A change in Utah's deer hunt is certain. The question is when.
If recommendations from the Future Deer Hunt Alternatives Study Committee are accepted, first steps could come in October and some major changes put in place by 1992.In response to concerns of overcrowding, achieving higher buck/doe ratios and problems caused by the drought, a citizen's committee was called for a year ago by the Utah Board of Big Game Control to review alternatives to an 11-day open hunt. This week the committee presented its recommendations to the board.
The review process will begin next Thursday when board members begin their annual six-stop swing around the state to talk big game hunting in public meetings.
What steps the board will take won't be decided, however, until it meets in executive session on April 6.
It is unlikely, said Bill Christensen, committee chairman, much will happen before 1992.
- A two-season split rifle deer hunt. A hunter would have the choice of hunting one of the two seasons. The first season would have a cap on hunter numbers to control crowding. The second would allow unlimited hunter numbers.
- That the first season be no more than four days, the second no more than seven, with two days rest between the two.
- That a hunter be limited to one deer per year, with each hunter having to choose between a buck tag or an anterless control permit. Those who pick antlerless control permits will have first chance at undersubscribed tags.
- That the deer tag be sold separately from the general big game license beginning in 1992.
- That the muzzleloader deer hunt be extended one day to end on Veteran's Day (Monday), rather than on Sunday.
- That there be some hunting of doe during the second hunt to attract hunters. This is to be done on a "control hunter" basis in areas where the health of the herd would be benefitted.
- That hunters who draw out on limited entry hunts or high-country buck season be limited to only that hunt.
- And, that access-management be used as a permanent or seasonal tool to manage hunter numbers and achieve deer management objectives.
Other alternatives talked about, but tabled for now include: Require a hunter to choose only one hunt each year - archery, rifle or muzzleloader; set a limit on the number of hunters; combine primitive weapon hunts, mainly archery and muzzleloader; rescheduled hunting dates; set up hunting zones; and to combine hunts.
"Our overriding concern in making these recommendations was primarily for the resources, and then for the quality of the experience," said Christensen. "We feel these are the best choices we have."
Also a concern is the current drought Utah is in. Low moisture has resulted in lower fawn production, winter survival and habitat development.
To get action on recommendations, he added, will take legislative action, such as a change in licensing and hunting dates.
Initial response from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is that it does not fully support the recommendations.
Mainly, said Wes Shields, big game project coordinator for the DWR, there is opposition to holding a split hunting season.
He also said that the division will likely be opposed to some of the interagency recomendations that will be voted on by the board.
Public meetings will be March 28 in Brigham City, March 29 in Salt Lake City, April 1 in Vernal, April 2 in Price, April 3 in Bever and April 4 in Richfield. For information on location and times, contact a DWR office.