Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits and Shed Antler Gathering Changes

Thayne Muthler

The numbers for large game hunting permits in Utah for 2024 have been approved by the Utah Wildlife Board. During a public hearing on Thursday, they also announced some adjustments regarding shed antler gathering in Utah.

In Utah, a number of variables influence the deer population

There are several elements that affect the health of Utah's deer populations. These include fawn survival, fawn production, habitat availability, predator balance, and weather patterns. Whether the deer population will increase or decrease depends on all of these variables.

  • A number of elements can be impacted by precipitation and meteorological conditions, including extreme weather events and protracted droughts.
  • The equilibrium between predators and their prey is a crucial factor to take into account.
  • Weather patterns can have an impact on the amount and quality of animal habitat that is available.
  • One important thing to keep an eye on is the survival rate of adult deer.
  • Another crucial factor is the fawns' survival and productivity.

Dax Mangus, Big Game Coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, made it clear that buck deer harvesting had no effect on deer numbers. When yearly recommendations are made for permit numbers, this mistake frequently occurs. The survival rates of doe deer, fawn production, and fawn survival over the winter are the main elements that really affect the quantity of deer in the population. It's critical to realize that buck deer hunting in Utah doesn't affect deer populations; rather, our approach to buck deer hunting is determined by the condition of the deer population.

Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits & Shed Antler Gathering Updates for Conservation Efforts

The procedure behind deer permit recommendations

To maintain a sustainable harvest and robust wildlife populations across the state, the DWR manages the populations of deer, elk, and other wildlife in accordance with authorized management plans. When calculating the number of deer hunting permits, DWR biologists take into account a number of criteria and data in addition to the management plans:

  • The management plans for every region of the state use buck-to-doe ratios, accounting for three-year averages, general trends, and current estimates.
  • Data on current population estimates and demographics are obtained from yearly surveys and deer herd classifications.
  • Winter survival estimates for deer are aided by information gathered from GPS collar data and body condition evaluations conducted as part of yearly capture operations.
  • Successful harvest rates for the future year are estimated using hunter harvest rates from the previous hunting season.
  • When regulating societal preferences for deer hunting, consideration is paid to habitat and environmental circumstances throughout the state.

Mangus stated that Utah has 31 general-season deer hunting units, which are overseen to maintain buck-to-doe ratios of either 15-17 or 18-20 bucks per 100 does after the hunting season. Following the 2023 hunting season, the average buck-to-doe ratio on public land in general-season deer hunting units across the state was 21 bucks per 100 does. This year's favorable winter survival rates and the high buck-to-doe ratios from the previous season have positioned us to provide additional buck deer hunting opportunities in 2024.

Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits & Shed Antler Gathering Updates for Conservation Efforts

Permits for Deer Hunting

The general-season deer licenses in the following Utah regions have been approved by the Utah Wildlife Board:

1. Northern Utah: 150 more licenses have been granted.
2. Central Utah: There will be a 75-permit decrease.
3. Southern Utah: 5,375 more permits have been authorized, which is a considerable increase.
4. Southeast Utah: 400 more permits have been granted.
5. Northeastern Utah: 950 more licenses will be issued.

The board has given its approval to 71,525 permits for deer shooting during the regular season. Compared to the prior year, this indicates a notable rise of 6,800 permits, or 10.5%.

Mangus stated that most of the state's deer were in good health and had significant body fat during the recent big game catches that occurred in the winter. In both northern and southern Utah, the survival rates of the animals equipped with GPS collars are great. Excellent winter survival is anticipated, and deer numbers, particularly in the state's northern regions, are rebounding from a harsh winter in 2022–2023. For the third year in a row, the deer populations in Southern Utah are doing well, producing healthy fawns and having excellent survival rates. To make recommendations for permits based on the best available data and management strategies for the health of the wildlife herd, biologists thoroughly evaluate each hunting unit and circumstance.

Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits & Shed Antler Gathering Updates for Conservation Efforts

Permits for Elk Hunting

The existing elk management plan for the entire state of Utah aims to maintain a population of nearly 80,000 elk. Currently, there are approximately 80,600 elk in Utah. To align with this objective, the board has authorized a small rise in the number of limited-entry bull elk permits and antlerless elk permits for the 2024 hunting season.

Big-Game Permits Approved for 2024

A staggering 71,525 general-season buck deer licenses are available for 2024, up from 64,725 permits issued last year. There has also been an increase in limited-entry deer permits from 1,299 to 1,336.

There are still plenty of licenses available for the general-season bull elk hunt, so elk fans may celebrate. A total of fifteen thousand licenses have been distributed to adult and juvenile hunters. Additionally, archery hunters benefit from limitless licenses, which guarantees plenty of opportunity for those who choose this old-fashioned approach.

