APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Utah Sheep, Moose, Goat, Bison
Utah's 2017 sheep, moose, goat and bison application overview
The Utah draw really caters to nonresidents, allowing them to apply for every species every year. In 2016, Utah offered 26 total once-in-a-lifetime permits to nonresidents. That’s eight Rocky Mountain goat permits, nine bison permits, three Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permits, three desert bighorn sheep permits, and three moose permits.
Once-in-a-lifetime permits in 2016
For Utah residents, you have to pick your species and the draw odds are tough. The application fee is only $10 so it makes sense to pick one and begin applying. Residents and nonresidents, whether you have no points or 20 years’ worth, this article will cover everything you need to know to apply for once-in-a-lifetime species in Utah in 2017.
Note: The application deadline for all moose, sheep, goat and bison hunts is March 2. You can apply online or by phoning any UDWR Division Office.
Why Utah for sheep, moose, goat, bison
• Utah has huntable populations for all of the once-in-a-lifetime species, vast amounts of public land, and a high rate for hunt success.
• Utah’s draw system gives every applicant some chance to draw a once-in-a-lifetime permit. While it may be a slight chance, it’s still a chance.
• Utah is one of the few states to offer desert bighorn sheep permits to nonresidents.
• Utah is one of a few places to hunt free range American bison.
• There is ample time to hunt; the bulk of the hunts are at least a month long and some are much longer.
• Utah has some of the best mountain goat hunting in the Lower 48.
• Utah doesn’t have as many moose permits as some surrounding states, but trophy potential is quite good with possibilities of 40” wide bulls.
New for 2017
- Shed hunting closure statewide until April 1. Read more here.
- Youth hunters can apply for limited entry and once-in-a-lifetime hunts at an earlier age. The youth must turn 12 years old by Dec. 31, 2017.
- Updated application page website.
- Changes to make the process easier to use.
New bison hunts
- Book Cliffs - cow only - Nov. 11-Dec. 1
- Henry Mtns - archery only - hunter's choice - Oct. 6-Oct. 20
New mountain goat hunts
- Mt Dutton - Sept. 11-Nov. 30
- North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central - archery - Aug. 19-Sept. 10
New Rocky bighorn sheep hunts
- Nine Mile, Gray Canyon - Nov. 1-30
- Nine Mile, Jack Creek - Nov. 1-30
- North Slope, Bare Top/West Daggett - Nov. 1-30
Sheep closure on units:
- Pilot Mtn
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 on our State Profile. You can also view the Utah rocky bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.
Important dates and information
- Deadline to apply is March 2, 2017 at 11 p.m. MST.
- Bonus point and preference point applications will be accepted up to March 16, 2017 11 p.m. MST.
- You can apply online or by calling or visiting a UDWR office.
- Results will be emailed or available online on or before May 31, 2017.
- 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.
- 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.
- An individual who draws a once-in-a-lifetime 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.
- Once-in-a-lifetime: means you can only draw one permit in Utah for each one of the following species in your LIFETIME (bull moose, bison, desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat).
- Group applications are not allowed for once-in-a-lifetime species.
- Reporting your hunt information is required for any once-in-a-lifetime or limited entry hunt within 30 days of the end of your hunt even if you did not harvest. If you do not report your harvest you will not be allowed to apply the following year unless you pay a $50 late fee.
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.
The state allows you to enter one hunt choice for once-in-a-lifetime species. 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 (bull moose, bison, desert bighorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn, Rocky Mountain goat). Nonresidents can apply for all species that they are interested in. Half of all the permits for any given hunt are guaranteed to 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, then the larger amount goes to random draw. If only one permit is available, it will go in the random draw.
Example: Rocky Mountain goat — North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas West - nonresident
There was one nonresident permit available. The permit went in a random drawing to an individual with six bonus points even though there were lots of 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.
Unlocking Utah’s system
Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:
- Buck deer (multi-season premium limited entry, premium limited entry, multi-season limited entry, limited entry, CWMU and management buck deer)
- Bull elk (multi-season limited entry, limited entry and CWMU)
- Buck antelope (limited entry and CWMU)
- Once-in-a-lifetime species (sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
- General buck deer (lifetime license holders)
- General buck deer (dedicated hunters)
- General buck deer (youth)
- General buck deer
- 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 bull elk permit and a once-in-a-lifetime mountain goat permit. If you were successful in drawing the bull elk permit, then your application for mountain goat would be removed from the system before the draw even happens. That is because the bull elk 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 easier bull elk permit and, subsequently, taking your name out of the once-in-a-lifetime drawing.
