By Sara Price
At a recent Emery County Public Lands meeting, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Lieutenant Jay Shirley discussed the pheasant hunt currently going on across the state. Shirley said that statewide, 11,000 pheasants will be released during the hunting season. He encourages everyone to turn off the television and take the kids to hunt for a pheasant.
The season will be open until December and one hundred birds will be released each week during the hunt. Birds will be released on state owned property in Huntington and at Desert Lake in Emery County.
The pheasants were raised at local farms. Contracts for the hunt went to Hat’s Ranch with some contracts in Utah County as well. Shirley said it has been a big undertaking, but it’s been very successful.
The Day Old Chick Program has also been well received. Over 75 percent of day-old chicks have survived being raised in a pen all across the state. These chicks will be released for the hunt in locations that support pheasant habitat.
Shirley reminded hunters that they need to use a non-toxic shot. Lead rounds will not be allowed in the hunting areas due to safe habitat restrictions.
Predator traps have been placed to curtail predator numbers. According to Shirley, the coyote predator program will continue. Numbers of coyotes checked in around the state are only around 7,000, as interest in the program wanes. DWR was hoping for at least 20,000 coyotes.
Big horn sheep surveys and deer reports are underway for next year. Shirley stated that this has been a slow year due to many incoming cases.
Fisheries are looking good with the first ever 40 inch tiger muskie caught in Joe’s Valley. Electric Lake also received positive reports of being a good fishing location.
A regional advisory meeting for the Big Game Mentor bill is taking place in November. DWR is considering the possibility of young hunters shooting big game on their parent’s permit. A second bill, named Try It Before You Buy It, is also being considered. This bill would allow youth to hunt before taking hunter safety. Shirley stated that this has worked well in other states and keeps youth engaged in hunting for life.
The wildlife division would also like to change rifle hunt regulations to include muzzle loaders with a scope and draw locks on regular bows and cross bows as part of the any legal weapon definition for rifle season only.
Public lands council member Sherrel Ward raised concerns over bears at the meeting. He asked if permit numbers were being raised due to a high number of bears.
Shirley responded that bears are difficult to get an accurate count of due to their elusive nature and that biologists struggle constantly with the issue. Even with increasing permits, successful bear check-ins have not increased.
When Shirley lived in Monticello, the area endured a bad bear year. “You could not walk out at night without a bear walking with you,” he explained. “Bears were getting in gardens and yards that year as well.”