The Utah Wildlife Board approved a decrease in the number of general-season permits for the 2021 deer hunt during Thursday’s virtual public meeting.

Why lower permit numbers were recommended this year

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists recommended the overall decrease in permit numbers to the Regional Advisory Councils and to the wildlife board. The DWR manages deer, elk and other wildlife in accordance with approved management plans in order to help maintain healthy wildlife populations across the state. DWR biologists evaluate the health of deer populations throughout the year (through GPS collaring efforts, surveys, and research projects), and also assess the previous year’s harvest data from the deer and elk hunts. That information is factored in with current habitat and environmental conditions across the state before hunting permit recommendations are made for the upcoming hunting seasons.

The current management plan includes an objective to have just over 400,000 deer across Utah — there are currently an estimated 314,850 deer in the state.

“We’ve had a few drought years in Utah recently, which has a significant impact on the survival rates of deer,” DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said. “In Utah, we have the longest range-trend study in the Western U.S., and we’ve seen that having suitable habitat is crucial for maintaining or growing wildlife populations. And drought conditions can really negatively impact that habitat, which in turn affects our wildlife species.”

The approved big game permit numbers for 2021

The wildlife board approved a total of 74,025 general-season deer hunting permits for 2021, a 5,650-permit decrease from the previous year. Of the 29 total deer hunting units across the state, 17 have decreased permit numbers from the previous year.

The table below shows all the permit recommendations for the 2021 big game hunting seasons:

Hunt
2020
2021

General-season buck deer
79,675
74,025

Premium limited-entry deer
184
184

Management buck deer (including “cactus” bucks)
64
45

Handgun, archery, muzzleloader, and shotgun (HAMS) limited-entry buck deer hunts
15
15

Limited-entry deer
1,182
1,070

Antlerless deer
1,175
935

General any bull elk
15,000
17,500

General spike bull elk
15,000
15,000

Antlerless elk
8,060
8,285

Youth any bull elk
500
500

Limited-entry bull elk
2,948
2,990

Buck pronghorn
1,147
1,173

Doe pronghorn
525
404

Bull moose
107
112

Antlerless moose
31
15

Bison
97
146

Desert bighorn sheep
78
81

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
65
67

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ewe hunt
10
10

Mountain goat
122
120

New antlerless hunts

The wildlife board also approved adding some additional antlerless big game hunts to address damage to agricultural areas caused by big game, as well as other urban deer issues within Price and Oak City.

“Antlerless deer hunts are designed to reduce depredation on private lands, tackle urban deer issues, address chronic wasting disease hot spot areas, and to help slow the decline of range conditions,” Jones said.

Other amendments

The board also requested that the DWR provide information to bison hunters with 2021 hunting permits to help educate them on shot placement and other techniques to help them have a successful hunt. It was also proposed to have the DWR institute a mandatory ethics and informational orientation for bison hunters for the 2022 season.

With the recent installation of the new dip tank at Lake Powell <https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1155-dwr-and-partners-announce-revolutionary-new-method-for-decontaminating-boats-removing-invasive-quagga-mussels.html>, which will be used to more quickly and efficiently decontaminate boats of invasive quagga mussels, the board approved a rule change to allow the water temperatures for the different decontamination methods to vary, based on whether the new dip tank or the traditional hot-water spot decontamination is being used.

The DWR oversees the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit program, which allocates hunting permits to private landowners who then provide hunting opportunities to public and private hunters for a variety of wildlife species. The CWMU program in Utah has opened more than 2 million acres of private land to the public for hunting. The wildlife board approved a total of 1,265 antlerless permits for 66 CWMUs for the 2021 hunting season.

The wildlife board also approved a few administrative rule changes for conservation permits, denied one permit variance request for an individual and approved a separate stipulation for another individual.

You can watch the full meeting on the DNR YouTube channel. <https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1164-watch-april-2021-wildlife-board-meeting.html>

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