Utah's elk population continues to increase and its population of bulls continues to grow antlers that fall well within trophy categories.

According to Craig McLaughlin, big game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, "The weather has been excellent for elk over the past three years and most of the herds in Utah are doing great.

"Currently, there's more than 60,000 elk in Utah, so we're closing in on our goal of 68,400 elk. If these wet winters and springs continue, elk numbers should continue to climb."

Areas holding the highest population of elk include the Manti Mountains and Wasatch Mountains units in central Utah; the South Slope of the Uintas, Yellowstone unit in northeastern Utah; and the Plateau, Fish Lake/Thousand Lakes unit in south-central Utah.

Most of the elk hunting in Utah is for the younger spike bulls. According to McLaughlin, there are good numbers of spike bulls in those hunting units this year.

"The success rate on these units averages about 18 percent," he said. "That's not a high success rate, but fortunately hunters can do several things to up their chances.

"The key is to get off the roads and into the backcountry."

Recent rains at lower elevations and snow at higher elevations may have started elk and deer to at least think about leaving the high country.

Still, the most successful hunters are likely those willing to get off the main trails and roads.

"Elk are smart, wary and sensitive to hunting pressure," McLaughlin added. "As soon as the shooting starts on opening day, they head into the backcountry areas and into the thickest cover they can find. If you want to be successful, you've got to head into the backcountry and find them."

The hunt is also held during the rut or breeding season. This is a time when the larger bulls are gathering up cows and chasing off the smaller bulls.

"I think the larger bulls scare the spike bulls as much as the hunters do," McLaughlin said. "Unless you get into the backcountry areas where these spikes are hiding, you're probably not going to see many. If you do get into the backcountry, though, you'll probably be among the 18 percent who take a spike bull this year."

The general elk season will run from Oct. 7 to 15 for spike bull, and to Oct. 19 for any bull. The muzzleloader hunt will run from Nov. 1 to 10.

The weather forecast for Saturday is calling for clouds and warm temperatures, but no rain or snow.