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Utah Elk Hunting


Utah Elk Hunting 2023

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If there is one thing that has remained the same in Utah throughout the years, it is change. Utah renews each big game species management plan periodically, around every five to seven years, and 2023 marks the beginning of the new elk management plan. This new elk management plan shook things up quite a bit with new hunts, added hunts, additional opportunities, shifting season dates, and shifting age class objectives in most units across the state. One thing is for certain, with these new changes and new hunts for elk, applicants are going to want to pay attention this year as these changes could and will impact draws across the board.

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Utah has mandatory harvest reporting on all limited-entry big game species across the weapon types. This allows them to monitor the age of each animal harvested and increase or decrease tags if the average age is under or over the age management goal for that specific unit. However, this style of management is not without fault. Hunting in general is different for everyone and trying to manage toward a certain age class is tough when age is a difficult thing to judge on the hoof. One hunter might be happy with any bull, and another is looking for the largest bull they can find. The impacts are obvious, especially in units where low numbers of permits are issued (which in Utah’s case is about 65% of them) and you have a few hunters harvesting 4-5 year old bulls. This will bring that average age objective down under the level of increasing permit numbers, and before you know it, that herd of elk is backed into a corner of trying to maintain elk numbers within the population level while not being able to increase bull permits. Therefore, the only thing they can do is issue cow permits to bring the population down. The end result is a 1:1 bull to cow ratio that puts the elk herd in a tough spot and sets them up for big declines in future years. This was the reason for the big changes across the state on this new elk management plan.

The biggest change is lowering the age class objectives for the top two tiers that were previously in place. All units that were managed for 7.5 to 8-year-old bulls dropped to 6.5 to 7-year-old age objectives. All units that were managed for 6.5 to 7-year-old bulls dropped to 6 to 6.5-year-old age objectives. Inevitably, this will decrease quality across the board, but it most likely won’t be to the level that most doom and gloomers think. Research has been ongoing in multiple states across the West, which has been funneled through Brigham Young University, and it shows that 85%-90% of antler growth in elk happens by age 6. Then, minimal antler growth can happen as the male ages, but similarly, the male can have decreased antler growth as well. This is often due to quality of feed, severe or mild winters, and changes in habitat. Basically, after age 6, antler size has more to do with habitat than age. This background will hopefully give our members some context to the decision that was made by the state and hunters across Utah to give more opportunity to hunters to harvest the excess bulls in units that it is warranted in. The lowest tier age class objective management of 5.5-6 was not changed as this management objective was the sweet spot for quantity of tags and quality of bulls.


Implications of adjusting these age class objectives will be mostly in the form of increased permits in the immediate future across all weapon types, but with the new added hunts as part of this plan, we may not see increased permits in specific hunts because the added hunts gobbled up the permit increases. The first new hunt is not necessarily new as the lower tier managed units have already had this “mid-season” rifle hunt that overlaps the general rifle spike-only hunt. The “new’’ is in the fact that all limited-entry units will now have a mid-season rifle hunt. This opened up 14 additional rifle hunts for non-residents to apply for in 2023. The second new hunt is a completely new archery hunt that will be conducted December 2-17. This hunt was put together by a committee as an opportunity type hunt that should allow easier draw odds but come at a time of year when harvest with a bow can be very difficult. Generally speaking, this is not going to be a high success hunt, so applicants should expect not to harvest when considering this hunt. There will be 17 limited-entry units that will have this hunt on them, and most likely, some will not be available for non-residents to apply for in 2024 because the permits will be too low. This first year, though, every unit will have at least one non-resident tag.

