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.”