Permit numbers for Utah's 2003 general buck deer and bull elk hunts won't be finalized until April, and the general rifle buck deer hunt in the southeastern region will only run for five days, after the Utah Wildlife Board approved rules for Utah's 2003 big game seasons at a Nov. 14 meeting in Salt Lake City.
Board members also voted to continue Utah's statewide general archery buck deer hunt and to keep Utah's general muzzleloader buck deer hunt in September.
The wildlife board also directed the Division of Wildlife Resources to continue holding discussions with conservation groups and the public about mule deer hunting and management strategies in Utah, including the possibility of splitting the state's five general season deer hunting regions into smaller hunting areas.
The wildlife board did not set a specific year by which a decision on unit-by-unit general season deer hunting must be made, so it's unlikely that unit-by-unit hunting will happen in Utah in 2004.
Among items the board did not approve was a proposal to prohibit shed antler gathering in Utah from Jan. 1 through April 30.
The DWR withdrew its recommendation after hearing public opposition at a recent series of public meetings held across the state.
Rules for Utah's 2003 big game hunting seasons will be available in the 2003 Utah big game proclamation. The proclamation will be available in late December, from hunting and fishing license agents statewide, DWR offices and the DWR's Internet website at www.wildlife.utah.gov.
The DWR will wait until post-hunt surveys have been conducted this winter before recommending general buck deer and bull elk permit numbers for this fall.
"We conduct yearly deer surveys from mid-November through December," stated Steve Cranney, big game coordinator for the DWR.
"Elk census flights are conducted in January and February. By delaying the permit number recommendations until the March or April time frame, biologists will have a clearer picture of current herd parameters and survival," he explained.
"This will allow us to recommend the best permit numbers possible, which is especially important this year, with the severe drought and the winter that lies ahead," Cranney advised.
After the survey data is compiled, permit recommendations will be put together and presented at public meetings in March.
The Wildlife Board will approve permit recommendations in April, before the 2003 big game draw is conducted.
Because permit numbers will be set in April, hunters will apply for their region in January without knowing specifically how many permits will be available.
"In the proclamation we'll print the number of permits that were offered in 2002, which will give hunters a general idea of how many permits will be offered next fall," Cranney stated.
To try and improve buck to doe ratios across the southeastern region, board members voted to reduce the general rifle buck deer hunt in the region from nine to five days in 2003. The general rifle buck deer hunt in the southeastern region will run Oct. 18 through 22.
The board voted for the region wide five day hunt at the request of the public southeastern regional advisory council and the DWR, both of which were concerned about buck to doe ratios that are below the general season objective of 15 bucks per 100 does.
"Five day hunts have been held on the San Juan and LaSal mountain units the past few seasons, to try and improve their buck to doe ratios," Cranney explained.
"When the five day hunts on those units have ended, many hunters have shifted to the Manti unit for the rest of the season. Because of that added pressure, the buck to doe ratio on the Manti unit has dropped. In order to help all of the units in the region reach objective, the southeastern region advisory council recommended a region wide five day hunt, which we supported and the board approved," Cranney concluded.
For more information call the nearest DWR office.