Utah DWR proposes new statewide elk management plan


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The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has just released its draft proposals for Utah's new 10-year elk management plan. The DWR also released 2023-2024 season date proposals and a few other recommendations. At the time of this writing, these are merely proposals, and nothing is set in stone. The DWR is currently seeking public comments on these proposals.

View the official release from the Utah DWR

The current elk management plan is set to expire in December. A 19-person committee was pulled together to help plan the new draft proposal management plan which would go into effect in 2023 and be effective through 2032 with a mid-plan review scheduled for 2028. The committee is comprised of members from state and federal agencies, conservation groups and academia as well as private landowners, hunters and members of the public. The plan was developed using in-depth elk research, the current status of Utah’s elk herds and also public surveys.

The individual elk-management unit plans will be revised in 2023 and will go out to the public for feedback if they include changes to hunting unit boundaries or population objectives.

Most of the proposed changes are centered around increased demand for general season elk tags as well as a perceived loss of opportunity due to point creep. "The demand for elk hunting in Utah has continued to grow over the years," DWR Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus said. "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 are proposing 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."

"The major theme for the elk plan committee — and the resulting proposed plan — has been to increase elk hunting opportunity, while maintaining quality, through increased challenge and creativity," Mangus said. "We believe these proposed changes will help reach those goals. The recommended 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."


Proposed changes to elk hunting

General hunting season changes

  • Adding six additional general-season hunting units to the any bull elk hunt.

    • Nine Mile, Anthro

    • Paunsaugunt

    • West Desert (Oquirrh-Stansbury and Deep Creek Units)

    • Central Mtns, Moroni Hills and Valley Mtns

    • Book Cliffs, Floy Canyon

    • Box Elder, Sawtooth

  • 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.
  • Having no cap on permit numbers for the late season any-legal-weapon any bull hunt.
  • Capping multi-season any bull permits at 7,500.
  • 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.

Limited-entry hunt 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.
  • Adding the 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 traditional limited-entry elk hunt to five days long.
  • Maximizing hunting opportunities by maintaining the units/hunts managed for restricted-weapon hunts, 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, additional restricted weapon or 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.

2023-2024 Big game hunting season dates- Proposed

Deer

  • General-season archery: Aug. 19–Sept. 15, 2023
  • General-season muzzleloader: Sept. 27–Oct. 5, 2023
  • General-season early any legal weapon: Oct. 11–15, 2023
  • General-season any legal weapon: Oct. 21–29, 2023

Elk

  • General-season archery spike bull: Aug. 19–Sept. 8, 2023
  • General-season archery any bull: Aug. 19–Sept. 20, 2023
  • General-season muzzleloader: Nov. 1–9, 2023
  • General-season any legal weapon spike bull: Oct. 7–19, 2023
  • General-season early any legal weapon any bull: Oct. 7–13, 2023
  • General-season late any legal weapon any bull: Oct. 14–20, 2023
  • Limited-entry elk archery: Aug. 23–Sept. 19, 2023
  • Limited-entry late-season archery elk: Dec. 2–17, 2023
  • Limited-entry elk early any weapon: Sept. 20–24, 2023
  • Limited-entry elk HAMS/restricted weapons: Nov. 11–30, 2023
  • Limited-entry any legal weapon hunt on 14 units that didn't previously have a mid-season hunt: Oct. 7–19, 2023
  • Limited-entry late-season any legal weapon hunt on Diamond Mountain: Nov. 11–19, 2023

Along with season date changes Mangus also added: “We will also recommend a general-season archery antlerless elk hunt in the spring of 2023, the intent of this recommendation is to address 'point creep' for antlerless elk and to provide a new opportunity for archery elk hunters that will help increase the harvest of antlerless elk."


Proposed amendments to restricted weapons

Along with the proposed changes to the elk management plan the state is also looking to revise laws of was constitutes a restricted weapon. Restricted weapons are used for archery, handguns, muzzleloaders, shotguns and rifles, including during the HAMS (handgun, archery, muzzleloader and shotgun) hunts. If this recommendation passes, this would allow the DWR to create new restricted weapon hunts in addition to the archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunt types currently allowed for in rule. This recommendation WILL NOT discontinue the current hunt types but would be in addition to them.

Archery

Archery equipment will be considered restricted if it meets all of the following specifications:

  • The bow must be a single-stringed recurve or a longbow.
  • It must not have sights or any cables, pulleys, cams or attached electronic devices.

Muzzleloader

A muzzleloader will be considered restricted if it meets all of the following specifications:

  • Be equipped only with a flint percussion cap or a musket cap (209 primers and all other modern ignition types are prohibited)
  • Be equipped with an ignition system in which any portion of the cap is clearly exposed and visible when the hammer of the weapon is cocked and ready to fire
  • Be free of any electronic devices
  • Have only open sights or peep sights

Any Weapon (Rifle)

A rifle will be restricted if it meets all of the following specifications:

  • Have only open sights or peep sights
  • Be free of any electronic devices
  • Not be a semi-automatic rifle

Handgun

A handgun is considered restricted if it meets all of the following specifications:

  • Have only open sights or peep sights
  • Be free of any electronic devices
  • Have no more than a single barrel 15 inches or less in length, including the chamber
  • Have a single rear handgrip, without any form of a fixed, detachable, or collapsible buttstock
  • Not have any apparatus or extension behind the rear grip capable of being used to steady the handgun against the body while firing; or a vertical foregrip
  • Be no more than 24 inches in overall length

Shotgun

A shotgun is considered restricted if it meets all of the following specifications:

  • Have only open sights or peep sights
  • Be free of any electronic devices
  • Be 20 gauge or larger
  • Fire only size 00 or larger buckshot or slug ammunition

GIVE FEEDBACK!

The public comment period opened on Oct. 25 for each of the five Regional Advisory Council meetings and for the Utah Wildlife Board meeting. Public comments submitted within the online-comment timeframes listed below will be shared with the RAC and wildlife board members at each respective meeting. Members of the public can choose to either watch the meetings online or attend them in person. If you wish to comment during the meeting, you should attend in person — online comments will only be accepted until the deadlines listed below.

  • Northern Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 6 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Central Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Wildlife Resources Conference Room (DWR Springville Office) at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 6 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southern Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at Southern Utah University in the Hunter Conference Center in the Charles R Hunter Room in Cedar City. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 10 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 10 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wildlife Resources Conference Room (DWR Vernal Office) at 318 N. Vernal Ave. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 10 at 11:59 p.m.)

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