Elk NetworkUtah Proposes Decrease in General-Season Deer, Some Elk Permits for 2022

General | March 28, 2022

Below is a news release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

For the fourth consecutive year, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are recommending a decrease in the number of general-season deer hunting permits. The DWR is asking for the public’s feedback on the recommendations for the number of big game hunting permits for the 2022 seasons, as well as a variety of other big game proposals.

Why the recommendations are being made

The DWR manages deer, elk and other wildlife in accordance with approved management plans in order to help maintain healthy wildlife populations across the state. DWR biologists evaluate the health of deer populations throughout the year (through GPS collaring efforts and surveys), and also assess the previous year’s harvest data from the deer and elk hunts. That data is factored in with current habitat and environmental conditions across the state — which includes the extreme drought conditions — before the hunting permit recommendations are made for the upcoming hunting seasons.

The current management plan includes an objective to have just over 400,000 deer across Utah — there are currently an estimated 305,700 deer in the state.

“We’ve had several years of drought and are still facing ongoing extreme drought conditions in the state, which has a significant impact on the survival rates of deer,” DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said. “We currently have more demand for deer hunting in Utah than we have the supply for. While it is antlerless deer permits, not buck permits, that impact deer population numbers, we are recommending a decrease for both types of permits. We use the data and management plans to make proactive recommendations for the herd health of our wildlife.”

DWR biologists are recommending a total of 73,075 general-season deer hunting permits, which is a 950-permit decrease from the previous year. Of the 29 total deer hunting units across the state, 13 are being recommended for decreased permit numbers from the previous year.

“The number of permits we’re proposing for 2022 will help us achieve or maintain the objectives detailed in Utah’s mule deer management plan for harvest size, animal quality and hunting opportunity,” Jones said.

The current management plan includes an objective of an average age of bull harvest between 4.5 to 8 years of age. DWR biologists are recommending decreases on some units, but an overall increase in bull elk permits for the 2022 public drawing.

The big game permit recommendations

The table below shows all the permit recommendations for the 2022 big game and antlerless hunting seasons:

Hunt                                        2021     2022

General-season buck deer         74,025  73,075

Premium limited-entry deer      184      184

Management buck deer (including “cactus” bucks)         45        45

Handgun, archery, muzzleloader, and shotgun (HAMS) limited-entry buck deer hunts      15        15

Limited-entry deer        1,070    1,020

Antlerless deer 935      635

General any bull elk      17,500  17,500 for adults (unlimited for youth)

General spike bull elk    15,000  15,000

Antlerless elk                8,285    7,948

Youth any bull elk         500      500

Limited-entry bull elk    2,990    3,056

Buck pronghorn             1,173    1,249

Doe pronghorn             404      278

Bull moose                   112      110

Cow moose                   15        18

Bison                            149      158

Desert bighorn sheep    81        71

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep 67        58

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ewe hunt          10        5

Mountain goat              120      102

New antlerless hunts

DWR biologists are also recommending adding one new antlerless deer hunt to address damage to agricultural areas caused by deer. Five new antlerless elk hunts are also being proposed, as well as a new doe pronghorn hunt.

“Antlerless deer hunts are designed to reduce depredation on private lands, tackle urban deer issues, address chronic wasting disease hot spot areas, and to help slow the decline of range conditions,” Jones said.

Elk are impacted differently by drought because survival of adults typically remains high, while pregnancy rates have been shown to decline during extreme drought conditions. DWR biologists typically do a census on the state’s elk units on a three-year rotation. This year, the northern parts of the state were surveyed, and elk populations actually slightly increased in some of those areas since they didn’t experience the same extreme drought conditions as some of the central and southern portions of the state. Many of these hunting areas are largely made up of private lands, so DWR biologists are working with private landowners to address depredation issues where elk populations are above objective.

Much of the rest of the state, including central, southern and southeastern Utah, have elk populations that are at or slightly below their population objectives. As a result, DWR biologists are recommending a slight decrease in public draw antlerless elk permits in 2022.

Other proposals

The DWR oversees the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit program, which allocates hunting permits to private landowners who then provide hunting opportunities to public and private hunters for a variety of wildlife species. The CWMU program in Utah has opened more than 2 million acres of private land to the public for hunting. The DWR is proposing a total of 1,307 antlerless permits for 69 CWMUs for the 2022 hunting season.

Go here to view times, places and dates of public meetings where public comment will be taken.

(Photo credit:  Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)