Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Suggestions for Big Game and Shed Hunting in 2024

Thayne Muthler

Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources has released their recommended figures for big game hunting permits in 2024 and is proposing revisions to the regulation governing the collection of shed antlers within the state. They welcome commentary on these suggestions, as well as other assorted proposals.

What impacts deer populations in Utah

A multitude of components dictate the amount of deer residing in Utah, causing their populations to fluctuate. These elements include:

- Weather and precipitation (either extreme, ongoing drought or really heavy snowfall during the winter)
- Predator balance
- The amount and condition of habitat that exists, also affected by the climate.
- Adult doe survival
- Fawn survival
- Fawn production

It is imperative to note, as Dax Mangus, Big Game Coordinator at DWR, asserts, that harvesting buck deer does not have an adverse effect on the total deer population. Despite our annual recommendations for permit allocation, misconceptions regarding this matter persist among the public. The most significant factors influencing the number of deer are the environmental conditions affecting female deer as males do not possess the ability to give birth, alongside the survival rate of fawns during winter. The pursuit of male deer in Utah exerts no influence on their population; instead, our methods for harvesting bucks are determined by fluctuations in their numbers.


How deer permit recommendations are made

The DWR oversees the well-being of deer, elk, and other fauna in accordance with established management strategies to maintain optimal statewide population levels. The team of biologists at DWR factors in additional data and statistics when presenting recommendations for issuance of deer hunting permits.

Management plans in every region of the state delineate precise ratios between male and female deer, incorporating recent tallies, three-year averages, and overarching tendencies. Adjusting hunting protocols to align with societal preferences when pursuing deer is a primary benefit of these ratios.

Currently, the statutory numbers of inhabitants and demographic specifics are collected through yearly questionnaires that classify clusters of cervids.

The information gathered by collars equipped with GPS technology and the visual assessment of the deer's physical condition, which we conduct annually upon capturing them, aids us in predicting their likelihood of surviving the winter season.

The triumph rates achieved by hunters in the preceding hunting season can aid in forecasting fruitful capturings for the upcoming year.


Habitat and environmental conditions across the state

According to Mangus, Utah carefully oversees 31 deer hunting areas with the objective of achieving a desired ratio of 15-17 or 18-20 male deer per one hundred female deer after each hunt. After analyzing the public lands included in these general season hunting zones, we noted an average of 21 male deer for every group of one hundred females at the conclusion of the twenty-third season. This year proved favorable for winter survival among deer and resulted in a surplus of male individuals compared to their female counterparts from the previous season. This scenario presents us with the opportunity to grant hunters additional chances for hunting male deer in 2024.

The DWR recommends the allocation of these quantities for regular-season deer permits throughout various districts in Utah.

  • Northern Utah proposes increasing the quantity of licenses by 150, equivalent to a rise of approximately 1% in comparison to the prior year.
  • Central Utah: Proposing a decrease of 75 permits (a 1% decrease from last year).
  • Increasing the number of permits by 5,375, which equates to approximately a 44% surge in comparison to last year, is being proposed for Southern Utah.
  • In Southeastern Utah, it is recommended to increase permit availability by 400, marking a three percent ascent from last year's figures.
  • An 11% increase in permits, amounting to a raise of 950, is advisable for Northeastern Utah this year.

According to DWR scientists, it is recommended that we allocate 71,525 permits for the upcoming general deer hunting season. This figure represents an increase of 6,800 compared to last year.

During the recent winter season, we captured an abundance of big game. According to Mangus, the majority of deer in our state possessed favorable physical condition with significant amounts of body fat. Those adorned with GPS collars have a high likelihood of thriving in both the northern and southern areas of Utah. Our anticipation is that these deer will endure the winter successfully, and we are gratified by signs indicating their population is rebounding following significant losses due to the extreme 2022-23 winter, particularly in the north regions of our state. The southern region of Utah shows great promise, as a notable abundance of newborn deer have successfully thrived for three consecutive years. Biologists meticulously assess each hunting zone and particular circumstance, providing guidance on permit regulations. Employing the most reliable information available and our proficient management tactics, we propose proactive measures to preserve the welfare of our wildlife communities.


Big Game Permit Recommendations:

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Suggestions for Big Game and Shed Hunting in 2024

The Department of Wildlife Resources proposes multiple modifications to the allocation of permits for hunting large animals in 2024. Significant recommendations include the following:

  • The regular season for male deer hunting, restricted-entry hunts for deer, and controlled access hunts specifically targeting male elk have received an increase in permits.
  • Maintaining an equal number of permits for all bull elk hunting opportunities, including general season hunts, spike bull elk hunts, and exclusive draws for youthful hunters seeking any bull or personally preferred elk.
  • A slight increase in permits for buck pronghorn and doe pronghorn hunts.
  • Modifying the allowances for various fauna such as moose, bison, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats entails minuscule alterations.


Antlerless Permit Recommendations:

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Suggestions for Big Game and Shed Hunting in 2024

The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has issued permits for the hunting of antlerless animals with the intention of regulating population, promoting the well-being of these species, enhancing their habitat conditions and mitigating issues. The DWR recommends organizing designated hunts in 2024 to specifically address pressing concerns such as wildlife-human conflicts, herd infections and public safety. Unfortunately, Utah currently lacks any hunting initiatives that specifically target female deer in order to effectively manage population levels.


Shed Antler Gathering Updates:

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Suggestions for Big Game and Shed Hunting in 2024

HB382 has bestowed the Utah Wildlife Board with authority to modify regulations regarding the retrieval of shed antlers. Proposed revisions include:

  • Establishing a season for recreational antler or horn gathering for residents and non-residents.
  • Setting rules for the commercial gathering and selling of shed antlers.
  • Introducing a restitution value of $30 per pound for shed antlers.
  • One must possess certification through registration in order to engage in commercial antler buying; furthermore, partaking in shed antler collection warrants the necessity for an ethics course.


Other Proposed Rule Changes:

The DWR is proposing additional changes to current big game rules, including:

  • Clarifying language regarding the use of night vision devices while hunting.
  • Removing certain requirements related to aircraft use and bighorn sheep harvesting.
  • Simplifying the process for checking in management bucks and cactus bucks.


Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit (CWMU) Updates:

  • In 2024, proposed alterations to the CWMU program aim to bestow hunting privileges upon proprietors of exclusive property who provide opportunities for public game.
  • Adjustments to the number of private and public antlerless permits allocated to CWMUs.
  • Approval of new CWMU applications, changes to existing applications, and renewals for current CWMUs.

For more in-depth recommendations, see the DWR website.