SALT LAKE CITY — Several proposed changes for the 2018-2019 hunting season have been approved for big game and waterfowl hunts.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists proposed many of the changes in an effort to better regulate and manage wildlife. The changes were approved by the Utah Wildlife Board on Nov. 30.
Here is a look at some of the changes hunters can expect for the upcoming season:
Early-season rifle hunt
An early-season rifle hunt was approved for 10 general deer hunting units throughout the state, according to a DWR news release. This would be in addition to the regular general rifle bull elk hunt held at the same time.
“If you have a permit for both hunts, you could possibly take a buck deer and a bull elk during your hunt,” DWR big game coordinator Covy Jones said in the news release.
The hunt would run Oct. 10-14 on the Kamas, Chalk Creek, East Canyon and Morgan/South Rich units in northern Utah; the Nine Mile Unit in southeastern Utah; and the Fillmore, Fishlake, Panguitch Lake, Pine Valley and Zion units in south-central and southwestern Utah, DWR said.
Hunt all three elk seasons
With a statewide population of more than 80,000 animals, Utah has plenty of elk. However, hunter success rates for elk is fairly low in Utah, DWR said. As a result, general-season bull elk hunters will now have a chance to hunt all three general elk seasons — archery, rifle and muzzleloader.
Those who bought a permit for all three seasons will first choose whether they want to hunt on spike-only units or any-bull units. Then, after buying their over-the-counter permit, they can hunt during the archery season on any general season bull elk unit in the state. During the rifle and muzzleloader hunts, individuals would have to hunt on the type of unit for which they bought a permit. Their permit will allow them to take only one elk, so their elk hunt would end for the year as soon as they took an elk.
'Cactus buck' hunt
With one exception, “cactus bucks” — buck deer that typically can’t reproduce — are found in very few places in Utah.
The one exception is the famed Paunsaugunt premium limited entry unit in southwestern Utah. There, a small population of cactus bucks is found, and hunters will now have a greater chance to harvest them. Cactus bucks are easy to distinguish because they still have velvet on their antlers late into the fall.
Jones said those who draw a permit for the Paunsaugunt Unit can take a cactus buck now, but most don’t, opting instead to take one of the massive bucks on the unit.
“Offering a cactus buck-only hunt would allow more people to hunt this amazing unit and take bucks hunters aren’t currently taking,” Jones said. “Cactus bucks typically can’t reproduce, so taking these bucks would not have a negative effect on the population.”
2 pintails a day
North America’s pintail duck population has experienced plenty of ups and downs over the past 30 years. This season, Utah hunters can only harvest one pintail a day; but next season, hunters will be able to take two after the recently approved changes.
“Pintails did pretty well this past nesting season,” Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR, said in a news release. “Hopefully, good nesting this past spring, coupled with high survival rates this winter, will put plenty of pintails on the nesting and breeding grounds during spring 2018. Starting next fall, we’re comfortable allowing hunters to take two pintails a day.”
Hunting light geese in Millard County
The number of days for hunting light geese in Millard County will slightly decrease for the 2018-19 hunt. Wildlife biologists limited the number of days due to the Snow Goose Festival, a popular wildlife viewing event, which happens in Delta each year in February.
This upcoming season, the light goose hunt in Millard County is closed from Feb. 5–28, 2018. For the 2019 season, the hunt will be closed from Feb. 15–28, 2019.
“We think this is a good compromise,” Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for DWR, said in a news release. “The festival usually happens at the end of February, so stopping the hunt on Feb. 15 should keep plenty of birds in the area. At the same time, allowing hunting in early February should reduce the amount of damage geese are doing to farmers’ fields and their newly planted crops.”
Hunting sandhill cranes in Uintah County
The board also approved a longer sandhill crane hunt in Uintah County. Currently, the hunt in the county happens mostly in October. During the 2018–19 season, the hunt will be held in both October and November.
“Uintah County is a popular place for cranes to stop during their migration south in the fall,” Stringham said. “The number of cranes is increasing, and more and more damage is being done to crops in the area. Giving hunters more time to hunt in the fall should put more pressure on the cranes. The added pressure should reduce the agricultural damage cranes do before they migrate out of the area.”
What do you think of the recent changes? Let us know in the comments.
Editor's note: The content of this article was taken from a press release sent out by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. This is not information gathered by KSL.com reporters.