Coveted hunts (any of Utah’s once-in-a-lifetime hunts), have an extremely small number of tags each year. Overall odds for permits are better for residents than nonresidents.
Here’s why that matters
It’s important to look at the permit allocations and applicant breakdowns on the Unit Profiles and Draw Odds from the previous year and evaluate your application strategy. A call to a district biologist is also a good idea in order to assess how many permits may be available since Utah doesn’t set their allocations until after the application deadline. If you are building points and have been for a long time, it may benefit you to take a quick look at how many points it took to draw one of the available maximum point permits.
For example, according to the 2016 application records, there was one resident with 19 mountain goat points that applied for the Central Mtns, Nebo hunt (a hunt that only has a random tag) that could have applied for the North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas West and successfully drew one of the maximum point permits.
Historically anyone over 15 points were drawing the tags in the max point pool. Perhaps that wasn’t the hunt that person was looking for, but it illustrates the importance of reviewing your points and permit numbers closely before applying.
For all species, the maximum point amount is 24 for 2017; however, there are some species where there are no longer applicants that have 24 points.
Desert bighorn sheep
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
There is no once-in-a-lifetime youth-specific point system in Utah. Youth have no tags or special seasons for once-in-a-lifetime species.
Utah's 2017 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
Current bighorn herd condition
According to the most current UDWR management plan, the estimate for Rocky Mountain bighorns in Utah is at nearly 2,200 sheep and has shown an increasing trend, overall, in the past 15 years. Of the total population, approximately 770 are considered California bighorn sheep and are found on Antelope Island, the Newfoundland Mountains, and the Stansbury Mountains. Utah currently has 12 distinct populations of Rocky Mountain and California bighorn sheep all of which are due to transplanting efforts. Six of these populations are showing increasing trends, three are stable, and three are showing declining trends or have low numbers of sheep. Decreasing populations are found in Book Cliffs/Rattlesnake, Wasatch Mountains/Provo Peak and Central Mountains/Nebo. One population, North Slope-Goslin Mountain was culled in 2009 due to disease issues and concerns about the disease spreading to nearby herds
Additionally, a new population of Rocky Mountain bighorns is being established in the Oak Creek Unit in central Utah with sheep relocated from Antelope Island and the Newfoundland Mtns. Transplants have been a major component of Utah’s sheep management strategy.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunts are any legal weapon permits. You can use a rifle, muzzleloader or even archery equipment if you desire. Most hunts are relatively long and occur in November which should coincide with the rut.
The Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn unit has two seasons: Oct. 28 to Nov. 17, which only has permits available to residents, and Nov. 18 to Dec. 10, which has one nonresident permit. Central Mtns, Nebo/Wastch Mtns, West has a season that runs from Nov. 1 to 30 and is for residents only.
The other unit that has a nonresident permit is Book Cliffs, South, which has a hunt that runs Nov. 1 to 30 and the new hunt, Nine Mile, Gray Canyon.
The Antelope Island hunt (available to residents only) has some special rules and regulations as Antelope Island itself is a state park. The Antelope Island hunt is a short eight day hunt Nov. 15 to 22. Hunters may be accompanied by up to four non-hunting companions. A mandatory orientation is held prior to the hunt at the Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center. All hunters and their companions have to check in with park management at the beginning of their hunt and check out at the end of their hunt. Instructions on checking in and out will be provided at the mandatory orientation.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah rocky bighorns
Utah typically does not produce the giant sheep like surrounding states, but most units will regularly produce rams in the 155” to 170” range. There are currently 8 units in Utah where you can hunt rocky bighorns. The two units where you could potentially hunt and harvest a 175”+ ram would be Book Cliffs, South (80% harvest success) and the newly split Nine, Mile units.
