, especially if you are a rifle hunter. Every year, there are a handful of 400” class bulls taken in Utah, but, if you took a minute and utilized the new goHUNT INSIDER Filtering 2.0 Trophy Potential tool, you can see that every limited entry unit in the state has the potential to produce 330” plus bulls!

Although permits can be hard to draw and odds are even harder for some of the more well-known units, there is always some hope and, in our opinion, it’s always worth applying. Utah’s draw system gives 50% of the available permits for any given hunt to the individuals with the most bonus points; the other 50% are assigned in a random draw. If only one permit or an odd number of permits are available, the greater part of those will go through the random draw. So, essentially, every applicant has a chance to draw a tag of a lifetime. Utah’s elk populations are strong and, if good moisture continues, 2016 could be another great antler growth year. If you have any interest in hunting big bulls, Utah is a great state to apply and build bonus points. Here’s everything you should know before applying in 2016.

Note: The application deadline for Utah Limited Entry elk and antelope is March 3. You can apply online or by phoning any Division Office.



Why Utah for elk and antelope

Big bulls!

Every limited entry unit in the state has the potential to produce 330” plus bulls and several units regularly produce 380” plus bulls!

You’re saying there’s a chance?

If you followed the recent powerball fiasco, then you know that someone eventually gets lucky and the payoff can be huge. Similarly, draw odds for the premier elk units and hunts are notoriously tough. Yet, with Utah’s draw system, every single applicant has at least some chance. It could be you and your odds improve the longer you apply!

Quality season/weapon opportunities and dates

The archery hunt begins mid-August and is almost a month long. The any legal weapon (rifle) hunt is likely to coincide with the heart of the rut and be a phenomenal opportunity. The chance to hunt big bugling bulls is a rarity for rifle hunters. The muzzleloader hunt will open just after the any legal weapon hunt on September 26 and the bulls are still likely to be charged up. Don’t forget about the late season any weapon hunts, occurring in mid-November. The late hunt has generally better draw odds than the early any weapon hunt and, if you have the time and ability to research, scout, and hunt hard, you could be rewarded with a tremendous bull. Finally, Utah has a very limited amount of multi-season permits, which allow the tag holder to hunt EVERY limited entry season for that unit.

Plenty of accessible public land

Utah is a great state for the public land DIY or guided hunter. There are ample amounts of public land and many of the best trophy elk hunting opportunities occur on open accessible federal and state managed lands.



New for 2016

Elk

Permit start and end dates

Dates fluctuate slightly from year to year, but this year a four day shift for hunt season end dates is perhaps more significant, especially for archery hunters. Here’s why. Last year, the limited entry archery elk hunt ended on September 12, meaning that the archery hunt was already over before the rut had even really started. In 2016, the hunt will end on September 16, giving archers four more days into September and, possibly, a better chance to locate and call in rutting bulls.

Take more elk this season

For opportunity and meat hunters, starting in 2016, a hunter can obtain up to three elk permits in Utah with the following restrictions:
1) a maximum of one permit can be for a bull.
2) a maximum of one permit can be obtained through the antlerless big game draw.
3) a maximum of two antlerless elk permits can be obtained over-the-counter (OTC).
•  There is a lot of opportunity to hunt elk in Utah. Also, some units that are determined to be over objective will have OTC muzzleloader elk permits where the hunter could harvest either a spike or cow (see the guidebook and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) website for news).

Change in permit numbers

Utah does not set and approve permit numbers until May after the application deadline has closed. Your best guess as to how many permits will be available is to review allocations over previous years and study the age class objectives and trends. Permit numbers are not likely to fluctuate much if the age class averages are lining up well with objectives. If the age class is slipping some in comparison to the objective, you may see a few less permits or, vice versa, if the average is greater than objective, you may see more permits. Note the following unit changes: Mount Dutton, Panguitch Lake, Cache South, West Desert/Deep Creek, saw a increase in age class objective in the 2015 management plan, meaning those units are likely to have less permits in 2016 in order to achieve the higher age class. Conversely, the Monroe and Box Elder Pilot Mountain unit will see a decrease in age class objective, meaning there will be more permits available to reduce the age class.

