Of the 3.3 million acres of private land in Utah, 40 percent was available for fee hunting for deer and elk in 1986, according to a recently released Utah State University survey.
While fee hunting took place in 20 of the 29 counties in the state, most hunting for elk and deer took place in northern Utah, the survey said.Summit County had the most acres available for fee hunting, followed by Rich and Morgan counties. The three counties combined provided 57 percent of the total.
About half the 114 landowners responding to the survey had less than 5,000 acres each available for fee hunting, according to the USU Extension Service publication.
About one-third of the landowners initiated fee hunting to control trespassing or earn extra income, and about one-fourth indicated covering costs of hunters being on their land was the reason for instigating fees.
Most agreed the fee system seemed the best means of controlling access and damage. Closing land to hunting or opening it as a goodwill gesture did not seem effective.
Some second or third generation landowners were uncertain why their parents and grandparents initiated fee hunting, the survey said. Only 6 percent of those surveyed said they initiated fees to offset costs of wildlife depredation.
About half the landowners who offered fee hunting had a lease arrangement with hunter groups or outfitters, and half sold access permits to individuals.
The study showed fees varied. Unguided mule deer hunting was offered for a low of $5; elk, $25; and combined elk and deer for a low of $6. Maximum fees for guided hunts ran $3,000 for deer and $5,000 for elk. Guided combination hunts ran from $800 to $1,000.
Calculated on a per-acre cost, the dollar returns to landowners were $.25 minimum for unguided deer hunting to $2 maximum for guided hunts. No calculations were provided for unguided elk hunts, but per-acre return from guided hunts was $1.
Ranch income from fee hunting averaged $9,628. One-third of the landowners received less than $1,000, but most earned more than $10,000 total revenue. Slightly more than half the ranchers said fee hunting accounted for less than 10 percent of their gross ranch income.
About one-fifth of the respondents had invested in habitat improvements specifically to benefit elk and deer. They planted seedlings, moved or reduced livestock, removed brush and trees, and developed water, the survey indicated.
The total number of hunters taking advantage of fee hunting in 1986, the year of the survey, was 6,260. Fee hunters had the opportunity for greater privacy than on public land and a higher probability of hunting success, the report concluded.
The report's author, Lucy A. Jordan, is director of stewardship and registry for the Nature Conservancy Dakota field office. Co-author John P. Workman is a professor of range science at USU.