|Photo courtesy of Spenser Owens|
The biggest news is the change from four regions to 30 smaller units for deer hunting. These units nearly mirror the elk units if you are familiar with them, but there are some differences throughout the state. The units for the most parts generally align with mountain ranges as well. Be sure to check the new maps to get familiar with the units. You can find the maps at www.wildlife.ut.gov/maps.
Here are some more changes to be aware of this year:
Archery Deer: There is no longer a statewide archery hunt. Archery hunters must now choose a unit.
Youth Hunters: If youth wish to hunt all 3 deer hunts, they must draw a General Season Any Weapon deer tag. If they draw a muzzle loader or archery tag they will be limited to hunting only whichever one of the tags they draw. Youth may also enter as a group (of only youth hunters, under 18) where they can apply as a group of 4.
Group Hunters: You will now only be able to apply as a group of 4 hunters. You can no longer apply with a group of up to 10 hunters for deer.
New Bison Hunt: There is now a Book Cliffs Bison Hunt
Northern Region Buck/Bull Combo: This hunt has now ended and will no longer be available
Dedicated Hunters: Those already in the program, the date to choose your unit has passed! I hope you were able to go online to select your unit for the year, if not...I really have no idea what will happen! The DWR should have mailed you a letter with instructions in December.
For those wanting to obtain a Dedicated Hunter tag: Apply online for the program during the big game application period. You will pay the $10 non-refundable fee, and if you draw then you will pay for the program. If you do not draw you will get a bonus point. For new members the service hour requirement was dropped from 40 hours to 32 hours.
Bonus Points: Apply once within 3 consecutive years or you will loose your bonus points.
For those that need a reminder, or those that are new to this, here is some important information about applying to hunt in Utah:
In Utah you must apply online OR contact a Division of Wildlife Office to apply. As said before, the application period is February 1 to March 1. Antlerless permits can be applied for in a separate application period, June 1-21. There are NO CHANGES TO FEES this year.
Results of the big game draw will be available May 31st...although you may get an email with your results or credit card hit a few days earlier!
You must buy a hunting OR combination license before you can apply. When you apply a $10 non-refundable fee will be charged per each tag applied for, then if you draw you will be charged for the tag at that time.
To apply for bonus points only, you can do so from February 1st to March 8th.
Bonus Points: Residents may only apply for one limited entry species or one bonus point per limited entry species. Additionally, a resident may only apply for a permit or bonus point for one once-in-a-lifetime species.
Non-Residents may apply for a permit or bonus point for all limited entry species, but not 2 per species.
OK, that turned out to be a lot of information! Make sure you do your homework this year so you know you are in line with all the changes! One last thought, in going to the new units versus the regions we had in the past, the Utah DWR will manage each unit for goal of 18 bucks per 100 does, as well as for an overall population objective. Those units not up to this objective will have permit numbers cut until they come up to objectives. Word on the street is nearly 11,000 tags will be cut this year! The frustrating part, is they won't be telling us where until the Wildlife Board sets permit numbers after population surveys, which will be in May. So good luck playing the odds! I would keep in mind that those units that have had hard winters the last 2 years, mainly in Southern Utah will most likely see some of those permit reductions. Now you know...don't wait until the last minute to get your applications in!
*This information was compiled to the best of my abilities, from the Utah Big Game Guidebook, and should not be considered official rules or guidelines. Big Game Applicants are required to meet rules and guidelines established by the State of Utah. Please refer to the Big Game Guidebook for all rules, laws, and guidelines.