The Utah Division of Wildlife (UDWR) manages elk in 29 management units in the state, but these units are sub-divided in such a way, there are really 50 elk management areas. Over-the-counter (OTC) elk permits are available for both resident and non-residents in Utah.
Over-the-Counter Elk Permits 2017 Elk Hunting Season
- Archery – Any Bull Units – (Hunter’s choice – bull or cow) – Aug. 19–Sept. 15
- Archery – Spike Bull Units (Hunter’s choice – spike or cow) – Aug. 19–Sept. 8
- Any Legal Weapon – Any Bull Elk Units – Oct. 7–19
- Any Legal Weapon – Spike Bull Elk Units – Oct. 7–19
- Muzzleloader – Any Bull Elk Units – Nov. 1–9
- Muzzleloader – Spike Bull Elk Units – Nov. 1–9
Over-the-Counter Elk Permits Available to Non-residents in Utah
The total cost for Non-residents is still $393 for the Elk permit plus $65 for a Hunting License for a total of $458.
There are two types of General Elk permits that can be purchased over the counter.
- Any Bull Elk Permits
- Spike Bull Elk Permits
In Utah, you must choose to hunt in either Spike only units or Any Bull Units, but are not limited to any individual unit.
Both Spike only and Any Bull permits are available in three distinct weapon/season combinations; Archery, Rifle (or any legal weapon) and Muzzleloader seasons.
The General Archery Permits allows the taking of cow elk, so with an Any Bull Permit (in an any Bull Unit), the permit is essentially an “any elk permit”, but with a Spike Elk Permit, only Spike elk or cow elk may be taken. The Rifle/any weapon and muzzleloader permits only allow taking bull elk.
All General Season (OTC) permits are first come first come first serve, but are sometimes still available almost up until the hunt starts. Some years, permits are still available after the Archery season begins. Check here for available permits at the UDWR website.
Utah Spike Elk OTC Permits
The Spike Elk permits may be used on any of 20 Spike Elk Units, as shown in light gray in Map 1.
These units are primarily managed by UDWR for older, more mature Bull elk for the Limited Entry Bull Elk hunts.
The Limited Entry hunts have already taken place before the general hunt begins in the Spike Elk Units.
Note that the Monroe Unit Spike Only hunt is for archery and muzzleloader only.
Utah Any Bull Elk OTC Permits
If you get an Any Bull Permit, you can hunt on any of the 16 Any Bull Elk Units, as shown in dark gray in Figure 1. These are units that are not managed for trophy elk, but these areas can have trophy class elk on them. There is some amazing country in the Uinta Mountains in the North and South Slope units.
Utah Elk Harvest Report
Utah is one of the slowest states for reporting the previous last year’s harvest data, so we are still waiting on the 2015 general season harvest data. The total 2014 elk harvest is reported by UDWR as 17,133 elk (see Table 1), an increase from 16,879 in 2013 and 16,332 in 2012 (Table 2).
Table 1. 2014 Utah Elk Harvest and Hunting Success
|Weapon||2014 Utah Elk Hunts||Hunters||Total Elk||Success|
|Total||Total All Elk||69,503||17,133||24.7%|
|Total General Elk (OTC)||39,790||5,596||14.1%|
|Total Limited Entry Elk||29,713||11,537||38.8%|
|Total Limited Cow Elk||15,121||5,553||36.7%|
|Rifle||Spike Bull Elk (OTC)||12,969||1,699||13.1%|
|Any Bull Elk (OTC)||11,849||2,022||17.1%|
|Limited Entry Bull Elk||1,539||1,244||80.8%|
|Youth Any Bull||285||107||37.5%|
|Muzzleloader||Spike Bull Elk (OTC)||1,000||175||17.5%|
|Any Bull Elk (OTC)||1,345||230||17.1%|
|Limited Entry Bull Elk||458||314||68.6%|
|Archery||General Elk* (OTC)||10,211||1,271||12.4%|
|Limited Entry Bull Elk||740||275||37.2%|
*Any elk may be taken with archery equipment as “Hunter’s Choice” (cow or bull) on Any Bull or Spike elk Units. In 2014 General Archery hunters harvested 625 Bull elk and 646 antlerless elk.
There were 5,596 elk harvested by 39,790 hunters with General elk Tags (OTC) in 2014. 1,699 Spikes were harvested in the Spike Only Units, 2,022 Bull elk were harvested in the Any Bull Elk units and 625 cow elk were harvested with with General Archery Tags.