Utah Elk Season & Dates

2023 Utah Elk Hunts Dates in Utah
Hunter’s Choice Bull Elk (Archery)
Spike Aug 19–Sept 8, 2023
Any Bull Aug 19–Sept 20, 2023
Any Bull Units
Any legal weapon Oct 7-Oct 19, 2023
Muzzleloader Nov 1-Nov 9, 2023
Multi-season Aug 19-Sept 20, Oct 7-Oct 19, Nov 1-Nov 9, 2023
Spike-Only Units
Any legal weapon Oct 7-Oct 19, 2023
Muzzleloader Nov 1-Nov 9, 2023
Multi-season Aug 19-Sept 8, Oct 7-Oct 19, Nov 1-Nov 9, 2023
Private Lands Antlerless Elk
Any legal weapon Oct 7-Oct 19, 2023


Changes also came in adjusting season dates. The limited-entry archery season has been extended by four days to allow archery hunters more time to hunt closer to the elk rut. Consequently, the early rifle hunt has been shortened by four days and is now a five-day hunt. The determining factor in this decision was that most early rifle elk hunt harvest only took about three days and averaged around 80% harvest, so five days was determined to be adequate enough time to harvest a bull while maintaining high harvest. The added days on the backend of the archery hunt are going to be a great addition as every archery hunter knows that Utah has one of the earliest archery elk seasons of any state out west. The other season dates for the remaining hunts stayed relatively unchanged other rolling them to fit the calendar so the hunts can start on the same day of the week every year.

The elk herd across the state is still in good condition with some impressive bulls coming from Utah this year. Utah experienced some good moisture levels this year, and most elk went into winter in relatively good condition. which will bode well for antler growth in 2023. Pay attention to the individual unit profiles as some units are producing better than others and there could be better units to hunt during the new late archery season if you want to gamble your points on a December archery hunt. Also pay attention to the mid-April RAC meetings that will discuss permit numbers for all the hunts so applicants can at least determine what the UDNR is recommending and if there are at least two or more permits so that one can be issued in the preference draw to a high point holder.

Utah Elk Draw

At the end of the day, these new changes to elk management should help move applicants through the draw system, but overall, it just gives applicants more options to select from. There are still far more applicants than permits, and Utah is still going to be a 15-20+ year application strategy for most elk hunters. However, the quality remains strong, and for those lucky enough to draw, they will have an amazing hunt.

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Utah General Elk

Additional major changes happened to general elk hunts and season structures for the 2023 season. Utah still has four options available for general elk permits – archery, muzzleloader, any weapon, and multi-season. The multi-season hunt is only available for the spike-only units for 2023, though. Spike-only hunting did not change much for 2023. There is still a 15,000 permit quota in place for the rifle and muzzleloader seasons, but there is a 4,500 permit cap on multi-season spike permits that can be sold. Most of the changes came in the any bull general hunt areas. There are now two seven-day rifle seasons that take place at the beginning of October. These hunts will be back to back starting October 7th, and the second hunt concludes October 20th. The permits for these hunts are still sold over-the-counter, but only the first hunt is subject to the 15,000 permit quota. The second hunt has an unlimited quota. The first rifle and muzzleloader hunts make up the 15,000 permit quota. The archery permit is still an either-sex tag and has an unlimited quota. New units have been added to the general any bull areas across the state as well, and we will cover more on them in our July issue.

Another big change for general elk was the introduction of a youth general elk permit that allows youth to hunt all seasons and is good on spike and any bull units. This new permit also has an unlimited quota. We will cover the over-the-counter options for elk in Utah on a more in-depth level in our July issue.

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Utah Elk Application Deadline

The Utah Big Game application period deadline is 11:00 p.m. MST on April 27, 2023. The bonus point/preference point application period will be open during the antlerless application period.

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Our magazine, which is available in print and online, has everything in one location application info, draw details and odds, fees, hunter requirements, point structure, age restrictions, youth information, weapon restrictions, other tag opportunities, hunt planning, and much more. If you would like access to all of our research, join today!

2023 Utah Elk Non-Resident Hunting Fees


2023 Utah Non-Resident Fees
Non-Resident Hunting License $72
Youth (17 and younger) Non-Resident Hunting License $29
Application Fee per Species $15
Post Draw Fees (if successful)
Limited-Entry Elk $1000
Multi-Season Limited-Entry Elk $1805
Youth Draw-Only Any Bull Elk $593


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