Utah’s Top Hunt Units
|DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP||ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIGHORN SHEEP||MOOSE|
Utah has some of the best Rocky Mountain Elk hunting in the world. Many of Utah’s elk units can produce giant bulls year in and year out. Every few years a unit will have a stand out year, predicting this can be difficult. Although “quality” is reportedly down from 2005-2007 levels, Utah is still a premier hunting destination for BIG bulls. Nearly every unit in the state has potential for a bull over 350. While they are few and far between in many units, it’s not uncommon for bulls over 380 to be found in many units.
The Cooperative Management Wildlife Unit (CMWU) program is also something to look into. Many of these CMWU’s produce tremendous trophies every year. The hunting experience on a CMWU depends a lot on the operator. It’s best to contact hunters who have hunted a particular CMWU as well as contacting the operator before applying for these units.
- San Juan: This unit is right near the top of the elk hunting world. Combine the animal quality with early rifle hunts that fall right in the heat of the rut and you have an awesome hunt. Huge bulls on this unit, 400+ killed every year. Avoid the late rifle hunt (November) as many of the bulls move to private land.
- Fillmore, Pahvant: This unit has been on the ups for several years. While some say it has already peaked, this unit is one of the best in the state.
- Monroe: This is a huge unit for Utah. Don’t expect to find bulls throughout the whole unit. Spend some time scouting and you’ll find a big bull. I would say this is one of the best hunts for older folks, or those who can’t get too far from the truck – but there’s plenty of places to get off the “beaten path” as well. Rut hunts are far easier in this unit than those outside the rut.
- Plateau, Beaver: The beaver unit has the make-up for the hunt of a lifetime. Some really big bulls are taken every year here as well.
- Boulder: The Boulder is a very cool mountain range with decent access – this unit covers a lot of area and there are great bulls to be found. A 350 class bull is very possible on this unit.
- Other units of Interest: Utah has fantastic elk hunting, while it may not be producing as many 400″ bulls as 8-10 years ago, any unit in the state provides opportunity for a big one. (Especially the units in the southern half of the state) Other good units include the Dutton, Beaver, and Panguitch. Recent age objective management changes is affecting the Wasatch, Book Cliffs, and Manti, but good bulls can still be found. The Wasatch and Manti units have very large herds of elk, a lot of tags, and are not managed for the same age class as the units listed above – that being said, 300+ bulls are fairly common, and seeing a 350+ bull can happen with hard work and a little luck.
Utah has an interesting Mule Deer system. The general hunts have in a sense become Limited Entry because you can’t draw some of them every year. Speaking of general hunts, the northern end of the state probably has the most difficult hunting. Central, Southern, and Southeastern all have decent general hunts, the most popular of which is the Southern unit. Don’t overlook the extended archery areas. These archery only hunts extend through the rut and tremendous bucks are taken every year. Hunting pressure is high on these hunts, but if the time is put in and luck goes your way, you could take a buck of a lifetime on one of these hunts.
- Antelope Island: Don’t expect to draw this tag. Odds are very low due to there being only one tag, so having max points doesn’t help. If you do draw though — expect to take a buck well over 200 inches!
- Henry Mountains: Henry Mountains is the best Mule Deer hunt in the nation. Multiple 200+ inch bucks are killed every year out of a very limited number of hunters. Drawing this tag will take a long time unless you are extremely lucky, especially for non-residents as the number of tags is very low, usually 1-3. The management hunts on this unit are also very hard to draw but have produced some big 3 points. This could be considered for those without maximum bonus points.
- Paunsaugunt: The Pauns hunt has long been considered one of the best hunts in the nation as well. This hunt is not a guaranteed 190 buck. It can be difficult at times, depending on the weather. The earlier hunts are more consistent, but with a pushed back rifle hunt, it can either be really good, or not as good due to migrations. Spend some time getting to know this unit. If the deer start moving down, you need to know where they are going. This is a world class deer hunt.
- Book Cliffs/Vernon: The Book Cliffs is a unique unit. It produces great buck deer and bull elk. This unit has a lot of deer, finding a buck over 180 may prove a little challenging. Expect to see a lot of young bucks in the 2 – 3 year class — decent bucks, but you may have to wade through a few before you find the one you like. It seems “crabby” forks are quite prevalent here, so if you’re worried about score, don’t just look at main frames. Take the time to study these bucks, try to get away from the crowds, and be willing to do a little hiking. If you put in the time, the Books can produce a very nice buck.
- Vernon: The Vernon unit can be drawn with similar points as the Book Cliffs. You won’t see as many bucks on the Vernon, but there are some good bucks available. Poaching has been prevalent over the past few years, especially on this unit — enough so that the trophy potential has been affected. Hunting hard should produce sightings of bucks in the 160-180 class. Expect to work harder than the other hunters in order to kill one of the better bucks on the unit.
- San Juan – Elk Ridge: This unit borders the Henry Mountains Unit on the map. It was once arguably the best unit in the state, but in recent decades, deer number have declined. Some blame this on the rising elk population. However, this unit is on the rise, and might be the place to apply in Utah in 5-10 years. It should be interesting to see what this year produces.
