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DWR proposes changes to trail camera use and some fishing regulations

Salt Lake City — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing some changes to the use of trail cameras and other technology used in hunting and a few changes to fishing regulations, as well as some additional items, and is seeking the public's feedback.

Proposed changes to trail cameras and other technology used in hunting

HB 295 was passed during the 2021 legislative session and went into effect May 5. This new law instructed the Utah Wildlife Board to make some rules governing the use of trail cameras in hunting. As a result, the DWR surveyed 6,000 big game hunters to get feedback on potential proposals for the wildlife board. The survey results showed that 62% of the public opposed transmitting trail cameras (cameras that transmit images and footage in real time).

The DWR is proposing to prohibit the use of transmitting trail cameras to locate or attempt to locate big game between July 31 and Jan. 31. The DWR is also proposing to prohibit the sale, distribution or storage of any footage from a transmitting trail camera that was used to harvest or that helped in the harvest of any big game animals. This new rule would not apply to private landowners who are monitoring their property for trespass or active agricultural operations, nor would it apply to cities involved in the Urban Deer Program. However, transmitting trail cameras on private property could not be used to help in the harvest of big game.

Another proposed change is to not allow any night-vision device to locate or attempt to locate a big game animal. This would go into effect starting 48 hours before any big game hunt opens in an area and would remain in place until 48 hours after the big game hunt ends in the area. This includes the use of night-vision devices, thermal-imaging devices, infrared-imaged devices and other electronic devices that enhance the visible and non-visible light spectrum. This type of technology has increased in popularity and use in hunting in recent years.

"We feel that these new rule changes are in line with much of the public feedback that we received during our surveys, and that it will also help maintain a more sportsmanlike and 'fair chase' approach to hunting in Utah," DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said.

Proposed changes to big game hunting

A few additional changes were proposed for some big game hunts, including:

  • Allowing an individual to apply for and hunt the following species in the same year: doe and buck pronghorn, cow and elk moose, and ewe and ram bighorn sheep. This would help streamline the hunt drawing process and is one of the necessary changes for proposed permit numbers to be available during the drawing.
  • Requiring bison hunters to review educational information about shot placement for hunting bison prior to the hunt. This is due to a request from the Utah Wildlife Board to provide more education to bison hunters.
  • Not requiring hunter orange during the general-season any bull archery hunt that overlaps with the general-season any bull youth hunt. The youth would still be required to wear hunter orange during their hunt.
  • Clarifying that the handgun-archery-muzzleloader-shotgun permits are not valid on extended archery hunts.
  • Stating that the national wildlife refuges in Utah are closed to hunting unless they are declared open to hunting by the managing authority.
  • Clarifying that antlerless elk-control permits must be used on an antlerless-elk control hunting unit and cannot be used on a Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit.

"Some of these rule changes will help to simplify, streamline and clarify some of the previous hunting rules," Jones said.

If approved by the Utah Wildlife Board, these changes would become effective for the 2022 hunting seasons.

Once-in-a-lifetime species recommendations

A few proposed changes are also being made for the once-in-a-lifetime hunts in Utah, including the following:

  • Combining the Zion Unit bighorn sheep hunts into one hunt due to decreased permit numbers
  • Adjusting boundaries to create two new bison hunting units in the Book Cliffs

There are no proposed changes to season dates or to the hunts for mountain goats and moose.

2022 fishing recommendations

The DWR is also proposing a few changes to some fishing regulations for two northern Utah waterbodies. The proposals include:

  • Removing the regulation within the current two-fish limit at Bear Lake that requires all cutthroat trout or trout with cutthroat markings that have all fins intact to be immediately released. Anglers would now be able to harvest any two trout from Bear Lake, regardless of whether the fish have fins intact or not.
  • Extending the fishing closure at the new Willard Bay Pond until Sept. 1, 2022 at 6 a.m. in an effort to allow the newly stocked fish there more time to grow and spawn. The DWR is also proposing the following daily fish limits at the Willard Bay Pond: five bluegill, one channel catfish and one largemouth bass. The new limits would go into effect once the pond is open to fishing.

"The proposed Bear Lake rule change was developed in cooperation with Idaho Fish and Game and will help us stay consistent with their rules for their side of the lake in order to simplify things for anglers," DWR Northern Region Aquatics Manager Chris Penne said. "This rule was initially implemented when biologists set out to increase the natural reproduction of Bear Lake cutthroat trout in the early 2000s. Those efforts have been successful and our own data as well as a study completed by the University of Idaho demonstrates that we can now maintain the same quality of fishing for cutthroat trout while allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest fish that have their fins intact."

Give feedback

A new hybrid approach for public meetings has been approved, so all meetings can be viewed virtually or attended in person. You can view the biologists' presentations before the meetings and share your feedback about them on the DWR website. The presentations are also available on the DWR YouTube Channel, but comments can only be submitted through the forms on the DWR website.

The public comment period opened on Aug. 23 for each of the five Regional Advisory Council meetings and for the Utah Wildlife Board meeting. Public comments submitted within the online-comment timeframes listed below will be shared with the RAC and wildlife board members at each respective meeting. Members of the public can choose to either watch the meetings online or attend them in person. If you wish to comment during the meeting, you should attend in person — online comments will only be accepted until the deadlines listed below.

The meetings will be held on the following dates and times:

  • Central Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. at the DWR Springville Office at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville (Online comments must be submitted by Aug. 26 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northern Utah RAC meeting: Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden (Online comments must be submitted by Aug. 26 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southern Utah RAC meeting: Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at the DNR Richfield City complex at 2031 Industrial Park Road in Richfield. (Online comments must be submitted by Sept. 2 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by Sept. 2 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the DWR Vernal Office at 318 N. Vernal Ave. (Online comments must be submitted by Sept. 2 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Utah Wildlife Board meeting: Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. at the DNR building at 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City. (Online comments must be submitted by Sept. 23 at 11:59 p.m.)