DWR Recommends New Elk Plan, Hunting Equipment Changes

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Nov. 18 is the last day to apply for a 2016 sportsman permit. If you draw the permit for bull elk, you'll have plenty of days and plenty of places to find your trophy.

You might be allowed to place some additional equipment on your bow and muzzleloader in 2016. And a new elk plan could open the door to some new cow elk hunting opportunities next fall too.

Two new bighorn sheep hunts are also being proposed.

You can review the proposed elk plan, and recommendations for Utah’s 2016 big game hunts, at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/rac/2015-11_rac_packet.pdf. Biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources will present the recommendations at public meetings in November.

Learn more, share your ideas

After you’ve reviewed the ideas at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/rac/2015-11_rac_packet.pdf, you can let your Regional Advisory Council members know your thoughts by attending your upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an e-mail to them.

RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2 to approve the elk management plan and rules for Utah’s 2016 big game hunts.

Dates, times and locations for the RAC meetings are as follows:

Northern Region
Nov. 10
6 p.m.
Shepherd Union Building, Room 400
Weber State University
3848 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden

Central Region
Nov. 12
6:30 p.m.
Springville Civic Center
110 S. Main St.
Springville

Southern Region
Nov. 17
5 p.m.
Cedar City Middle School
2215 W. Royal Hunte Dr.
Richfield

Southeastern Region
Nov. 18
6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
1765 E. Main St.
Green River

Northeastern Region
Nov. 19
6:30 p.m.
DWR Northeastern Region Office
318 N. Vernal Ave.
Vernal

E-mail

You can also provide your comments to your RAC via e-mail. E-mail addresses for your RAC members are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.

The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person’s e-mail address. You should direct your e-mail to the people on the RAC who represent your interest.

New elk plan

A new plan that would guide the management of elk in Utah through 2022 is ready for review. You can review the plan at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/rac/2015-11_rac_packet.pdf.

The DWR assembled a diverse committee of 20 individuals to assist the agency in drafting the plan. If you’re interested in Utah’s elk herds, Justin Shannon, big game coordinator for the DWR, strongly encourages you to review the plan and share your thoughts. “Once the plan is approved,” he says, “it will guide the management of elk in Utah for the next seven years.”

Shannon appreciates the time and attention committee members gave the plan. He says the plan will give DWR biologists some new tools to manage an elk population that’s gone past its population objective. ”We’re happy elk are doing well,” he says, “but we also need some new management tools to help us get the herds back to the objective. We also need some tools to help us better distribute elk within units.”

Shannon says DWR biologists are excited about the new management tools found in the plan. “One challenge we have with elk is managing distribution,” he says. “In many areas in Utah, elk are increasing on private lands and decreasing on public lands. Some of the tools in the plan—including private lands cow elk permits—will help us address these types of issues.”

Holding two elk hunts at the same time

One elk hunting change the DWR is recommending for 2016 would result in something that’s never happened in Utah: limited entry rifle elk hunters and general spike rifle elk hunters hunting some of the same units at the same time.

The five units where this overlap would occur are the Box Elder, Grouse Creek; Paunsaugunt; Plateau, Fish Lake/Thousand Lakes; South Slope, Diamond Mountain; and West Desert/Deep Creeks.

The proposed dates for the general rifle spike elk hunt and the new limited entry rifle elk hunt are Oct. 8 – 20.

Shannon says the number of rifle permits offered for the October limited entry hunt would be fairly small. “We want to start with just a few units,” he says. “We want to assess how the hunts go and what hunters thought about their experience.”

Utah currently holds two limited entry rifle elk hunts: an early hunt that begins in mid-September and a late hunt that begins in mid-November. The new hunt, which would be held in mid-October, is designed 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.

Shannon says it’s tough to draw a limited entry elk hunting permit in Utah. In 2015, roughly 28,000 hunters applied for about 1,300 limited entry rifle elk permits. Most of those hunters applied for the early rifle hunt, which happens during the animal’s annual breeding period known as the rut.

“Because the mid-October hunts will take place after the rut has ended,” he says, “the bulls will be more wary and harder to take. And, because the hunt will take place at the same time the spike rifle elk hunt is happening, you’ll be hunting with lots of other people too.”

For those reasons, fewer hunters will likely apply for the October hunt. “So your odds of drawing a permit will be better,” Shannon says. “This is a way to potentially offer better odds of drawing a rifle permit without negatively affecting the herds.”

Equipment changes

In summer 2015, more than 19,000 deer and elk hunters responded to a DWR survey. The survey asked the hunters what type of hunting equipment should and shouldn’t be allowed in Utah. You can see the results atwww.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/rac/2015-09_rac_packet.pdf. To find the results, scroll down to page 4 of the packet.

Based on the survey results, the DWR is recommending that the following be allowed in Utah in 2016:

·         Scopes on muzzleloaders during the muzzleloader season only. Currently, Utah law allows a 1X scope to be mounted on muzzleloaders. The new rule would allow you to place a scope of any magnification on a muzzleloader.

·         Range-finding devices attached to bows.

“Results from the survey showed that hunters supported these two changes,” Shannon says. “We don’t have any biological concerns with either change. If this is something hunters would like to see, we are comfortable proposing the changes.”

Two new bighorn sheep hunts

DWR biologists are also recommending two new bighorn sheep hunts. The new hunts would happen on the Pilot Mountains unit in northern Utah and the Wasatch Mountains, Avintaquin unit in northeastern Utah.