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More big game permits recommended for 2007 hunt

Proposed increases to number permits
  2006 2007
General season buck deer 95,000 96,000
Limited entry deer 999 1,019
Limited entry bull elk 1,835 2,190
Pronghorn antelope 855 1,067
Moose 138 152
Bison (including permits for Henry Mountains and Antelope Island) 24 53 or 77
Rocky Mountain goat 79 91
Desert bighorn sheep 36 41
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep 15 18

Utah's hunters might have more elk, pronghorn and bison permits to draw for this year.

The Division of Wildlife Resources is recommending raising permit numbers for all of Utah's big game animals. Permits for elk, pronghorn and bison would increase the most.

The DWR is also recommending adding an additional 1,000 general season buck deer permits to the Northeastern Region.

Hunters can learn more about the recommendations and share suggestions at a series of upcoming meetings. Citizens representing Utah's Public Regional Advisory Councils will take the input received to the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets April 5 in Salt Lake City to approve big game hunting permits for this fall's hunts.

Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

•Southern Region. March 13, 7 p.m., Beaver High School, 195 E. Center Street, Beaver.

•Central Region. March 20, 6:30 p.m., Springville Junior High School, 165 S. 700 East, Springville.

•Southeastern Region, March 14, 6:30 p.m., John Wesley Powell Museum, 885 E. Main Street, Green River.

•Northern Region, March 21, 6 p.m.. Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West, Brigham City.

Northeastern Region, March 15, 6:30 p.m., Western Park, Rm. #2, 302 E. 200 South, Vernal.

Some record-sized bull elk have been taken in Utah over the past few years, but there are still plenty of big bulls out there for hunters to take.

Biologists manage each of Utah's limited entry bull elk units so the average age of the bulls taken by hunters falls within a certain age category.

The bulls that hunters took on 24 of Utah's 28 units was higher than the age objective for those units. That means the animals were older than what the objective for those units calls for.

The age of the bulls taken on four units was at the objective for those units. None of Utah's limited entry units was under the age objective.

"This means we can allow more hunters in the field and still leave plenty of big bulls for hunters to take in years to come," said Craig McLaughlin, Wildlife Section chief for the DWR.

With that in mind, the DWR is recommending 2,190 limited entry bull elk permits for this fall's hunts. A total of 79 of those permits would be management bull elk permits. These permits allow hunters to take bull elk that have five or less antler points on at least one side.

Management permits are being offered for the first time to reduce the number of smaller bull elk on four of Utah's best limited entry units. All of these units have extremely high bull to cow ratios.

Pronghorn antelope permits would also increase under DWR recommendations.

The agency is recommending 1,067 pronghorn permits for this fall's hunts. A total of 855 were available in 2006.

Most of the permits would be issued for the Parker Mountains in southwestern Utah.

"The objective for the Parker Mountains is to maintain 40 bucks per 100 does," McLaughlin said. "Right now, the unit has 78 bucks per 100 does. Hunters who draw a permit for the Parker Mountains should see plenty of bucks, and they should have a great hunt."

Hunter's choice and cow bison permits for the Henry Mountains in southeastern Utah would also increase under DWR proposals.

Under the proposals, permits would jump from 18 in 2006 to either 47 or 71 permits in 2007.

The final bison permit numbers will be determined later this spring, when the Henry Mountains Bison Working Group finishes revising a management plan for the bison on the Henry's.

"In 2005, our biologists flew two aerial surveys of the Henry Mountains," McLaughlin said. "They didn't see many bison during either survey."

Even though bison are big animals, McLaughlin said they tend to gather in small groups and are effective at hiding under pinyon/juniper trees.

"Bison are strong animals, and we were pretty sure that the herd had not experienced a big die-off," he said. "We guessed that the bison had probably moved into thicker cover where it was harder for us to spot them."

DWR biologists decided to be cautious, however, and hunting permits were cut in 2006.

"Our biologists flew another survey this past August, and this time they spotted the bison," McLaughlin said. "They saw lots of bison.

"We've confirmed that the herd is doing really well, and that's why we're recommending more bison permits for this fall's hunts."

Under DWR recommendations, the number of general season buck deer permits would begin moving back to the 97,000 permit cap that began in Utah in 1994.

In 2005, general season buck deer permits in the Central and Northeastern regions were cut by 1,000 permits each.

The permits were cut because the three-year buck-to-doe ratio in each region had fallen below the minimum of 15 bucks per 100 does called for in Utah's Deer Management Plan.

As a result, the statewide permit cap was reduced from 97,000 permits to 95,000 permits.

Surveys conducted by DWR biologists after the 2005 and 2006 hunts found that the three-year buck-to-doe average in the Northeastern Region had increased to 15 bucks per 100 does. That number meets the objective called for in the state's deer management plan.

In the Central Region, the three-year average has fallen slightly to 13 bucks per 100 does.

"Based on the findings, we're recommending that 1,000 permits be added to the Northeastern Region for this fall's hunt," McLaughlin said. "Adding 1,000 permits would increase the total number of general season buck deer permits in Utah to 96,000."

Information on meetings and aditional charts can be viewed online at before the RAC meetings.

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