Top hunt units to consider for 165” or better Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
|Book Cliffs, South||175"+||Nov. 1-30 — 80%|
|Nine Mile||175"+||Switching to a new hunt in 2017|
|Central Mtns, Nebo/Wasatch Mtns, West||170"+||Nov. 1-30 — 100%|
|Antelope Island||165"+||Nov. 15-22 — 100%|
|Wasatch Mtns, Avintaquin||165"+||Nov. 1-30 — 100%|
How to uncover hidden gem rocky bighorn units
There are very few secrets to sheep hunting across the West. Yet, nonresidents should be aware that in Utah there are three units that have one random draw permit available each for Rocky Mountain sheep: Book Cliffs, South, Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn, Nine Mile. Two of those units, as indicated above have great trophy potential and the Newfoundland Mtn’s have a thriving population. Any of those would be a great hunt. Review the draw odds, evaluate your desire for a hunt and apply accordingly.
For residents, the Nine Mile hunts offer maximum point permits for each hunt. The two Newfoundland hunts each had two maximum point permits. If you have a lot of points built up, then you might want to keep your eyes on these units. If you have less than 17 points, then you should look to units that offer more permits to increase your chance of drawing or look at units where perhaps only one permit is available (it will go in random draw).
B&C entry trends for Utah rocky bighorn sheep
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
|Units found within county|
|Grand||4||Book Cliffs, South|
|Emery||2||Nine Mile, Range Creek|
|Carbon||1||Nine Mile, Range Creek|
|Utah||1||Nine Mile, Range Creek|
|Duchesne||1||Wasatch Mtns, Avintaquin, Nine Mile|
Managing points and expectations
2017 maximum points for rocky bighorn sheep:
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Utah Rocky Bighorn Sheep Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 rocky bighorn sheep points. What can I expect?
Residents with zero points have no chance of drawing a maximum bonus point permit and it's going to be a long wait to try to draw a tag randomly. Look for units that offer a greater number of tags to maximize your opportunity of drawing a tag. Draw odds at zero points range from 0.03% to 0.13%.
Nonresidents have three units they can apply for (Book Cliffs, South, Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn, and Nine Mile, Gray Canyon)— all of which have one tag available to nonresidents that will go in a random draw. The more bonus points you have will give you a better chance statistically of drawing, but you are never guaranteed that permit. This means that if you have zero or even one point, you might as well throw your name into the hat because you always have a chance.
What can I do with 3 or 4 rocky bighorn sheep points?
Residents here are in a similar situation as the zero point level. You will have better odds in this point range, but still no chance at a maximum point permit. Pick units with a greater number of tags to maximize your chance of drawing.
Once again, the more points a nonresident has, then the better their odds of getting lucky. Yet, no permits will be available to them in the maximum point pool. And drawing a tag randomly will take a lot of luck.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 rocky bighorn sheep points points?
If you're a resident, you won’t have much luck of drawing a tag until you get up to about 18 bonus points. There are 122 residents still in the pool that also have that 18 plus many points (or more points than that). With a limited amount of permits available annually you can see how long it will potentially take to work through that many applicants. Yet, once again, you can’t draw if you don’t apply. Carefully review your point total, draw odds, and permit trends before making your choice.
Statistically, you have better odds because, essentially, your name is in the hat that many more times. Yet, again, there are no guarantees. A nonresident will also need 18 plus bonus points to draw a tag in the max point pool.
Utah's desert bighorn sheep breakdown
Nathan Somero 2016 Utah Desert bighorn sheep taken with Wade Lemon Hunting — A goHUNT Business Member
Significant populations of desert bighorns occur across the Colorado Plateau including the San Rafael Swell and throughout the Colorado River and its many tributaries. Utah has been very proactive with transplanting sheep, establishing new populations and bolstering existing herds. A significant amount of desert bighorns have been moved from Nevada to the Kaiparowits (East, Escalante, West) units in recent years.
Current desert bighorn sheep herd condition
The current population estimate for desert bighorns in Utah is 2,000 sheep and has been relatively stable for the past 10 years. Utah currently has 12 distinct populations of desert bighorn sheep. Of those 12, three are showing increasing trends, four are stable, and five are showing declining trends or have low numbers of sheep. Units that have populations on the downward trend include San Juan North & South, La Sal, Potash/South Cisco, San Rafael North & South. Decline in these populations is likely due to disease.