Table 2. Total Elk Harvested and Hunter Success in Utah 2008 – 2014
|Year||Bull Elk||Cow Elk||Total Elk||Hunters||Success|
I included Table 3 to contrast hunter success between the General Season Hunts from the Limited Entry Hunts. Note that Antlerless Elk (Cows and calves) were harvested only with Archery equipment during General Season, but “cow tags” are limited entry and must be drawn to hunt with rifle (any legal weapon) or muzzleloader.
Table 3. Elk Harvested and Hunter Success in Utah 2008 – 2015
|General Season||Limited Entry|
|Year||Bull Elk||Cow Elk||Hunters||Success||Bull Elk||Cow Elk||Hunters||Success|
Utah Limited Entry Cow Elk and Antlerless-Control tags
Limited Entry Cow tags can be drawn about every other year in Utah, so with a cow tag and a General Elk tag, you can hunt any elk in the Any Bull Elk units or you can hunt spike elk and cow elk in the Spike Elk Units and have a much higher chance of success.
A few Antlerless-Control tags will be available in some units in Utah, so that is another way to increase your chance of success even if you don’t draw a cow elk tag.
Just remember that cow tags and Antlerless-Control tags are issued for specific units and can not be used in any unit like the Spike Bull Elk or the Any Bull Elk can.
Spike Elk a Small Portion of the Elk Population
Hunting Success is expected to be lower in the Spike Elk only units because spike elk only make up a small portion of the elk populations.
If the average bull to cow ration is 20/100 (5 year avg of 2 units) and 50.6 (Utah’s last 5 year avg.) out of 100 cows have a calf, and survival of calves to their 2nd year (age 1½) averages about 40%, and half of those 1½ year old elk will be spikes, then only about 8.4% (1 per 11.6) of the elk population will be spikes.
In an any Bull unit, if the bull/cow ratio is 20/100, then 16.7% (20/120) of the population will be mature bulls plus the 8.4% that we expect to be spikes, for a total of about 25.1% bull elk (1 per 4).
So it makes sense that hunter success in 2014 was higher in the Any Bull Units (17.1%) than the Spike Only Units (13.1%) for the “rifle” (Any legal weapon) season (Table 1). Hunter success was about the same for muzzleloaders with 17.5% in Spike Only units and 17.1% in Any Bull units. This might be explained because of small sample sizes or has something to do with the fact that the muzzleloader season is after the archery and rifle seasons, but not sure how that causes success in Spike units to be higher than the rifle season while success in Any Bull units is the same.
Elk Habitat in Utah
In Utah, most elk habitat is in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains and in the higher elevations of the Colorado Plateau. Elk habitat is shown in red in Map 2, along with the Ecoregions found in Utah.
The Wasatch Mountain Range runs North-South the length of the state along the east side of Interstate 15.
The Uinta Mountains runs from the Wasatch Range to the Colorado Border along the Northern Utah border with Wyoming. The North Slope of the Uinta range drains toward Wyoming and the South Slope into the Uinta Basin.
Public Land in Utah
There is plenty of public land to hunt in Utah, with over 8.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land, 22.8 million acres of BLM land and over 3.8 million acres of state lands open to hunting for a total of over 34.7 million acres, which is 66% of the entire state.
Much of the elk habitat in Utah is on the 8.1 million acres of US Forest Service land. A conservative estimate assumes an equal amount of BLM and Utah State lands are also elk habitat, then if each of the 57,241 elk hunters in 2011 hunted public land, there were 282 acres for each hunter.
Remember that many hunters don’t hunt public land and most hunters never get more than ¼ mile from a road. Plus, the hunting pressure is spread out between the various hunt seasons (archery, rifle/any weapon and muzzleloader), so there is much more room per hunter, especially if you hunt away from the roads.
In Utah, there are five National Parks and six National Monuments, where hunting is not allowed, but most of the southern Utah parks are not in prime elk habitat.
Utah also has 1.7 million acres of DOD lands (Dugway Proving Grounds and the Utah Test and Training Range), where hunting is not allowed, but there are no elk on the mud flats and low elevation deserts that make up most of these military lands.
As with any place that has private lands mixed with public lands, make sure you have good maps and GPS when hunting near private or Tribal lands.
National Parks, Military Lands and Tribal Lands are included with the no hunting units shown in white in Figure 1.