The fact that 15,000 licenses for spike bull elk during the general season and 4,500 permits for several seasons are available indicates that elk hunting is still quite popular. The crucial 19,626 antlerless elk licenses are still in place despite a minor decline. These permits are used to regulate the growth of the herd.

The following are the licenses that were issued in 2024 for mountain goats, pronghorn, moose, bison, and bighorn sheep in the desert and Rocky Mountains:

  • Buck pronghorn: 1,506 permits (up from 1,351 in the previous year)
  • Doe pronghorn: 210 permits (up from 155 in the previous year)
  • Bull moose: 104 permits (up from 102 in the previous year)
  • Antlerless moose: 12 permits (up from 9 in the previous year)
  • Bison: 96 permits (down from 177 in the previous year)
  • Desert bighorn sheep: 76 permits (up from 75 in the previous year)
  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep: 57 permits (up from 52 in the previous year)
  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ewe hunt: 5 permits (unchanged from the previous year)
  • Mountain goat: 95 permits (unchanged from the previous year)
Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits & Shed Antler Gathering Updates for Conservation Efforts

Antlerless Permits

The DWR issues antlerless permits for large game animals in Utah for a variety of reasons. These include controlling the population to achieve predetermined targets, protecting the health of the herd by lowering disease risks in certain regions of the state, enhancing habitat quality by avoiding overgrazing, and eliminating conflicts on private land such depredation problems. These licenses are also granted in order to handle issues with large game animals on roads and in metropolitan areas that are relevant to public safety.

Mangus claims that decreasing the proportion of female animals in a herd can have a big effect on the population as a whole. As a result, every Utah doe deer hunt that is advised is specifically designed to handle regional challenges, disputes, health risks, and public safety concerns. If there are no dedicated doe deer hunts in Utah with the goal of lowering the total number of deer on a hunting unit, it is noteworthy that the board has cautioned hunters against taking cow moose with calves during antlerless hunts, even though it is lawful.

Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits & Shed Antler Gathering Updates for Conservation Efforts

Shed Hunting Changes

The Utah Wildlife Board now has the power to amend Utah's shed hunting laws thanks to the passage of HB382 during the 2024 legislative session. Regulations for the commercial selling of shed antlers and the possible formation of a recreational antler-gathering season for both residents and non-residents are among these changes. The law also defines shed antlers and horns precisely and establishes a compensation value of $30 per pound for them.

A group made up of many stakeholders was recently created by the DWR to evaluate shed antler collecting in Utah. The board authorized changes to shed antler collection, including the possibility of emergency closures because of winter feeding, the absence of a defined season for residents, and the need that all gatherers complete an ethics course between January 1 and May 31 of each year. The legality of antler markets has been made clear, and commercial antler purchasers are now required to get a certification of registration.

The shed antler committee will meet again to discuss the prospect of establishing a shed antler collection season for Utah citizens, even if one has not yet been set. Winter feeding may cause emergency closures, and those who harvest shed antlers are required to have the ethics course completion certificate. The legislation currently permits the alteration and selling of shed antlers obtained lawfully and requires commercial antler purchasers to register.

Utah Wildlife Board Approves 2024 Big Game Hunting Permits & Shed Antler Gathering Updates for Conservation Efforts

Big Game Regulation Changes

The board has also approved a number of other changes to the current big game restrictions. For example, the language pertaining to night-vision devices during big game hunting between July 31 and December 31 has been changed from "unlawful to use" to "unlawful to possess." The purpose of this modification is to make the regulation more enforceable for conservation officials.

Since the regulation already contains a number of restrictions on airplane hunting, another adjustment is to remove the requirement that aircraft must only take off and land on upgraded airstrips. The purpose of this modification is to simplify the rules.

In addition, bighorn sheep plugging is no longer required, which streamlines the hunting procedure and makes it possible for computerized harvest data collecting. Similar to this, in order to streamline hunting and allow for computerized data gathering, the requirement for hunters to check in management bucks and cactus bucks has been removed.

Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit Antlerless Permits

The DWR board decided on a number of issues pertaining to the distribution of hunting licenses in Utah during their most recent meeting. First, for the CWMUs in the upcoming 2024 hunting season, they authorized an increase of 104 public antlerless licenses and a decrease of 9 private antlerless permits. With this, the total number of antlerless permits for the CWMUs is 1,251 for public and 138 for private use. It is important to remember that in a prior meeting, the remaining CWMU permits for 2024 were previously authorized.

In addition, the board renewed 44 other CWMU applications, approved the application of a new CWMU, and made modifications to one already-existing CWMU application. The hunting options available in Utah on private land will be impacted by these decisions.

Watch the full meeting on the Utah Department of Natural Resources YouTube channel if you're interested. This will provide you with a thorough grasp of the board's deliberations and choices about the CWMU program and hunting licenses.