Utah announces 2023 big game season recommendations

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

This week, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) released its big game season recommendations. To propose what’s best for wildlife, UDWR looks at buck-to-doe ratios, current population estimates and objectives, data gathered from GPS collars and hunter harvest rates from previous seasons as well as current habitat and environmental conditions, according to a press release.

And, unfortunately, that means like previous years, there will be fewer permits available.

For the upcoming season, Utah plans to decrease the number of general season deer permits, making it the fifth year in a row fewer permits will be available. While the current deer population is estimated at 335,000 deer, that is still below the 404,000 objective outlined in the state’s deer management plan.

“There are a few things that can negatively impact deer populations in Utah,” said Dax Mangus, UDWR big game coordinator. “Those include poor or limited habitat, predators and weather — either extreme, ongoing drought or really heavy snowfall, like we had this winter. The most important factors that drive deer population numbers are the survival rates of doe deer (since bucks don't have babies), fawn production and fawn survival after the winter. The way we hunt buck deer in Utah doesn't drive deer populations, but what happens with deer populations drives how we hunt buck deer.”

Because of this, UDWR recommends 71,600 general season deer permits, which is a 1,475 decrease from 2022. This decrease impacts 10 of the 31 deer hunting units. Here’s what it looks like broken down by regions:

  • Northern Utah: Proposing a decrease of 4,800 permits (about a 20% decrease from last year).
  • Central Utah: Proposing an increase of 600 permits (a 4% increase from last year).
  • Northeastern Utah: Proposing a decrease of 1,000 permits (about an 11% decrease from last year).
  • Southern Utah: Proposing an increase of 3,275 permits (about a 28% increase from last year).
  • Southeastern Utah: Proposing an increase of 450 permits (about a 3.5% increase from last year).

Utah big game permit recommendations

2023 recommended

General-season buck deer



Limited-entry deer



Antlerless deer



General-season any bull elk


15,000 for adults in the early general-season any bull elk hunt (for any legal weapon and muzzleloader hunters).
Unlimited for youth, unlimited for archery hunters and unlimited for the general-season any bull late hunt (sold over the counter)

General-season spike bull elk


15,000 (sold OTC, with a cap of 4,500 mult-season permits)

Antlerless elk



Youth draw-only any bull elk



Limited-entry bull elk



Buck antelope



Doe antelope



Bull moose



Antlerless moose






Desert bighorn sheep



Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep



Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ewe



Mountain goat



“For several years, we have had more demand for deer hunting in Utah than we have the supply for,” said Mangus. “While it is hard to see the negative impacts of the severe winter in northern Utah, it is exciting to see high fawn production and very high survival of does and fawns in southern Utah. Biologists look closely at each hunting unit and individual situation when they make permit recommendations. We are recommending a decrease for both buck deer and antlerless deer permits again this year, but the circumstances of individual deer populations vary greatly across the state. We use the best available data and our management plans to make proactive recommendations for the herd health of our wildlife.”

This is bad news for deer hunters, but there is a silver lining if you were planning to hunt elk, too. Elk are currently over objective with an estimated 82,960 elk in the state, resulting in a “slight increase” in bull elk permits for 2023.

UDWR will be holding a series of public meetings to discuss the proposed big game hunting permit changes as well as other updates on use of technology and weapons. You can view the meeting schedule here.

“We value innovation but also recognize that common-sense regulations limiting the use of technology for hunting can preserve hunting traditions into the future and can increase opportunities for hunters,” said Derrick Ewell, UDWR district wildlife biologist. “These regulations can also help wildlife managers meet the objectives outlined in wildlife management plans.”

For a full breakdown of how many permits will be offered for all Utah big game, click here.


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