New Limited Entry hunts

In 2016, there will be some NEW Limited Entry any legal weapon bull elk hunts. These hunts will occur from Oct. 8 to Oct. 20 or 30, depending on the unit. These units are: Box Elder, Grouse Creek, Paunsaugunt, Plateau, Fishlake/Thousand Lakes, and West Desert/Deep Creek. The goal of these hunts is to move some permits out of the early rifle hunt, where demand for permits is highest and place them in a hunt that might provide better drawing odds. Note: this hunt will overlap with the any weapon general spike elk hunt on these units, so there most likely will be more pressure.

Canceled hunts and boundary changes

A few hunts have been discontinued this year, including the Box Elder, Grouse Creek limited-entry archery bull elk hunt and the youth late season any bull elk hunt. There is a boundary change on the Box Elder Pilot Mountain Limited Entry Unit, see proclamation for details.

Gear change

Magnified scopes are now legal on muzzleloaders as well as bow-mounted rangefinders.

Antelope

•  There is a boundary change for the Box Elder/Snowville hunts, see proclamation for details.
•  There is a new hunt in the Box Elder/West Unit, see proclamation for details on season/weapon dates and boundary details.
•  There are hunt unit name changes for the following units: Nine Mile/Anthro-Myton Bench, Panguitch Lake/Zion, North, San Juan/ Hatch Point.



State information

To view important information and an overview of the Utah’s rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Utah Elk Profile and Antelope Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

Utah State Profile Utah Elk Profile Utah Antelope Profile

Important dates and information

•  You may begin applying NOW.
•  Deadline to apply is March 3, 11 p.m. MST.
•  Bonus point and preference point applications will be accepted up to March 17, 11 p.m. MST.
•  You can apply online or by calling or visiting a UDWR office.
•  Results will be emailed or available online by May 27, 2016.
•  Hunters must have a valid hunting or combination hunting and fishing license to apply for tags. Hunting licenses are valid for 365 days from date of purchase.
•  Withdrawing or correcting an application is allowed before the application deadline. Corrections must be made online. Be aware: you will be charged the $10 application fee again to make adjustments.
•  If you are unsuccessful in the draw, then you will be awarded a bonus point for that species.
•  Nonresidents are allocated 10% of tags in each unit as long as at least 10 tags are available.
•  Nonresidents may apply for and build points for all available species.
•  Residents may only apply for one limited entry species: elk, deer, or antelope.
•  An individual who draws a Limited Entry elk or antelope permit may surrender it back to the UDWR prior to the season starting. If surrendered prior to opening day, you will receive your bonus points back.
•  If you draw a Limited Entry elk permit, you may not apply again for five years.
•  If you draw a Limited Entry antelope permit, you may not apply again for two years.



The draw system

Understanding the draw

It’s important to understand how Utah’s draw process works and some key aspects of it before you apply. You must have a valid 365 day hunting license to apply for any big game hunts. That can be purchased online as a “hunting license” or as a “combo” which includes a fishing license. Since the license is good for 365 days from the date of purchase, you could potentially buy one license every other year by timing your application. If you draw a permit, you must have a valid license to hunt; one could be purchased at that time.

Utah’s draw process is complex, but perhaps not as hard to understand as other states. Applicants can select two hunt choices when applying for limited-entry tags. The state considers all applicants’ first hunt choices before considering any applicant’s second choice. Due to the amount of applicants for each tag, it is very rare that a second choice is ever considered. For every year you apply for a bonus point only or are unsuccessful in the draw, you will receive one bonus point for that species. Remember that residents can apply for only one limited entry species (deer, elk, or antelope) and one once-in-a-lifetime species (bison, bighorn sheep, moose, or mountain goat). Nonresidents can apply for all species that they are interested in. Half of all the permits for any given hunt are guaranteed for the applicants with the most bonus points. The other half of the permits are allocated through random draw. If an odd number of permits are available, the larger amount goes to random draw.

Here’s why that matters

If you are applying for a hunt where there is only one permit available (resident or nonresident), that permit is going in the random draw. Granted, statically, your odds of drawing that tag increase with more points, but there is no guarantee you will ever draw that permit.

This is why it’s important to look at the previous year’s permit allocations and applicant breakdowns that can be found on our Unit Profiles and our Draw Odds page to evaluate your chances. If there is another unit that matches your trophy potential, harvest success, or whatever criteria you desire from a hunt and it has more permits available and could at least eventually guarantee you a permit, perhaps it’s worth some consideration.

Example: Monroe archery elk 2015

Utah Monroe Archery elk draw summary

There was one nonresident permit available. The permit went in a random drawing to an individual with six bonus points even though there were 37 applicants with more bonus points.  