Desert bighorn sheep hunts are any weapon permits. You can use a rifle, muzzleloader or even archery equipment if you choose. Most hunts are long, giving you almost two months to fill your permit. All but a couple hunts will begin on Sept. 16 and end Nov. 10. The three exceptions are the two Zion unit hunts; one runs Sept. 17 to Oct. 13 and another runs Oct. 14 to Nov. 10, Pine Valley hunt that runs Oct. 28 to Dec. 30
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah desert bighorn sheep
Utah produces some good rams in the 155” to 170” range and there is potential on the Zion Unit for something a bit larger.
Top hunt units to consider for 155” or better desert bighorn sheep
|Zion||170"+||Sept. 16-Oct. 30 — 100%
Oct. 14-Nov. 10 — 86%
|Pine Valley||165"+||Oct. 28-Dec. 30 — 100%|
|Kaiparowits, West||160"+||Sept. 16-Nov. 10 — 100%|
|Kaiparowits, East||160"+||Sept. 16-Nov. 10 — 100%|
|San Rafael, Dirty Devil||160"+||Sept. 16-Nov. 10 — 100%|
|Kaiparowits, Escalante||155"+||Sept. 16-Nov. 10 — 50%|
How to uncover hidden gem desert bighorn units
Nonresidents should be aware that, in Utah, there are three units that have one random draw permit available each for desert bighorn sheep: the Kaiparowits, East, San Rafael, South, and the Zion. Note: Nonresidents that draw a desert sheep tag in the Zion unit may hunt both the early and late seasons. Nonresidents that draw a Kaiparowits, East tag may also hunt the other two Kaiparowits subunits (West and Escalante). Nonresidents that draw a San Rafael, South permit may also hunt the North subunit. Review the draw odds, evaluate your desire for a hunt and apply accordingly.
For residents, some units are going to be more enjoyable to hunt than others. The Zion unit has a healthy population. The Kaiparowits, West unit, like the Zion, has a great population. The trophy potential is good for both units and these hunts offer the greatest number of permits. A few units that often get overlooked are the Henry Mountains and Kaiparowits, East. The Henry Mountains unit is stable to increasing with the highest ram/ewe ratio of all, based on recently sampled units. There are also some quality rams on the Kaiparowits, East unit and the odds were better than most with two permits and 202 total applicants.
B&C entry trends for Utah desert bighorn sheep
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for desert bighorn sheep
|Washington||5||Zion, Pine Valley|
Managing points and expectations
2017 max points for Desert bighorn sheep:
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Utah Desert Bighorn Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 desert bighorn points. What can I expect?
Residents with zero points have no chance of drawing a maximum bonus point permit. You do have an opportunity to draw one of the randomly allocated permits, though, and every year you apply and get a point, the better your odds. Look for units that offer a greater number of tags to maximize your opportunity of drawing a tag or units that offer one permit and a lower number of applicants.
Nonresidents have three units they can apply for (Kaiparowits, East, San Rafael, South and Zion); all of these units have one tag available to nonresidents, which means that it will go into a random draw. While more bonus points may give you a better chance statistically of drawing, you are never guaranteed that permit. This means that a hunter with zero or only one point might as well try because there will always be a chance.
What can I do with 3 or 4 desert bighorn points?
Residents are in a similar situation and will have better odds in this point range, but no chance at a maximum point permit. Pick units with a greater number of tags to maximize your chance of drawing or units that only have a few tags, but a smaller number of overall applicants.
Once again, the more points a nonresident has the better their odds of getting lucky. Yet, no permits are available to a maximum point holder.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 desert bighorn points?
Residents, according to the 2016 draw odds, you really don’t get into the realm of drawing a tag on maximum points until you get up to about 19 bonus points, but realistically you'll need 20 plus points. There are 286 residents still in the pool that have 19 or more points. With limited permits available annually, you can see how long it will potentially take to work through that many applicants. Remember, you can’t draw if you don’t apply. Carefully review your point total, draw odds, and permit trends before making your choice. There are a few units with only one random tag and less than a 100 applicants. Those may be of interest.
Statistically, you can anticipate better odds as your name is in the hat that many more times, but no guarantees. But with only three units to apply for, and all them going ranomly, you're in for a long wait.
