Ample rain received across Utah in September should make it easier for bull elk hunters to stalk animals when Utah's general bull elk season begins Oct. 5.
Good numbers of bull elk will be available to hunters on units across the state. Hunters are reminded that the Fishlake and Thousand Lake units in south-central Utah are closed to spike bull elk hunting this fall.
"We estimate that there were about 63,000 elk in Utah this past winter, which is only a few animals shy of our statewide, winter objective of 67,149," explained Steve Cranney, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Most units are at or near herd population objectives and should provide good hunting this fall."
Cranney says very few elk were lost statewide this past winter, but the number of elk calves born this spring will likely be down because of extreme drought conditions. "Hunters may notice fewer calves this year, but there will be good numbers of older animals," he stated. "The condition of animals taken on most of the southwestern and southeastern units won't be as good as usual, however, because of the lack of good feed."
Cranney also explains that the recent rainfall might lead to fall green-up on some of the annual and perennial grasses in the state. "That should help the elk going into the winter," he advised.
The rain received in September has also dampened the ground and should help hunters as they attempt to stalk elk this fall. "The rain has also provided some additional, scattered water sources, so elk will be spread out more than they would have been a few weeks ago," Cranney explained.
Cranney provides the following tips, advice and reminders for bull elk hunters heading afield during the season, which runs Oct. 5 through Oct. 17.
Hunt familiar areas. "Hunting an area year after year allows the hunter to really learn it and the habits of elk within the area," Cranney stated. "If a hunter just shows up in an area they're not familiar with, don't expect to do real well."
Fire restrictions. As of Sept. 18, campfires are allowed only in developed campgrounds and the high Uintas wilderness area. As the hunt nears, hunters should call the agency that manages the area they'll hunt, to learn if fire restrictions have changed.
Ethics. First, Cranney encourages hunters to make sure they're hunting the correct unit.
"Hunters with any bull permit cannot hunt a spike only unit, and those with a spike bull permit cannot hunt any bull unit. Also, make sure to know where the boundaries for limited entry and cooperative wildlife management units are within the general hunt area," he advises.
"Remember also that it's against the law to hunt on private property that's posted, unless written permission from the land owner has been granted. Make sure to secure that permission before hunting private land."
Next, hunters who see violations are encouraged to report them to the DWRs toll-free help stop poaching hotline. The number is 1-800-662-DEER (3337) and it's staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"The people out in the field are our eyes and ears, and we need their help to catch wildlife violators," Cranney explains.
Cranney also encourages hunters to make sure of their target before they shoot. "Every year we have a few instances where hunters kill a moose or a species other than an elk," warns Cranney. "It usually happens because people are not being careful."
Travel restrictions. Finally, Cranney encourages hunters to know and obey vehicle travel restrictions for the areas they're hunting. "We have a lot of people who are complaining about hunters taking their trucks and all-terrain vehicles into areas that are closed to their use," he explains. "This is becoming a serious problem and could result in further travel restrictions in the future.
"I strongly encourage hunters to know and obey the travel restrictions for the areas they're hunting. Know where a vehicle can and cannot go. This will allow hunters to continue using their vehicles and will help everyone have a better hunting experience."