- Wasatch Front: The front lines of opportunity; the Wasatch Front is tremendous habitat for big bucks. This area is in the Central general deer region and consistently produces a few bucks over 200 inches. While this area does get a lot of pressure, if you are willing to go a lot of miles on a backpack over very rugged country to get away from the crowds, you can kill one of these big bucks. The extended season only makes this area better, now it can be hunted in the rut and for several months after all other hunts have ended; which is why there will be a lot of people. Be willing to get away from the crowds and you can kill a buck of a lifetime.
Utah’s antelope hunts typically take 5-8 for residents and 6-8 years to draw a tag with maximum points, add another 1-2points and for some of the hardest to draw units in the state. Don’t expect to see thousands of antelope on these hunts likeyou might in Wyoming. Utah doesn’t have the number of antelope as some neighboring states, but the opportunity is there to take a nice buck.
- West Desert Hunts: Riverbed, Rush Valley, and Snake Valley areprobably the best hunts in the state. Not all of these hunts have tags available for non-residents every year.
- San Rafael, North: This unit is probably the hardest unit to draw in Utah — for good reason. There are some good bucks taken off this unit every year.
- Plateau: This unit’s population levels are down due to overharvest. I would avoid this unit if you have a lot of points.
- San Rafael: This is one of the two units available for both residents and non-residents. (Only one tag available to non-residents). The San Rafael units have the most sheep in the state. While tag numbers are very limited, this will be a great hunt with a chance for a great desert ram. The desert scenery is hard to beat.
- Kaiparowits Units: This unit is also available for both residents and non-residents to hunt in 2009. (Only one tag available to non-residents). Non-residents are able to hunt all the subunits if successful in drawing this tag. Overall, this hunt is physical and difficult as most sheep hunts are.
- Zion: Zion can be a good unit, with some of the statewide hunters harvesting rams in Zion over the past few years. This country is awesome. Hunting any desert sheep unit in southern Utah will provide great scenery and a fun hunt.
- Antelope Island: Sheep hunting has only occurred on Antelope Island for the last 3 years. This is a very difficult hunt to draw as there is only 1 tag available through the public draw. Population numbers are estimated to be in the 150 animal range after a transplant occurred in Jan. 2014 moving 30 animals in an attempt to start a new herd in Millard County
- Stansbury: This is a fairly new unit that is producing some great rams. Take the time to look over all of the sheep on this range and you should have an opportunity to take a 160+ inch ram.
- Nine Mile, Range Creek: This unit has the only available non-resident rocky mountain bighorn tag in Utah. If this tag is drawn, the hunter is also able to hunt in the book cliffs unit. This hunt is probably the best in the state as far as number of animals is concerned. Utah is currently doing a lot of sheep transplants and their efforts should be applauded in behalf of bighorn sheep. There is some great habitat in Utah, and sheep hunting should improve in the coming years. This unit should provide opportunity to take a 160 – 170 class ram.
- Book Cliffs, South (Rattlesnake): This unit can also be hunted on the non-resident tag. This unit is mostly road less. Be prepared to hike a lot to find many sheep. Like any unit in the state, there are decent rams. One could expect a 160 class ram, maybe bigger if the start align and the scouting is thorough.
Utah has a decent moose population, and some great bulls are taken every year. The hardest part about killing a big bull moose (besides drawing the tag), is finding him. Scouting is key when moose hunting. The more moose you look at, the better your chances at finding one you want to fill your tag with.
- Ogden: This unit has a lot of moose, and some really nice bulls. The downside to the Ogden unit is that there is a lot of private land, which may be difficult to get access to.
- North Slope – Summit: The north slope of the Uinta’s has some very nice moose, with a lot of big bulls. Get off the roads and glass the meadows and creek bottoms.
- Wasatch Mountains: This is a pretty big unit that has some big bulls harvested every year. There is plenty of public land on this unit…
- East Canyon: This unit consistently produces nice Bull Moose, and would be a good way to spend your points in Utah.
- Beaver: This unit has the best access, most tags and makes for the best mountain goat hunt in the state. It is also the hardest to draw.
- High Uintas: There are four units in the high Uintas and every one would make for a great mountain goat hunt. This is very remote and rugged country. Horses are recommended to get you back as far as they can. The rest is up to your legs. High Uintas West has the most available tags and would probably rank highest among the four Uinta Mountains Goat units.
- Ogden, Willard Peak: This unit is not as remote as the high Uintas and can be accessed by road to get most of your elevation. This is still a difficult and rugged hunt as all goat hunts are, but a decent population makes for a great hunt on this unit.
- Ogden, Willard Peak (nanny hunt): As far as mountain goat hunting goes, this is a unique hunt. It is fairly easy to draw as far as mountain goat hunts are concerned and can be very easy. The nannies can be accessed via road and the hunt can be easy if the goats are in the right spot. If you are willing to take a nanny, this hunt should be considered.
Essentially, Utah has two bison hunt units. While there are several dates corresponding to these hunt units either one would provide for a great opportunity at harvesting a rare free range bison. Antelope Island would be considered an easier hunt. There are fewer tags available here, but the hunt is easier. The Henry Mountains unit is the other bison hunt in Utah. This hunt is split into several seasons, some of which are bull only, others being cow only. The earlier hunts make fore easier hunts. These Bison are very wary, and may surprise you with how difficult they can be to harvest. The later hunts can be hard due to bad weather and previous hunting pressure from the earlier hunts. This should be taken into account when applying for these hunts.