Utah's 2017 Shiras moose breakdown
The first aerial survey for moose was conducted along the north slope of the Uintas in the spring of 1957 where 59 moose were counted. The first legal hunting season for moose in Utah was held in 1958, and a moose hunt has been held every year since that time. Moose are well established in the northern half of Utah. The most current management plan suggests that the population is approximately 3,200. There are 12 units that residents can apply for. There are only three units that offer a nonresident permit in 2017, Cache, North Slope, Summit and the Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns.
Note for residents: there are more than double the amount of people applying for this once-in-a-lifetime species than any other species. If you are a resident just starting to apply for a once-in-a-lifetime species, we suggest that you look hard at another species.
Current moose herd condition
Moose populations across the state tend to be stable to decreasing. Permit numbers, both bull and cow, have seen a decline since about 2004. Numbers of harvested bulls are as low as they have been since 1994. The UDWR has ongoing studies to try to determine the cause of decreasing herds. Yet, despite the general decline, there are some units that seem to be doing well like the Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns, North Slope, Summit and South Slope, Yellowstone.
Bull moose hunts are any weapon permits. You can use a rifle, muzzleloader or archery if you choose. Hunts are relatively long and occur from Sept. 16 to Oct. 19, which should fall during the moose rut.
Many are not aware that there are 24 CWMU hunts offered with a combined 35 bull moose permits available for residents to draw. For nonresidents, you may not apply for CWMU permits, but it’s likely that there are bull moose landowner tags available for purchase on some of these properties. See the UDWR guidebook for more info on CWMU hunts.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah moose
Top hunt units to consider for trophy moose
|Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns|
|North Slope, Summit|
|South Slope, Yellowstone|
How to uncover hidden gem moose units
There are a lot of applicants who have a lot of points built up for moose. Hidden gems are most likely locked away in the CWMU permits, where odds are significantly better. Almost half of all the available permits come from the same unit: the Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns. Which could be considered a good or bad thing in terms of draw odds.
It is highly recommended to check out the Utah Shiras Moose Species Profile to check out the points breakdown for those just starting to build point, or people looking to draw a permit.
The resident point breakdown is very interesting. There appears to be one person with 24, four with 23, and 44 people with 22 points. It will be a long time unil each of those people draw tags with limited tags going to the max point pool. Even though Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns has the majority of tags (25 in 2016), the reality is very few of those that apply will get to experience it due to 7,040 residents applying for that unit in 2016. It might be wise to apply in a different unit.
B&C entry trends for Utah Shiras moose
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for moose
|Units found within county|
|Weber||5||East Canyon, Morgan-South Rich|
|Morgan||3||East Canyon, Morgan-South Rich|
|Summit||3||Chalk Creek, East Canyon, Kamas, East Canyon/ Morgan-Summit,
North Slope/Summit, North Slope/Three Corners/ West Daggett,
Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns
|Wasatch||1||Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns|
|Duchesne||1||South Slope, Yellowstone, Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns|
Managing points and expectations
2017 max points for Shiras moose:
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Utah Moose Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 moose points. What can I expect?
Residents with zero points have no chance of drawing a maximum bonus point permit. You do have an opportunity to draw one of the randomly allocated permits, though, and every year you apply and get a point, the better your chances. In reality, there are so many bull moose applicants that you should consider applying and building points for another species unless, of course, you are dead set on a Utah moose hunt.
Nonresidents can apply for one of three hunts. North Slope, Summit and Cache have one random permit and the Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns will likely have one maximum bonus point permit and one random permit. A nonresident can apply for all species. If you don’t mind paying the $10 application fee you should put your name in. Expect to wait a long time to draw this tag if you're just starting out. You will have less than 1% draw odds until 20 plus points for the Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns hunt, and if you're considering applying for the North Slope, Summit or Cache hunt, you will continue to struggle to draw this tag due to a random only draw.
What can I do with 3 or 4 moose points?
Residents are in a similar situation as with zero points; you may have better odds in this point range, but no chance at a maximum point permit.
Once again, the more points a nonresident has, the better their odds of getting lucky. There are no permits are available to a nonresident in that point range.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 moose points?
According to the 2016 draw odds, residents cannot even dream of drawing a tag on maximum points until they reach 21 plus bonus points. Then, with each point, the odds get very long pretty quick. Unfortunately, having a lot of bull moose points built up in Utah may be a bit of a curse. You may be so invested that you don’t dare stop and apply for another species. Yet, if you keep applying, there’s also the possibility that you may never draw. That’s a conversation you may need to have with yourself. While there’s always a chance, you should review your point total, draw odds, and permit trends before making your choice.