For the random permits draw process, each applicant is assigned a randomly generated number for each bonus point they have. The applicant with the lowest generated random number will draw the permit. So, in essence the more bonus points you have, the better your odds, but even the guy applying the first year has a chance. See the examples below.

Utah Wasatch 2015 resident bonus vs random permit tag allocation
Utah Wasatch 2015 nonresident bonus vs random permit tag allocation

Unlocking Utah’s system

Utah’s draw order and why it matters

Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:
1. Limited Entry deer
2. Limited Entry elk
3. Limited Entry antelope
4. Once-in-a-lifetime species (sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
5. Youth general buck deer
6. General buck deer
7. Youth any bull elk

The order in which the draw happens is important to consider because Utah does not allow you to draw two limited entry/once-in-a-lifetime tags in the same year. For example, let’s say you applied for a limited entry antelope permit and a once-in-a-lifetime mountain goat permit. If you were successful in drawing a antelope permit, then your application for mountain goat would be removed from the system before the draw even happens. That is because the antelope draw occurs before the once-in-a-lifetime species draws. We recommend that you review your bonus points, draw odds and develop a strategy. If you are close to that maximum bonus point spot for drawing a once-in-a-lifetime tag, perhaps don’t shoot yourself in the foot by applying for and drawing an easy antelope permit and, subsequently, taking your name out of the once-in-a-lifetime drawing. For more information on applying as a group, visit the Utah State Profile.



The points system

The bonus point race

Utah elk bonus points going into the 2016 draw

2016 max bonus points for elk: 22

Utah antelope bonus points going into the 2016 draw
2016 max bonus points for antelope: 17



Utah elk breakdown

Kristy Titus Mt Dutton bull elk taken with High Top Outfitters

Kristy Titus Mt Dutton bull elk taken with High Top Outfitters - A goHUNT Business Member

Current elk herd condition

The current winter moisture of 2015-2016 is well above the recent average and it’s looking like it's going to be great for spring growth. Across most of Utah, the early fall and winter months of November and December were relatively mild both in temperature and snow, allowing the elk and antelope to retain good body conditions as they transitioned into the more recent snow and colder temperatures.

Unlike past years, Utah is seeing snowfall across the state even to the valley floors. That should help our lowland grasslands and sage steppe areas immensely. With spring around the corner, it’s likely that the elk will come out of winter in good health. Bulls are likely to have burned less fat getting through the winter and should be able to put more into early antler growth. If this El Niño moisture pattern continues throughout the spring months, 2016 could be another tremendous year for antler growth.

Eight year Utah elk harvest numbers

Elk populations are at or above objective in almost every unit. Surveys are now being conducted across the state and agency biologists are suggesting that Utah’s herds are in great condition, which means that there is likely to be a lot of opportunity to hunt elk in 2016.

The seasons

Archery

Utah’s Limited Entry elk hunt structure is set up with the archery hunt occurring first Aug 20 to Sept 16. Archers will get first crack at the 2016 crop of big bulls. As previously noted, this is a four day shift back into September that should give archers a better chance at hunting some rutting bulls although, once again, the bulk of the hunt will occur prior to the best rutting action. In our opinion, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; hunting strategies just need to be adjusted to be successful. During the first week of the hunt, bulls are likely to be in more predictable summer patterns and bachelor groups. Scouting prior to your hunt is critical, then utilize spot and stalk or ambush methods to get close during those first few weeks.

During the first weeks of September, bulls will begin to break up and head toward larger cow/calf herds. They may not be fired up enough to bugle, but they will start to hang around the perimeter and begin to visit wallows more frequently. Find a hot wallow near cow/calf herds and set up an ambush for best success. During the last week, you should be hearing some bugling and rut activity. Find the cows and you should find the bulls.

Early any legal weapon (rifle)

The early any legal weapon (rifle) season is right on the heels of the archery hunt and lucky tag holders will get the unique opportunity to hunt big bulls in the heart of the rut. Given the fact that you can reach out a bit further with a rifle and you will be hearing and seeing a lot more elk, rifle hunters have the luxury of being more selective in what bull they would like to pull the trigger on. The biggest bulls in the state are typically harvested during this hunt. Rifle permit holders should glass and listen to find elk. Talk to local biologists, game wardens, hunters, and utilize the Unit Profiles to find areas that elk historically seem to gravitate toward to rut.

