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INTRODUCTION

This report is a summary of big game harvest information and monitoring efforts for eight species (mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, Shiras moose, American bison, desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and Rocky Mountain goat) in the state of Utah. Those species are managed based on species management plans that have been developed through a public review process and approved by Utah’s Wildlife Board. This report represents the big game portion of Federal Aid Project W-65-M, segments 56 and 57, grant agreement periods October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008 and October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009, respectively. This Federal Aid project covers the 2008–2009 hunting seasons and reports statewide trends for all big game species.

METHODS

Annual Harvest Surveys

Annual general season deer and elk harvest and antlerless deer, elk, pronghorn, and moose harvest were determined through telephone surveys. Limited entry harvest for all big game species were determined by mandatory online reporting. For the telephone surveys, random, statistically valid samples of approximately 25% of the total license holders were used to estimate harvest statistics.

Based on results from the surveys and online reports, harvest data were projected by the total number of permits to obtain estimates of the number of animals harvested, number of hunters afield, and number of days hunted. To minimize error, harvest data for individual units, regions, and statewide totals were projected separately. As such, the sum of unit estimates and region estimates may not always equal the statewide totals. Additionally, success rates are calculated from the raw data and may not always equal the projected harvest divided by the projected number of hunters afield.

Harvest Sex and Age Composition

For limited entry units, the average age of harvested animals is obtained from counts of annual rings on teeth submitted by hunters. During general season hunts, check stations are used to gather information on age and antler size. The sex composition of harvested animals is determined through questions on telephone and online surveys.

Population Sex and Age Composition

Population sex and age composition is determined through the use of ground and/or aerial classification counts. Ground classification is done using a random process during early morning and evening hours, whereas aerial trend counts occur when counting conditions are favorable and cover all appropriate fall, winter and/or spring use areas. Data collected during classification and trend counts are used to determine annual production and survival of young (doe: fawn, cow: calf ratios), as well as the ratio of bucks or bulls to females in the herds. For deer, annual ground classification counts are conducted immediately after the general season harvest. For the remaining species, a combination of ground classification counts and aerial trend counts are used to determine population sex and age composition.

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