Statistically, you can anticipate better odds since your name is essentially in the hat that many more times, but there are no guarantees. It took 21 plus points in 2016 to draw a tag in the max points pool.
Utah Rocky Mountain goat breakdown
Mountain goats currently inhabit several mountain ranges in Utah including numerous peaks along the Wasatch Front, Uinta Mountains and Tushar Mountains with newly established herds on Mount Dutton and the La Sal Mountain. Goat populations in Utah have steadily increased since 1967 and their current population is estimated to be more than 2,000. Yet, when comparing harvest data from 2013 to 2016, Utah has issued roughly less permits and harvested less goats. For example, the nanny-only Beaver hunt was eliminated in 2016, but there are new hunts opening in other units (Mt Dutton, new archery only hunt on the North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central, and there is still a nanny only hunt on Ogden, Willard Peak), so the outlook is still very promising. Trophy potential still remains quite good on a few units, primarily the Beaver, Ogden, Willard Peak and North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas West.
Current mountain goat herd condition
The Beaver unit, located in southern Utah, is home to a very healthy and growing population of goats. Herds seem to be branching into the southern end of the unit and up onto the Dutton unit to the south, which could explain the new hunt in 2017. In recent years, the Beaver unit has served as source for transplants to other areas of Utah, but the transplants could have been behind the loss of the nanny-only hunt. Regardless, the Beaver unit still has a good herd with plenty of good hunting opportunities for big bullies.
The North Slope/South Slope Uintas (High Uintas Central, High Uintas East, High Uintas Leidy Peak, High Uintas West) units also seem to have very good huntable populations. The High Uintas West unit has the largest population, followed by the Central, East and Leidy Peak as you head East on the range. The permit numbers reflect that trend.
The Ogden, Willard Peak unit has issued more permits in recent years than any other unit and the new nanny only hunt is proof that the population of mountain goats here is doing very well. The populations appear to be stable to increasing. This unit also has had some goats removed and transplanted onto other units in recent years. Trophy potential has been good here in recent years.
The Wasatch (Box Elder Peak/Lone Peak/Timpanogos, Provo Peak) units appear stable to be holding steady, but there is some discussion as to whether there is actually a decrease or if herds are migrating.
All mountain goat hunts are any legal weapon hunts (except for the new archery only hunt on the North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central) but a hunter can use a muzzleloader or archery equipment if they desire. Mountain goats live in the alpine peaks and rocky cliffs of Utah’s high country and weather could potentially be an issue if the hunts are scheduled too late. On the flip side of the coin, the long hair/hide is a major part of the allure in trophy mountain goat hunting and the longer the hunter waits, the more likely the goat is to have that long white winter coat. Almost all mountain goat hunts begin in September and end in late October or early November. The Beaver unit has two seasons: one runs Sept. 9 to 24 and one that runs Sept. 25 to Nov. 15. The Ogden, Willard Peak unit has three hunts, one being a nanny hunt. Any hunt, regardless of the dates, will have goats with good coats. The later the hunt, though, the better they may be. Be aware that you don’t wait too long and get snowed out.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah mountain goats
Top hunt units to consider for trophy mountain goats
|Beaver, 1st season|
|Beaver, 2nd season|
|Ogden, Willard Peak, 1st season|
|Ogden, Willard Peak, 2nd season|
|North Slope/South Slope,
High Uintas West
How to uncover hidden gem mountain goat units
With regard to goat hunting, if the hunt has decent access, the terrain isn’t quite as rough, and the trophy quality is good, then your odds of drawing are much worse. The Beaver and Ogden, Willard Peak units have it all: good access, great trophy potential and more mild terrain in comparison to some of the other areas. They also have tough draw odds.
If you want to maximize your chance of drawing a goat permit, look at the units that are remote or harder to access. These units all have good goat populations and hunting opportunities, but you’ll have to earn them. While the odds on these types of units are typically better, you’ll need to be in good physical shape and expect to hike or go on horseback and stay for awhile. Also, it is important to note that harvest survey information shows that even in remote areas the average days hunted were generally no more than three. Hunters are getting into goat country and tagging out fairly quick. If you talk to biologists, they will tell you that if you hunt hard, spend some time and are selective, then you can find some big older age class trophy billies in every unit.
