This herd of bulls just outside of Ferron have made it to the valley for the winter.
On Dec. 4, the Utah Wildlife Board approved spike elk hunting changes for next season. The changes should open room in the herds for more cow elk. The calves these cows will produce are vital to the future of Utah's elk herds.
The board also lengthened the general rifle buck deer hunt in southern Utah, approved a major change to Utah's statewide archery buck deer hunt and started a management buck deer hunt on Utah's two best deer hunting units.
In the 2009 Utah Big Game Guidebook, you can see all of the changes the board approved. The guidebook should be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks during the week of Dec. 15.
Spike bull elk hunters can now hunt spike bulls on 26 of Utah's 29 limited entry bull elk hunting units.
The only limited entry elk units where spike bull hunting will not be allowed are the North Slope, Three Corners and South Slope, Diamond Mountain units in northeastern Utah, and the Pilot Mountain unit in western Utah.
And a few more hunters will be hunting spike bulls in 2009 after board members raised the number of spike bull rifle hunting permits to 12,500. In 2008, a total of 11,000 spike bull permits were available.
Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the changes the board approved are important to the future of Utah's elk herds.
"On many of these units, the number of bull elk and the number of cow elk is the same," Aoude says. "The only way to make room for that many bull elk is to keep reducing the number of cow elk. And that could spell disaster for the herds. Because the herds have fewer cow elk in them, fewer and fewer calves are being born.
"If the situation doesn't change, eventually the elk populations will crash and the fantastic elk hunting hunters are enjoying in Utah now will be gone."
Aoude says opening all but three of the state's limited entry units to spike bull hunting will allow more spike bulls to be taken while still protecting the larger bulls in the herds.
DWR biologists recommended 17,000 spike bull permits at public meetings a few weeks ago. They changed their proposal after hunters said some of the units would be inundated with hunters if 17,000 permits were offered.
"We survey hunters after every hunting season," Aoude says. "The survey we conduct after the 2009 hunts will give us a good picture of what the hunting pressure was like on each unit."
If you like to hunt during Utah's general archery buck deer hunt, you'll have to wait until Sept. 2 to hunt statewide.
Utah's general season archery buck deer hunt runs Aug. 15 - Sept. 11 on most of the units in the state.
You can hunt in a single region until Sept. 1. Starting Sept. 2, you can hunt in any region in the state.
"Hunters in southern Utah are concerned that too many archery hunters are hunting in the Southern Region at the start of the season," Aoude says.
"Depending on which region you choose to hunt in, this change could prevent you from hunting in the Southern Region at the start of the archery season. But you can still hunt in the region halfway through the season."
General archery permits are capped at 16,000. But within that cap, there's no limit on the number of permits that can be sold for each region.
When you buy your permit, just indicate which region you want to hunt in. You can hunt in that region until Sept. 1.
Starting Sept. 2, you can hunt in any region in the state.
Nine-day rifle deer hunt
Utah's general rifle buck deer hunt will be a nine-day hunt in each of the DWR's five regions. The hunt will run Oct. 17 - 25.
The only exception is five subunits where buck-to-doe ratios aren't meeting goals in the state's management plan. The hunt on the five subunits runs Oct. 21 - 25.
The five subunits that have the shorter hunts are the Nebo and Oquirrh-Stansbury subunits in central Utah; the South Slope, Vernal subunit in northeastern Utah; the LaSal Mountains subunit in southeastern Utah; and the Monroe subunit in south-central Utah.
Management buck deer hunt
More hunters can hunt on the Paunsaugunt and Henry Mountains premium limited entry units after board members approved a management buck deer hunt for the units.
The management hunt runs Nov. 2 - 6 on the Henry Mountains unit and Nov. 7 - 11 on the Paunsaugunt unit. If you draw a permit for the hunt, one of the antlers on the deer you take may not have more than three points on it. There's no restriction on the number of points the other antler can have. You can hunt with a rifle, a muzzleloader, or a bow and arrow.
"This change will give more hunters a chance to hunt on these premiere units while still protecting the larger bucks on the units," Aoude says.
Mule deer management plan committee
The deer hunting ideas the board approved came from Utah's Mule Deer Management Plan Committee. The 17-person committee included representatives from the Mule Deer Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the Utah Bowman's Association, the Utah Wildlife Federation, the Utah Farm Bureau, the Bureau of Land Management, Utah's Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit Association, all five of Utah's Regional Advisory Councils and the Utah Wildlife Board.
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.