This year's elk hunt is expected to be one of the best on record.

What this translates into is that about one in five hunters will fill their tags.The elk season will open on Wednesday, Oct. 3. About 32,000 hunters are expected to go afield.

In most areas of the state elk numbers are up. According to Wes Shields, big game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, elk have been less bothered by the drought than deer.

All things considered, he said, "I expect we'll have the best elk hunt we've every had. We've got a good number of elk and we've issued about 10 percent more permits than we ever have . . . we issued about 6,000 special permits, including antlerless and limited entry bull permits this year."

For the second year, hunters in the Manti and Fishlake units, and Parker Mountain area will only be able to shoot yearling or spike bulls. A yearling or spike bull is one with antlers with no brow tine or with no antler point longer than four inches.

The purpose of the restricted hunt is to establish a larger number of mature bulls.

According to Jim Karpowitz, Southeastern Region big game manager, the program is working.

He reported that several archery elk hunters out this year reported seeing more mature bulls.

Shields said he expects the restrictions to continue next year, "and after that I think we should see some mature bull permits going out." He said some of the best hunting last year was on the Manti unit . . . "Where we harvested almost 1,400 yearling bulls, which works out to about 20 percent success. We expected about the same this year."

The Moab and part of the Diamond/Strawberry area are also expected to be good elk hunting areas. Floyd Coles, game manger in the Central Region, said there are a couple of areas in his region that do not look good.

One, he said, is the Boulder Mountain area

"We had a poor calf crop there. It's the worst calf production I've seen. It's a combination of the drought and a parasite that we've isolated. If a calf gets the parasite and survives, then it usually goes blind. There are areas in Colorado and Arizona where they're losing up to 80 percent of their calf crop because of it. It's not that bad here."

Last year 30,494 elk hunters tagged 5,590 elk. Utah's elk hunting has been on a steady rise for the past several years. In 1986, for example, just over 3,000 bull elk were tagged by 27,100 hunters.

If the warm weather continues, then hunters will have more difficulty hunting this year. Elk, said Shields, are bothered by the heat more than deer and during hot days stay in heavy brush and trees.

If elk are in the heavy timber and brush, then organized drives can be a good hunting option.

The open bull elk hunt will close Oct. 16.