In 2016, the average number of days hunted for mountain goats was 4.86 (not including sportsman or conservation tags) and that is slightly skewed due to one hunter going after a goat for 15 total days (who didn't harvest).
B&C entry trends for Utah mountain goats
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for mountain goats
|Units found within county|
|Summit||4||Wasatch Mtns/Box Elder Peak/Lone Peak/Timpanogos, Chalk Creek/Kamas, Uintas,
North Slope/South Slope (High Uintas East, High Uintas West,
High Uintas Central)
|Box Elder||3||Ogden, Willard Peak|
|Utah||2||Wasatch Mtns/ Provo Peak, Central Mtns/ Nebo, Wasatch Mtns/Box Elder Peak/Lone Peak/Timpanogos|
|Duchesne||2||Chalk Creek/Kamas, Uintas, North Slope/South Slope (High Uintas Central,
High Uintas East, High Uintas Leidy Peak, High Uintas West)
Managing points and expectations
2017 max points for mountain goat:
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Utah Mountain goat Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 mountain goat points. What can I expect?
A resident with zero points has no chance of drawing a maximum bonus point permit and less than 0.5% across the board to draw one randomly. At this point level, look for units that offer a greater number of tags to maximize your opportunity of drawing a tag. You could look at the nanny-only Ogden, Willard Peak unit since it has better drawing odds.
Nonresidents have eight hunts that they can apply for — all of which have at least one tag available to nonresidents that will go into a random draw. More bonus points give you a better chance statistically of drawing. The person with zero or one point won’t draw a maximum point permit, but since there is always a chance, you should apply.
What can I do with 3 or 4 mountain goat points?
Residents are in a similar situation as they were with zero points. They will have better odds in this point range, but no chance at a maximum point permit. Pick units with a greater number of tags to maximize your chance of drawing or units that only have a few tags, but a smaller number of overall applicants. Review the nanny-only hunt option.
Once again, the more points a nonresident has, then the better their odds of getting lucky. Be aware that there is only one permit available to a maximum point holder and it will take many more years to get to that point level. Instead, consider the hunt dates, overall odds/number of applicants, and trophy potential and apply for a hunt that best fits your needs.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 mountain goat points?
Once again, if you're serious about taking a mountain goat, but don't care if you take a billy or nanny, then residents should check out the nanny-only Ogden, Willard Peak hunt. It is a good option and could possibly be drawn with as little as 11 points. According to the 2016 draw odds, hunters cannot even get close to drawing a billy tag in the maximum points pool until they acquire 15 plus bonus points. Yet, once again, you can’t draw if you don’t apply. Review your point total, draw odds, and permit trends carefully before making your choice.
Statistically, you can anticipate better odds as your name is in the hat that many more times, but there are no guarantees. In 2016, it took 17 points to draw the nonresident maximum point permit. Unfortunately, records show there are 51 people in that 17 plus point pool range.
Utah bison breakdown
Utah is among a handful of states with public land hunting for free range American bison. There are three units that allow bison hunting in Utah: Antelope Island, Book Cliffs (also includes Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench), and Henry Mountains. The Book Cliffs and the Henry Mountains units are for free ranging animals in wild terrain. Bison in the third unit, Antelope Island, are restricted from moving off of the 42-square-mile island by the surrounding Great Salt Lake. The Henry Mountains’ herd is considered to be one of the most genetically pure bison populations in the world. Trophy potential is as good as it gets on all three units.
Current bison herd condition
The bison herd on the Henry Mountains has been at or above population objective in recent years. In 2014, the herd was estimated at over 450. Trophy bison can be found in good numbers. The Antelope Island bison population is healthy. The objective for the unit is about 500 and they are above that objective every year. There is an annual bison roundup were excess bison are rounded up and auctioned off. The Book Cliffs populations seems to be doing well also. Populations are stable to growing.
Bison hunts are any legal weapon hunts (except for the new archery only Henry Mtns hunt from Oct. 6 to 20). You can use a rifle, muzzleloader or even archery equipment if you choose. The Antelope Island hunt is a relatively easy hunt. Bison are easy to find and access. With a limited number of tags, the hunter can be selective with what bull they want to take. The hunt runs Dec. 4 to 6. Since Antelope Island is a state park, they typically close the park to other visitors for one day to allow permit holders to hunt.
