SALT LAKE CITY — During a public meeting Tuesday, the Utah Wildlife Board approved several changes to big game hunting that will go into effect in 2024.

Two bull elk stand in a field, date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Some of the changes affect the weapon technology allowed for various hunts, as well as requiring mandatory harvest reporting for general-season deer and elk hunts. A few other changes were also approved during the meeting.

Changes to archery and muzzleloader technology

In January 2022, the Utah Wildlife Board asked the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to create a technology committee to address the increased use of new technology in hunting, according to a press release. The committee — made of a diverse group of stakeholders — has met nine times since April 2022 and has proposed a variety of changes since then.

“The goals of the committee are to preserve hunting traditions into the future, help wildlife managers meet their objectives in species management plans and to increase opportunities for hunters,” DWR Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative Coordinator Blair Stringham said.

After assessing the committee’s feedback and recommendations, the board voted to approve the following changes, which will go into effect in 2024:

Remove the length restrictions on arrows and bolts for airgun, archery and crossbow hunting in Utah.
Prohibit the use of scopes stronger than 1× power on muzzleloaders for all muzzleloader hunts. This restriction would apply to all big game muzzleloader hunts, including general-season, limited-entry, management, and handgun, archery, muzzleloader, shotgun and straight walled rifle-only hunts.
Scopes of any power will still be allowed on muzzleloaders during any-legal-weapon hunts, and visual-impairment certificates of registration for scopes would still be allowed. Otherwise, only open sights, peep sights, a red dot or scopes with 1× power or less will be allowed on muzzleloaders in those hunts.

Harvest survey requirements

Harvest surveys have been required for all limited-entry big game hunts in Utah for approximately the past 20 years. This year, mandatory harvest reporting was implemented for all the 2023 antler-less hunts. The Utah Wildlife Board voted to require mandatory harvest reporting for all of the general-season buck deer and bull elk hunts in Utah as well, beginning in 2024. This will include:

General-season buck deer
Dedicated hunter buck deer
Youth general-season buck deer
General-season archery elk
Spike bull elk
Multi-season spike bull elk
Any bull elk
Youth general-season elk

Biologists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are recommending an increase in the number of general season buck deer permits available for hunts in Southern Utah this fall, date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

“Hunters have been requesting this data for years, and technology now makes it easier to conduct these surveys and collect this information after the hunts,” DWR Big Game Projects Coordinator Kent Hersey said. “This will also help us to maintain more comprehensive and quality harvest data and will provide better insights into Utah’s big game hunts.”

Starting in 2024, permit holders will have 30 days to report the results of their hunt after their hunting season ends. Anyone who doesn’t report will be excluded from the following year’s big game and antler-less applications. Beginning in 2025, anyone who reports their information late will be required to pay a fee of $50 to be eligible for the following year’s big game hunting applications.

Changes to pronghorn translocation sites

Severe winter snowfall and extreme drought impacted some of Utah’s pronghorn populations over the past several years. As a result, the board voted to approve some changes to where pronghorn could be translocated to in the coming years. Pronghorn will be relocated from other parts of Utah where populations are thriving and will help bolster populations in negatively impacted areas. The board approved adding eight pronghorn units across Utah to the list of pronghorn populations that could potentially be augmented.

Dedicated Hunter Program amendments

Wearing clothes that match the color of the marsh — and not moving as ducks fly overhead or work your decoys — are key to being a successful duck hunter, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

The Dedicated Hunter Program is a service-based hunting program that allows participants to have more time to hunt deer each year. There are 7,800 people who currently participate in the program. Participants are required to complete 32 hours of DWR-approved service (or pay for their hours) in order to qualify for deer permits through the program. They enroll in the program for a three-year period and can harvest two deer during that period if they meet the service requirements.

In order to simplify the program and to accommodate other changes, the board voted to approve a few administrative changes, including:

Redistributing the minimum service hour requirements. Now, participants will be required to finish a minimum of six hours of service in their first year in the program, instead of eight. They will still be required to finish an additional 16 hours during their second year, and 10 more hours of service in their third year in the program.
Revising the procedure for one-year extensions given to Dedicated Hunters who draw a limited-entry buck deer permit in the Utah big game drawing. This change would automatically apply a one-year extension to the hunter’s enrollment in the program.
Removing the requirement for returning paper permits in order to report a non-harvest on a hunt. Dedicated Hunter harvest reporting will occur via a new online method instead, which would allow for consistency with the new mandatory harvest-reporting proposal.

The board also voted to have the DWR provide a yearly update to the board on how the funds generated from the Dedicated Hunter program were allocated that year.

For more information on changes to CWMU and LOA permits, department rules and committee members, click here for the full press release.

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