Muzzleloader

The muzzleloader hunt is after the rifle hunt, occurring during the last few days of September and the first few days of October. Depending on the year, this hunt is either slightly on the tail end of the best rut action or could be the best of the rut if the rut is running late. Generally, during a warmer year, the muzzleloader hunt can be as good as it gets for rutting bulls. The odds of drawing a permit are typically a bit better for the muzzleloader hunts and, with the change in Utah’s law to allow the use of a magnified scopes, this may be worth considering. Hunters are likely have a lot of opportunities to look over and hear bulls, and some great bulls are taken every year on the muzzy hunt.

October any legal weapon (rifle)

As identified in the “What’s New” section above there are some new elk hunts that will occur in October on select units. These hunts will occur at the same time as  “spike” OTC hunts so be aware that there is going to be added pressure on these hunts. These hunts are likely to have better draw odds. If you are rifle hunter with less than maximum points that is willing to hunt hard and doesn’t mind some company, then this might be a good option. The timing of this hunt occurs during a time when the bigger herd bulls are likely to have begun to move off into isolated pockets to find refuge after the rut. Some decent satellite quality bulls may still be hanging around cow/calf herds.

Late any legal weapon (rifle)

The November any legal weapon (rifle) hunt can be a tough hunt, but it can also reward a hunter willing to cover ground with an opportunity at a giant bull. Bulls are likely to be holed up in rough remote pockets after the rut. Some of the bigger bulls will be broken up and busted tines are not uncommon. In recent years, some of the largest bulls have been harvested during these late season hunts. Typically, these are bulls that have evaded hunters year after year and, eventually, someone has picked apart their winter range pattern and either drawn a permit themselves or they have hired guides or hunted with someone willing to show them the ropes. Odds are generally better for this hunt. These are good hunts for hunters willing to research, scout, hunt hard, and deal will tougher conditions.

All season permit

Utah has a few permits that give the hunter an opportunity for every open season (archery, early rifle, muzzleloader, late rifle). As you might imagine, these are tough permits to draw. If you happen to draw one, though, you could be very selective and harvest a bull of a lifetime.

The goHUNT hit list units for Utah elk
 

Robyn Waldrip Utah archery bull elk with Wade Lemon Hunting
Robyn Waldrip Utah archery bull elk with Wade Lemon Hunting - A goHUNT Business Member

Any Limited Entry unit in Utah is capable of providing a chance at a 330” or better bull, but there are a few units that are among the top for high end trophy potential. Typically, these are units that are managed for an older age class objective and have seen relatively few changes in tag allocations over the past 10 or so years. Among the best are Beaver/East, Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, San Juan, Fillmore/Pahvant, and Monroe. These are obviously the most difficult units to draw.

Among others, a few units that are known to produce great bulls include West Desert, Deep Creek, Book Cliffs/Little Creek, Mount Dutton, and Panguitch Lake. Any unit can produce a giant bull, but, certainly, some units have more of those top end bulls.

Top hunt units to consider for 340” or better bulls
(not in order of quality)

Unit

Trophy
Potential

3 year
avg. age class

 

Beaver, East 380” 7.1
Fillmore, Pahvant 380" 7.3
Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits 380" 7.6
San Juan 380" 7.6
Monroe 380" 6.7
La Sal, La Sal Mtns 370" 6.4
Mt Dutton 370" 5.8
Book Cliffs, Little Creek 360" 7.4
North Slope, Three Corners 360" 6.1
Panguitch Lake 360" 5.8

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem elk units

There are almost no secrets in Utah’s elk units, but there are other areas/seasons that have better odds and still allow a chance at taking a mature bull scoring greater than 330”. Utilize our Filtering 2.0 tools and manipulate the Trophy Potential to explore each unit's potential. Beyond that, customize your search and click on a specific unit to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn an area. Our Utah elk Species Profile is another great way to determine other units and regions of the state to consider. Within the Species Profile you will find a table showing the top Boone and Crockett producing units over the years for both typical and nontypical bulls. The trophy potential exists in just about every unit in Utah. Look for a way to improve your odds by accessing more remote country, hunting seasons outside of the rut, or improving your abilities with primitive weapons.