The Book Cliffs units are divided into two: Book Cliffs and Book Cliffs/Wildhorse Bench. Both are hunter’s choice, which means that you may harvest a bull or cow. The two Book Cliffs hunt runs from Oct. 14 to Dec. 1 and Nov. 11 to Dec. 1 and the Book Cliffs/Wildhorse Bench hunt runs from Aug. 1 to Jan. 31, 2018. On the early hunts, bison should be at slightly higher elevations prior to deep snows and colder temperatures. On the later hunts, you should expect colder temperatures and bison potentially moving to lower elevations and cover.
The Henry Mountains hunts are divided by dates and hunter’s choice/cow-only. The archery only hunt runs from Oct. 6 to 20. The earlier any legal weapon hunts that run Nov. 4 to Nov. 16 and Nov. 18 to 30 are hunter’s choice, which means that either a bull or cow may be harvested. The two later hunts are cow-only and run about two weeks each in December. The later hunts are likely to be cold and much tougher hunts. If you harvest a bison, be prepared for the amount of work required to pack one out. They are very big animals.
How to uncover hidden gem bison units
The great thing about Utah... any unit can produce a Boone and Crockett animal. The Henry Mountains have the most permits available and cow-only hunts have better odds. If you want to hunt bison and score doesn’t matter, then consider one of these hunts. Also, the Book Cliffs hunts have much better odds than the Henry Mountains. The maximum points required to obtain a resident permit from the maximum point pool were similar, but, overall, there are less applicants for the Book Cliffs hunt.
B&C entry trends for Utah bison
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for bison
|Units found within county|
|Uintah||1||Book Cliffs/Wild Horse Ranch|
Managing points and expectations
2017 max points for bison:
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Utah Bison Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 bison points. What can I expect?
There are nine different bison hunts to apply for.
It's going to be a long wait for a bison tag if you're just starting out. Residents with zero points have no chance of drawing a maximum bonus point permit and draw odds at zero points range from 0.02 to 0.34%. You do have an opportunity to draw one of the randomly allocated permits. Look for units that offer a greater number of tags to maximize your opportunity of drawing a tag. You could look at the cow-only hunts as they offer better drawing odds.
Nonresidents have seven hunts that they can apply for — all of which have one tag available to nonresidents that will go into a random draw.
One hunt (the Henry Mountains Nov. 4 to 16 hunt) has two nonresident permits: one will go to the person with the most points and the other will be randomly drawn. The more bonus points you have will give you a better chance statistically of drawing. The person with zero or one point won’t draw a maximum point permit, but since there is always a chance, you may as well throw your name into the hat.
What can I do with 3 or 4 bison points?
Drawing a tag at this point level is still going to be a long shot. A resident will have slightly better odds in this point range, but again, no chance at a maximum point permit. Draw odds at four points range from 0.11% to 1.4%. Pick units with a greater number of tags to maximize your chance of drawing or units that only have a few tags, but a smaller number of overall applicants. Review cow-only hunt options.
Once again, the more points a nonresident has, then the better their odds of getting lucky. There is only one permit available to a maximum point holder and it will take more than that. Instead, consider the hunt dates, overall odds/number of applicants or trophy potential and apply for a hunt that best fits your needs.
What can I expect with 9, 10 or more bison points?
A resident realistically doesn't have a chance to draw a bison tag until they have 14 plus points. In 2016, draw odds for the Henry Mountains cow only hunt were 52% at 14 points and 100% for 15 and 16 point levels. Another reasonable option would be to apply for the early December cow only hunt, this unit took a full point jump from 2015 to 2016. You needed at least 17 points to get this tag in 2016 and it looks like point creep will happen once again. Be sure to ask yourself if you really want to hold out for a bull tag, or if drawing a cow tag would be fine.
If you want to hold out for a bull bison, you'll need at least 20 plus points to draw one in the max point pool. You can’t draw if you don’t apply. Carefully review your point totals, draw odds, and permit trends before making your choice.
You're still a long ways from drawing a bison tag as a nonresident with only 10 points. In 2017, it took 20 points to draw the nonresident maximum point permit in the Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench and 21 points to draw the Henry Mountains Nov. 4-16 hunt.