Early in the year, the Utah Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers was approached by Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Big Game Coordinator, now Wildlife Section Chief Covy Jones to have a seat on the Elk Management Plan Committee to re-write the long-term strategic plan for elk management in the state. As a chapter, we’ve been working hard to increase engagement with the Division on critical issues such as this, and immediately accepted the seat at the table. We knew we had our work cut out for us, and we were represented by Chapter Chair Perry Hall and Central Region Board Member William Peterson as an alternate. The goal was to be the voice for the average public land hunter and bring the BHA mission and values to the discussion. Drafting a 10-year management plan for the elk population in the state to be in place for 2023 was no small task. The committee met 8 times between April and August 2022, and was made up of 20 stakeholders including NGO’s, government agencies, Farm Bureau, Utah Department of Agriculture and food, the ranching community, the Division of Wildlife Resources, hunting industry professionals, and guides and outfitters and sportsmen.
During the early part of the committee, we were inundated with invaluable data regarding the current health of Utah’s elk herd, as well as crucial public surveys that helped us formulate a plan moving forward. At the outset, the committee determined that its objective would be to increase opportunity to hunt while keeping the resource healthy and reduce the Limited Entry hunt’s unofficial ‘once in a lifetime’ ability for draw. We had some heated conversations, but a mutual respect that existed amongst the committee members for the various viewpoints resulted in an effective process, yielding necessary changes to address the growing demand for elk hunting. After a thorough analysis, the committee was able to identify several creative tweaks to the management system that will increase opportunities and address the point creep issues while maintaining strong quality. A few takeaways that BHA contributed to and supports fully as follows:
- Changing the General Bull hunts by creating a 2nd, late unlimited season (splitting the any legal weapon any bull hunt to two, one-week seasons) and capping Multi-Season Tag sales at the current 3-year average.
- Any Legal Weapon (ALW) Any Bull Season Changes.
- Splitting the Rifle (ALW) any bull season into two 7-day seasons, the first week being capped at 15,000, with 7,500 of that designated as Multi-Season, and muzzleloader coming from that pool of 15,000, and a second 7-day season with unlimited tag availability.
- Increasing youth opportunity by effectively creating a Youth Unlimited Quota Multi Season tag, functioning as the adult multi-season hunt.
- Slightly reducing age class objectives on select Limited Entry Units and combining the current structure into a more streamlined three-category age class system which will increase tags in certain areas to help move people through the LE system.
- Shifting the Limited Entry Archery hunts back four days and shortening the LE early rifle on applicable units.
- Migrating certain HAMS units (handgun, archery, muzzleloader, or shotgun only) or parts of Limited Entry Units that have been determined as ineffective under those designations into the Any Bull units, increasing public access and opportunity and distributing hunting pressure.
We hope you take the time to read the plan, watch the proposal video on the DWR’s website, submit comments to the DWR, and attend the Regional Advisory Council meeting in your region to express your support for the plan. More information is available on the DWR’s website.
The RAC meetings will be held on the following dates and times:
- Northern Utah RAC meeting: 9 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 6 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Central Utah RAC meeting: 10 at 6 p.m. in the Wildlife Resources Conference Room (DWR Springville Office) at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 6 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southern Utah RAC meeting: 15 at 6 p.m. at Southern Utah University in the Hunter Conference Center in the Charles R Hunter Room in Cedar City. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 10 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 10 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wildlife Resources Conference Room (DWR Vernal Office) at 318 N. Vernal Ave. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 10 at 11:59 p.m.)