There will be no sandhill crane hunt in Utah this year; Utah County will fall in with the rest of the state during the pheasant hunt; and hunters will face the most restrictive duck hunt ever. Those were the key issues addressed by the Utah Wildlife Board during its executive session Friday.
First topic on the agenda, and probably the most controversial ever to come before the five-member group, dealt with a hunt the board had already approved - 100 permits for a fall sandhill crane hunt.Admitting that biologically the hunt was needed, but that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and board members were remiss in not supplying the public with more information before taking action, the hunt was canceled in a 3-2 vote.
Biologists on Thursday told the board that the Rocky Mountain greater sandhill crane, nearly extinct at the turn of the century, has come back in greater numbers than expected, and that due to overcrowding in wintering areas in New Mexico, the birds were being subject to starvation and disease. Farmers also argued that the birds were in such large numbers now that they were doing serious damage to crops, particularly in Rich and Cache counties.
Conservationists appearing before the board on Thursday challenged these reports and asked that the hunt be stopped. Some non-hunters said they would apply and if successful would let the permit go unused to save the birds.
Even Gov. Norm Bangerter got involved in the hunt. Last week a report out of the governor's office quoted Bangerter as saying he "doesn't want them killed in Utah." A report later in the day said he didn't oppose the hunt but that he asked the board to review the issue and "maybe study it for another year."
Because of the overcrowding problem, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a specific number of permits for the Pacific Flyway. The 100 permits allotted to Utah will now be offered to states where cranes are hunted (Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico).
On a subject almost as volatile as the crane hunt, the board voted unanimously to change the three-day hunt in Utah County back to a regular 14-day hunt.
During its June meeting to decide upland game seasons, the board was asked by farmers and sportsmen to go with the shorter hunt because of the large amount of private land in the county and landowner/hunter problems that have happened in past years.
After listening to landowners and sportsmen argue their cases on Thursday, the board decided it was better that the hunt in Utah County be consistent with hunting in other counties.
In other action, the board approved federal guidelines for the 1988 waterfowl season.
Faced with seven consecutive years of drought conditions in nesting areas in Canada and bordering states, and with a serious drop in duck numbers this year, strict regulation were ordered by the USFS.
In following those guidelines, the board approved a 58-day duck hunt that will open Oct. 8 and close Dec. 4. During the hunt the limit on ducks will be four daily and eight in possession. In the limit, hunters can have no more than three mallards, only one being a mallard hen, two redheads and no canvasbacks.
The swan season will run from Oct. 8 to Jan. 1. Those are also the dates for the goose season.
In dealing with the bear and cougars proclamation, the only major change was to open Morgan County to bear hunting for predation problems.