UTAH (ABC4) – Utah hunters, get ready for some changes coming your way as the Utah Wildlife Board approves changes for turkey hunting and upland game hunting in 2022.

The new changes took effect on June 2 while officials also created a new “Utah Upland Game Management Plan” that will “direct the management of several upland game species in the state for the next 10 years (from 2022-2032).”

Three goals the plan focuses on include: 

  • Population maintenance and monitoring harvest from hunting
  • Habitat improvement and management
  • Maintaining and increasing opportunities to hunt the various upland game species found in Utah

Turkey Hunting Changes

  • The wildlife board voted to reduce the number of fall turkey permits “to only one either-sex permit per hunter and to remove public land, so the fall turkey hunts only occur on private lands.”
  • The number of permits issued for the northern and central regions will be capped at 25% of the number of permits sold in 2021.
  • Certain species that could be hunted with air rifles were also designated during the meeting.
    • The new rules will allow air rifle hunting for rabbits and hares during fall turkey hunts “as long as an excise tax could be added to air rifles that would help fund conservation efforts,” says DWR.

“Because these hunts are implemented to decrease the turkey populations in localized urban/agricultural areas, having hunters harvest female turkeys would be more beneficial to help decrease turkeys in those targeted locations,” DWR Upland Game Coordinator Heather Talley said. “However, we noticed that a higher number of male turkeys are being harvested during these fall hunts than we expected.”

Sage Grouse Hunting

  • The Parker Mountain unit will be reopened to sage grouse hunting for 2022. Officials say hunting permits will be kept at or below 5% harvest of the total population in that area.
  • Currently in Utah, only three units allow sage grouse hunting — the Diamond-Blue Mountain, Rich County and West Box Elder County.
  • Parker Mountain was initially closed due to population declines. 

“The areas where sage grouse hunting is allowed in Utah are where the populations are doing well, and the hunting permits are re-evaluated each year and allocated based on population estimates,” says DWR. 

Proposed changes to Landowner Association permits

After feedback from committee members and members of the public, the board approved several changes to the general-season landowner permits taking effect in 2023:

  • Instead of each region of the state receiving 600 general-season buck deer permits, those permits will be issued to landowners by unit.
  • The permits will be allocated through a separate landowner drawing, where qualified landowner applicants can potentially receive up to five permits.
  • Landowner appreciation permits will be combined with the landowner general-season buck deer permits.
  • The landowner drawing will take place after the big game drawing, so landowners will know if they have already drawn a permit. 
  • The landowner applicant that draws will receive a voucher that can be given to a qualifying individual to redeem.
  • A landowner can qualify with 640 acres of deer habitat or 100 acres of cropland that deer are using.

Several changes were also made to the landowner limited-entry vouchers effective in 2024: 

  • Vouchers given to landowners will be determined by the percentage of LOA land in the species’ habitat.
    • There are two potential options for public access:
      • Access will be awarded to public hunters by DWR and will equal the number of private vouchers the landowner receives. Under this option, both types of hunters will be able to hunt all of the public and private lands within the LOA.
      • LOAs would retain 80% of the vouchers, but the vouchers would only be valid on private land enrolled in the LOA. The other 20% of the vouchers would go to public hunters who would receive access to the private LOA lands.
  • LOA presidents will be required to attend training each year.

“The board also voted to give LOA landowners the opportunity to propose future additional program changes to the committee and the DWR,” officials say. “Any proposed changes would be shared at public Regional Advisory Council meetings in August and September and would go to the Utah Wildlife Board for consideration on Sept. 29, 2022.”

DWR is also exploring options for adding a youth Dedicated Hunter program to provide additional opportunities for youth to hunt big game every year.

To watch the full Utah Wildlife Board meeting, click here.