Utah's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical elk

County*

No. of
entries

Units found within county

San Juan 7 San Juan, La Sal/La Sal Mountains
Sevier County 5 Plateau/Boulder/Kaiparowits, Beaver, East, Central Mtns/Nebo, Central Mtns/Manti,
Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes, Monroe, Fillmore/Pahvant
Iron County 3 Beaver, East, Southwest Desert, Mt Dutton
Sanpete County 3 Central Mtns/NeboCentral Mtns/Manti
Box Elder County 2 Box Elder, Grouse Creek, Box Elder, Pilot Mtn

* Five other counties with two entries.

Utah's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical elk

County*

No. of
entries

Units found within county

Garfield 4 Beaver, Panguitch Lake, Paunsaugunt,
Plateau/Boulder/ Kaiparowits, Mt. Dutton
Carbon County 1 Central Mtns, Manti, Nine Mile, Anthro, Wasatch Mtns
Iron 1 Beaver, East, Panguitch Lake, Southwest Desert
San Juan 1 San Juan, La Sal/La Sal Mountains
Tooele 1 Oquirrh-Stansbury, West Desert, Deep Creek, Box Elder, Pilot Mtn

* One other counties with one entry.

Trending bull:cow ratio areas
 

Large Utah bull elk taken with High Top Outfitters
Bull taken with High Top Outfitters - A goHUNT Business Member

You have probably noticed that we provide data on bull to cow ratios for each hunt unit in Utah. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher bull to cow ratio could indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bulls compared to a unit with a lower bull to cow ratio. This doesn’t always indicate that the bulls will be the highest scoring bulls, but more bulls equates to more bulls to find and harvest. When selecting an area, or comparing several areas, take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth.

It’s important to understand how Utah manages their bull to cow ratios, which, in turn, will tell you something about overall herd health. In addition to the bull elk Limited Entry permits allocated through the draw, Utah uses a spike only OTC hunt on almost every limited entry unit to reduce the overall bull to cow ratio. That keeps the bull to cow ratio in check while retaining an older age class of bulls within the population for Limited Entry hunters to hunt and harvest. Because the listed bull to cow ratios are gained through postseason data and  Utah harvests spikes in addition to big bulls, the ratio by and large represents a MATURE BULL TO COW ratio.

Top Utah units for bull:cow ratios

Units

Bull:Cow
Ratio

Morgan-South Rich* 60:100
Nine Mile, Range Creek* 50:100
San Juan 47:100
San Juan, Montezuma Canyon* 47:100
East Canyon* 42:100
Nine Mile, Anthro 41:100
La Sal, La Sal Mtns 39:100
Oquirrh-Stansbury 35:100
Fillmore, Oak Creek* 33:100
Fillmore, Pahvant 33:100

* These are OTC units so trophy potential might be lacking.

Utah’s OTC Any Bull Units, what are they all about?

Utah has very few OTC any bull elk hunting opportunities. You can filter Utah elk by all of the OTC elk units on Filtering 2.0. OTC any bull elk units in Utah all share one thing in common: there are relatively few elk as compared to the Limited Entry units. In our opinion, there are much better OTC opportunities to hunt bulls in states like Idaho and Colorado where elk populations and trophy quality are much better in those types of units. For a resident that wants to explore OTC any bull hunting in Utah, the best two units are the North Slope, Summit/West Daggett and South Slope, Bonanza/Vernal/Yellowstone. Also, the Zion unit in southern Utah seems to be improving in populations, but is quite limited in the amount of huntable public land.

Another OTC possibility for branch antlered bulls is the Extended Archery hunt on the Wasatch Front and Uintah Basin.

Managing points and expectations

Find your draw odds

I have 0 elk points. What can I expect?

Without points, you will be relying on pure luck. Remember, every applicant has some chance to draw as long as there is a permit available. You could take two strategies: 1.) Pick your dream hunt and cross your fingers that lady luck shines on you or, 2) Maximize your odds to draw a random tag by picking units that meet your Trophy Potential criteria and offer a greater number of permits or offer better odds, i.e. OTC units, archery, late season or muzzleloader.

What can I do with 3 or 4 elk points?

