Faced with a recommendation to make radical changes in Utah's general deer hunt, the Utah Board of Big Game Control chose instead to wait and study the concept. As a result, big game hunters this fall will see few changes in old ways.
There will be only one general deer hunt; the one-hunter, one-deer, generally buck-only program will continue; the archery hunt will be in August, the rifle hunt in October and the muzzleloader hunt in November; and hunting licenses will come in one piece.Then again, hunters will be able to apply to hunt Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep for the first time; will only be able to go on one limited quota hunt; and will have to pay a dollar more to apply for special big game permits.
The five member board - Tim Provan (chairman), Merrell Miller (sportsmen's representative), Bill Burbridge (public lands representative), Newell Johnson (woolgrower's representative) and Darrell Kunzler (cattlemen's representative) - met in executive session Saturday to set 1991 big game laws and quotas.
The hottest issue facing the board was the recommendation from a special research committee that suggested the general deer hunt be split to ease hunting pressure. It was suggested there be a three-day early hunt for a limited number of hunters, followed by a 7-day general hunt.
Other suggestions included: Limit the hunt to 150,000 (last year nearly 190,000 hunters bought tags); to limit hunters to only one hunt - archery, rifle or muzzleloader; and to put a cap on nonresidents.
"We felt we needed more information before making a decision," reported Provan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "Before our August meeting I'm asking for detailed studies and reports in four areas: Fiscal analysis, statistical analysis, biological impact and public feedback."
The board also asked for a study on a recommended "Bonus Point System," similar to one currently being used in Colorado for limited quota hunt. Under the system, hunters that did not draw on a particular hunt one year would have their names submitted twice the following year, three times the next year, and so on until the hunter is successful. While this would have no effect on once-in-a-lifetime hunts for buffalo, moose, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats, it would on special hunts for deer, elk and antelope.
The board did put a limit on limited quota hunts. Hunters can apply for as many hunts as they choose, but can draw out on only one. The order of drawings will be: limited entry and high country deer, limited entry bull and muzzleloader elk, buck antelope, moose, buffalo, desert bighorn, Rocky Mountain goat and then Rocky Mountain sheep. If a hunter, for example, puts in for a limited entry elk and buffalo, and were to draw out on the elk, he would not be eligible then for the buffalo.
A study was also called for in the recommendation to separate the deer tag from the combination and big game license. Under this proposal, hunters would buy the license, then buy a tag for the species to be hunted. This move would require legislative action and could not be initiated until January of 1993.
The board also put limitation on entering the hunter depredation pool. Hunters, now, must apply before Oct. 1 and can only apply in one county.
Also approved was an application fee increase from $2 to $3.
Hunters will also be able to submit a dual application along with a companion for certain limited quota hunts - buck deer, bull elk, antlerless elk and doe antelope. The board also voted to allow parties up to four hunters to apply for antlerless control permits.
The archery deer hunt was approved for Aug. 17 to Sept. 2. Archers will be able to take only one deer. The archery elk hunt was set for Aug. 31 to Sept. 13. Instead of the recommended 250 hunter choice permits, however, the board approved 1,000.
The muzzleloader deer hunt was kept in November despite some requests that it be moved to an earlier date. One extra day, however, was added to the season. It will be Nov. 2-11.
The board approved the dates of Oct. 19-29 for the general deer hunt and Oct. 2-15 for general elk. Hunting dates will vary according to hunting areas on other big game hunts. Because of the time needed to prepare for the once-in-a-lifetime hunts, those permits were given out earlier this year.
The DWR was also given permission to offer five permits to high bidders. Money from these permits - more than $346,800 since the program was started in 1980 - is used by the DWR for species enhancement programs. Minimum bids for the moose, elk and buffalo permit will be $5,000, and for desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, $20,000 each.
Looking at special permits, the board approved over 18,000 antlerless control deer permits between preseason, general season and postseason hunts; 466 restricted bull elk permits and 5,053 cow/calve elk permits; and 640 buck antelope permits and 990 doe/fawn permits.
Approved earlier in the year were 181 bull moose and 100 antlerless moose permits; 11 desert bighorn sheep permits; 2 Rocky Mountain sheep permits; 60 buffalo permits and 6 Rocky Mountain goat permits.