Utah Wildlife Board Approves Keeping Elk Permits as Over-the-Counter Sales, Makes Other Hunting Changes

From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources:

SALT LAKE CITY — After a proposal to move the over-the-counter, general-season elk permits to the big game drawing for a one-year trial due to increased demand and system overload issues, the Utah Wildlife Board voted Thursday to continue selling the permits over the counter, and also approved a few other hunting changes during a public meeting. 

Elk permit change

The demand to hunt big game in Utah has increased over the past few years. The general-season any bull elk and spike bull elk permits have traditionally been sold online or over the counter at DWR offices and at a variety of retail locations. These elk permits, in particular, have grown in popularity over the last three years:

  • In 2019, all 15,000 permits sold out in 11 days.
  • In 2020, the 15,000 permits were only sold online due to COVID-19 concerns and sold out in eight hours. (This was also a record sales year for hunting and fishing permits in Utah.) 
  • This year, the 17,500 permits sold out in almost 10 hours. 

“The increased demand for these permits has caused an overload to the license sales system for the past two years, which has led to slower processing times and a frustrating customer experience,” DWR Wildlife Licensing Coordinator Lindy Varney said. “Our current contracted sales system does well during the rest of the year, but these ‘sales days’ for the elk permits cause a buying rush that overloads the system a few days a year.”

The wildlife board voted to continue selling the permits online and over the counter, as in past years.

“We have been working with our contractor to address some of the technical issues, including pursuing a database expansion that will increase performance,” Varney said. “We are hopeful that expansion will be in place for next year’s sales days and will help improve the online buying experience.”  

2022 big game hunting season dates and new hunts

The wildlife board approved leaving the five-day extension on the archery any bull elk hunt until the 2022 season. This extension was a recommendation from the public that was approved last year for a two-year period until the statewide elk plan is revised in 2022. The board also approved adding an additional two days to the end of the youth any-bull elk hunting season.

A few new hunts were also approved for the 2022 big game season:

  • A new late-season, limited-entry muzzleloader deer hunt in the South Slope, Myton Unit from Nov. 12-27. This hunt will primarily be held on private property to help control the prevalence of chronic wasting disease in this area by targeting mature bucks, which are twice as likely to contract and spread chronic wasting disease.
  • An extended archery deer hunt in the Box Elder, West Bear River Unit from Sept. 17 to Nov. 30. This hunt will also primarily be held on private lands to help alleviate depredation issues. 
  • A pronghorn muzzleloader hunt in the South Slope, Vernal Unit from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6. This area has a growing population of pronghorn and already offers an archery and rifle hunt — a muzzleloader hunt would expand the weapon- type opportunities. 

The board also voted to have the DWR look into using a two-to-three-year cycle for the big game hunting season dates, rather than one year. The wildlife board also voted to have the DWR evaluate the requirements to wear orange while hunting and to see how Utah’s current requirements compare to those in other western states. 

Changes to waterfowl hunting for 2022-24 

Utah’s swan hunting season had to close early for the past three years after hunters reached the federal quota of 20 trumpeter swans before the end of the season. As a result, the wildlife board approved requiring an annual orientation course for anyone applying for a swan hunting permit. The board also approved a rule to prohibit someone from being able to apply for a swan hunting permit for several years if they harvest a trumpeter swan. The timeline will be as follows:

  • Three years for youth
  • Five years for an adult  

The wildlife board also approved another three-year recommendation cycle for waterfowl hunting regulations. The approved bag limits and season dates will be in effect during the 2022-24 waterfowl hunting seasons. 

The board also approved to change the name of the “Wilson’s snipe hunt” to “snipe hunt” to give hunters more leeway in hunting all six species of snipe in Utah.

Maximum-point permit allocation 

The DWR had also proposed a change to the permit allocation for maximum-point applicants. Currently, 50% of the limited-entry and once-in-a-lifetime permits are offered to the maximum-point applicants, with the other 50% of those permits going to other applicants. In an effort to move more maximum-point applicants through the drawing system, the DWR recommended increasing the percentage offered to maximum-point applicants to 60%. The board voted to keep the percentage the same with the 50/50 allocation. 

CWMU and Landowner Association 2022 permit recommendations

The Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit program is a DWR program that allocates hunting permits to private landowners who then provide hunting opportunities to public and private hunters for a variety of wildlife species. The CWMU program in Utah has opened more than 2 million acres of private land to the public for hunting. The program provides an incentive to landowners to maintain their land as open spaces, improve the areas that serve as wildlife habitat and work with the DWR to manage for increased wildlife populations. 

For 2022, there were 30 applicants for the CWMU program. The wildlife board approved the following:

  • 18 renewal applications (properties were previously CWMUs) 
  • 8 new applications
  • 4 change applications (which require approval from the Utah Wildlife Board) 

There are a total of 132 CWMUs throughout Utah, and the board approved a total of 2,858 private permits and 466 public permits for the CWMUs. The board also voted that any additional public permits allocated to a CWMU that includes public land must come from that CWMU’s private permit allocation, and that a CWMU committee should be created to reevaluate the program. 

The DWR also oversees the Landowner Association program. This program provides an opportunity for landowners whose properties are located on limited-entry hunting units and provide habitat for deer, elk or pronghorn to receive transferable vouchers for hunting permits. Depending on the amount of private land enrolled in the LOA program, the association receives a percentage of the total number of limited-entry permits for bull elk, buck deer or buck pronghorn on the unit where the association properties are located. 

The board approved some minor changes to the LOA program for 2022, renewing one application with a request of seven buck deer permits and approving a change request for an additional bull elk tag for the next two years.

Other proposals

The board also approved some minor hunting season date changes for a bighorn sheep hunt and mountain goat hunt to avoid overlap with other hunts. The wildlife board also denied a variance request for an individual to bring a capuchin monkey into Utah, as it is a prohibited wildlife species in the state. 

You can watch the full meeting on the DNR YouTube Channel. 

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