Unfortunately, in Utah, three or four points will not allow a nonresident to draw a permit from the maximum point pools. You are once again relying on luck to get you a tag. In our opinion, apply for the best units and cross your fingers or apply for units with more permits. For a resident, three or four points can actually draw you some archery permits (La Sal, La Sal Mtns, Nine Mile Anthro, Plateau, Fishlake/Thousand Lakes, Paunsaugunt, Cache North) and give you decent odds on some good Limited Entry units (Wasatch, Central Mtns, Manti, Cache South, Mount Dutton). If you find yourself in this range, use the stand alone draw odds page to explore your options. For the rifle and most muzzleloader permits, you will still have poor odds. If you find yourself in this range, consider your goals for your hunt. If you want to maximize your chance at a true monster, perhaps hold out and build points. If you have ample time to scout, or are willing to hire a guide, consider some of the units you could draw. You could consider some of the new for 2016 October elk hunts, but remember that you will be hunting alongside OTC spike hunters.

What can I expect with 9 or 10 elk points?

With nine or 10 points, a nonresident is not guaranteed one of the top tier units, but with 10 points you could potentially draw an archery permit on a unit like the Wasatch or Paunsaugunt. These units are both good units, but do they meet your criteria after waiting 10 years to draw an archery permit? You could consider some of the new for 2016 October elk hunts, but remember that you will be hunting alongside OTC spike hunters. For the other rifle or muzzleloader hunters, there are certainly some options where odds are slightly better. You should review the Draw Odds and Filtering 2.0 and see if you can find a good fit for you. At this point level, in my opinion, the difference in odds between some of the best units and some of the mediocre units isn’t good enough to make them that alluring. We suggest applying for a better unit in hopes of getting the random tag of your dreams. For residents, at 10 points, the only archery units beyond you are those listed above in the goHUNT hit list units for Utah elk. Study the odds and the unit and you will see several really good opportunities within reach. With 10 points, there are some muzzleloader and late rifle permits within reach. Look at the odds and use the trophy potential search tool and you’ll quickly see those that rise to the top (Central Mtns/Nebo, La Sal/La Sal Mtns, Nine Mile Anthro, Paunsaugunt, Cache South, Central Mtns/Manti). Unfortunately, most early rifle tags are still out of reach.



Utah's antelope breakdown

Pam Smith 2015 Utah antelope buck taken with Wade Lemon Hunting

Pam Smith 2015 Utah antelope buck taken with Wade Lemon Hunting - A goHUNT Business Member

When it comes to antelope trophy potential, Utah doesn’t have the notoriety that states like Arizona, New Mexico, or Wyoming might have, but there is some good opportunity to hunt antelope. A Boone & Crockett buck could come from any unit, but do not anticipate goods odds of harvesting a record book animal. Nonresidents can apply for every species in Utah and, as long as you purchase a hunting license to apply for other species like elk or mule deer, you might as well throw your name in the hat and build points for antelope, too. For residents, unless you are a die hard antelope hunter, it might be best to apply and build points for antelope after you have drawn a limited entry elk or mule deer permit and are in the mandatory waiting period.

Current antelope herd condition

Antelope populations across the state are largely stable to increasing. Review the table for more detailed information on what units are improving. Antelope are relatively resilient and populations can grow quickly with good feed and water. Once again, with recent moisture levels and continued wet spring weather, antelope populations should expand. With Utah seeing snowfall across the state even to the valley floors, that should help our lowland grasslands and sage steppe areas immensely and antelope should do very well. Trophy potential is not as good as, perhaps, Arizona, New Mexico, or Wyoming. Utah isn’t likely to produce several trophies a year, but a book buck could come from any unit.

Eight year Utah antelope harvest numbers

Utah is a great state to apply and build points for antelope. Plus, antelope are good hunts to get the family together and expose kids to hunting.

The seasons

Utah offers seasons for archery and any legal weapon (rifle) on several units, but only three units have muzzleloader hunts, which are Cache/Morgan-South Rich/Ogden, Plateau, Parker Mtn, Southwest Desert. Archery hunts give bowhunters the first crack at hunting antelope. Decoying, sitting water, and spot and stalk can all be effective. Decoys should not be used during the rifle and muzzleloader seasons.

The goHUNT hit list units for Utah antelope

The standouts for Utah’s trophy quality buck antelope are Book Cliffs, South and San Rafael, North. These two units are the most likely to produce those giant 80” plus bucks. If you utilize Filtering 2.0, you can see that there are 13 other units that could produce 75” plus bucks and many of those have relatively decent odds. As previously stated, any unit could produce a book buck. The key is to do your research and take scouting seriously. Any antelope hunt in Utah is bound to be a good hunt with more than enough public land, good weather and opportunity to see multiple bucks. 

