Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
A herd of elk crosses a snow-covered field in Spanish Fork. Utah has a wide variety of big-game animals to hunt.

More hunters could be hunting on some of Utah's best big-game units this fall. There are many reasons why, but in most cases the bottom line is the same — big game animals in Utah are doing well.

"This is a great time to hunt big game in Utah," said Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Utah has a wider variety of animals to hunt than ever before. And despite some loss of animals this winter, the state's big game populations are doing well."

The DWR will present its big game permit recommendations for this fall at a series of public meetings. Management plans for each of Utah's limited-entry elk units and updates to Utah's Bighorn Sheep Management Plan also will be reviewed.

The DWR's proposals are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.

Interested parties can make comments in two ways:

Five Regional Advisory Council meetings will be held across Utah in March. Citizens representing the Regional Advisory Councils will take the input received at the meetings to the Utah Wildlife Board. Board members will use the input to set permit numbers for this fall's hunts.

Meeting dates:

• March 18 — Southern Region at 7 p.m. at Beaver High School, 195 E. Center

• March 19 — Southeastern Region at 6:30 p.m. at John Wesley Powell Museum, 885 E. Main in Green River.

• March 20 — Northeastern Region at 6:30 p.m. at Western Park, Room No. 2, 302 E. 200 South in Vernal.

• March 25 — Central Region at 6:30 p.m. at Springville Junior High School, 165 S. 700 East in Springville.

• March 26 — Northern Region at 6 p.m. at Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West in Brigham City.

Remarks can also be made by e-mail to www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.

After last fall's hunting seasons, biologists found an average of 18 bucks per 100 does on public land hunting units in the Northern Region.

Even though the number of bucks they found was on the high end of the 15 to 20 bucks per 100 does objective, biologists are recommending 1,000 fewer permits for the region this fall.

"We want to be cautious," Aoude said. "The deer herds in parts of northern Utah had a tough time this winter.

"When we do our after-winter surveys later this spring, we'll know better how many deer were lost. But our big game permit drawing happens in April, so we need to set the permits numbers before we do the surveys."

Elk, deer and moose permits are among the permits DWR biologists believe can be increased.

Biologists manage Utah's limited-entry elk units to take bulls in one of four age categories: 6 to 7 years old, 5 to 6 years old, 4 to 5 years old, or 3 to 4 years old. The age of the bull a hunter might take depends on the unit.

Utah has 28 limited-entry bull elk units. On 26 of the 28 units, hunters are taking bulls that are older than the age objective for the unit.

"For example, a hunter can go onto a unit expecting to take, say, a 5- to 6-year-old bull, and end up taking one that's one or two years older.

"We need to increase the number of permits so more bulls can be taken and we can get the herds to their age objectives," Aoude said.

"That's good news for hunters. It means we can offer more elk hunting permits for this fall's hunts and still provide quality bulls for hunters to take."

Biologists manage Utah's limited entry deer units so there will be plenty of big bucks for hunters each fall.

The Paunsaugunt and Henry Mountains units are the two premium limited-entry units in Utah. Biologists manage these units so at least 35 bucks per 100 does are left in the herds after the hunts are over each fall.

The rest of Utah's limited-entry units are managed so at least 25 bucks per 100 does are still in the herds after the fall hunts.

Only two units in southern Utah aren't meeting that goal. On the rest of the state's units, the number of bucks biologists are finding after the hunts is higher than the buck-to-doe ratio for each unit.

"We have plenty of bucks on these units. And that's great news for hunters. It means more of them can hunt these units this fall," Aoude said.

Utah's moose herds are also doing well. In many of the herds, there are almost as many bulls in the herds as cows.

The recommendations:

• General season buck deer — 94,000 (2007) to 94,000 (2008)

• Limited entry deer — 1,014 (2007) to 1,102 (2008)

• Limited entry bull elk — 2,090 (2007) to 2,447 (2008)

• Pronghorn antelope — 853 (2007) to 945 (2008)

• Moose — 151 (2007) to 184 (2008)

• Bison — 145 (2007) to 172 (2008)

• Rocky Mountain goat — 90 (2007) to 91 (2008)

• Desert bighorn sheep — 39 (2007) to 36 (2008)

• Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep — 18 (2007) to 23 (2008)