Top hunt units to consider for 75” or better antelope
(not in order of quality)

Unit*

Trophy
Potential

Book Cliffs, South 80"
San Rafael, North 80"
Beaver 75"
Book Cliffs, Bitter Creek 75"
Fillmore, Oak Creek South 75"
Mt. Dutton/Paunsaugunt, Johns Valley 75"
Nine Mile, Anthro-Myton Beach 75"
North Slope, Three Corners/West Daggett 75"
Panguitch Lake/Zion, North 75"
Pine Valley 75"

* 5 more units with 75" plus trophy potential.


Five year Boone & Crockett entry trends for Utah antelope

Utah's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for antelope

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Box Elder 3 Box Elder/ Pilot Mtn, Box Elder/ Snowville, Box Elder/ Promontory
Carbon 3 Nine Mile/ Range Creek, San Rafael/North, Nine Mile/Anthro-Myton Bench
Emery 2 Nine Mile/ Range Creek, San Rafael/ North, San Rafael/ Desert
Millard 2 Beaver, Fillmore/Oak Creek South, Southwest Desert,
West Desert/Riverbed, West Desert/Snake Valley
Beaver County* 1 Beaver, Southwest Desert

* Two other counties with one entry.

Is there opportunity among Utah antelope?

Absolutely, especially for residents. They should look to the archery hunts primarily, but some of the muzzleloader hunts also have very good odds. Utah allows nonresidents to apply for all available species so you might as well apply for antelope in addition to elk, deer, and the other once-in-a-lifetime species. You may get lucky in a random draw and, even if you don’t, it doesn’t take nearly as many years to obtain a permit on maximum points.

Managing points and expectations

Find your draw odds

I have 0 antelope points. What can I expect?

For a resident with zero points, you could apply for the Plateau, Parker Mtn archery hunt and potentially go hunting this fall. There are several other very good archery hunts where your odds are in the high teens and higher, including, but not limited to, Book Cliffs, South, Beaver, and Southwest Desert. The muzzleloader odds are very good for a resident. In fact, the three units that offer a muzzy hunt have better odds with zero points than many of the archery units. A nonresident with zero points has pretty slim odds across the board. In our opinion, you should apply for the best hunt that fits your criteria and hope for some luck in the random draw.

What can I do with 3 or 4 antelope points?

Residents have a very good chance to draw a permit, especially if you are willing to hunt with archery equipment or a muzzleloader. The San Rafael, North Unit and the West Desert Units (Riverbed, Rush Valley, Snake Valley) will likely take a few more points, but some good archery options in this point range would be the Southwest Desert, Beaver, Book Cliffs, South, Pine Valley, Black Rock Fillmore and others. Every muzzleloader antelope hunt is likely to be drawn to a resident with four points. Some of the better rifle hunts will take a few more points to be in the bonus point permit pool. The Plateau, Parker Mtn, Pine Valley and Box Elder, Promontory offer the best odds to resident rifle hunters in this point range. Nonresidents in this point range that want a good chance to hunt should look at the archery hunt on the Plateau, Parker Mtn or Cache/Morgan-South Rich/Ogden muzzleloader hunt. If you can wait and continue to build points, we would suggest you apply for the best permit that fits your criteria and hope for a randomly draw tag.

What can I expect with 9 or 10 antelope points?

Residents with this many points can draw any primitive weapon hunt that they apply for and are close to being able to draw any rifle permit. The only hunts that they could not draw with nine points would be the rifle San Rafael, North and the three West Desert Units (Riverbed, Rush Valley, Snake Valley). If you are a diehard antelope hunter, then it's fully understandable that you could hold out for one of these top tier units, but for the individual that will apply for other states like Wyoming, New Mexico, or Arizona, our suggestion would be to cash in prior to building this many points and put those applications into other species in Utah like mule deer or elk with much better trophy potential. The other alternative would be to build points for antelope in between your waiting periods for elk and deer and, eventually, hunt one of the premier units/hunts.

A lot of the antelope hunts in Utah only offer one permit to nonresidents, which means that permit is going in a random draw. If you have nine or 10 points, then your odds are certainly better for drawing those permits, but you will not be guaranteed unless more permits were added. If you don’t mind just buying points or applying year in and year out without drawing, apply for the best units. If you want to increase you chance to draw, look for the units with greater numbers of permits and monitor the units that are offering a permit to the maximum point holder. Research what those units are on the details draw odds page.

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