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SPECIAL PERMIT HUNTS ARE A GOOD BET AGAIN

Those hunters with special big game permits can expect good hunting this year.

Moose, buffalo, sheep and goats all seem to have survived the winter and drought in good shape. Antelope, it appears, suffered the most. Still, those hunters who did or will put in the time will have something to show.

Antelope

Antelope once ranged over most of the state. They extended throughout most foothills and lower valleys of the state.

Unregulated livestock grazing in the early 1900s, however, pushed the antelope out. About that time, the pronghorn was given full protection in order to preserve what animals remain.

The peak of the antelope hunting hit in 1979 when 5,503 permits were issued. That number was lowered and hovers around 2,000.

This has been one of the more successful of the big game hunts with success around 90 percent.

The first of the hunts opened last month. The last of the hunts opened on Sept. 17 and will end Oct. 2. Some of the best hunting is expected in the Snake Valley and Parker Mountain units.

Moose

The first official sighting of a moose was reported in 1907 at the head of Spanish Fork Canyon. While there were a few reports of moose after, it wasn't until 1947 that biologist felt the herd had a firm foothold.

In 1957, an aerial survey of the animals put the count at 59 animals. Currently it is estimated there are more than 500 animals, most located in the northern reaches of the state.

The first legal harvest of moose in Utah was in 1958. There were 10 bull permits issued and seven animals taken.

This year there were 110 bull permits issued.

Success in recent years has stayed in the high 90 percent.

The season opened Sept. 17 on most units and will close Oct. 31.

Buffalo

This is another of the more successful big game hunts, and considered one of the most prized.

Utah's parent herd of bison came form Yellowstone National Park in 1941. That year 3 bulls and 15 cows were release near the Robber's Roost Ranch in southern Utah.

Over the years there has been a gradual buildup of numbers. Under the original agreement, the herd was to have been kept at around 200 animals. The acquisition of more land, however, allowed the herd to expand to nearly 500 buffalo on the Henry Mountain unit.

There are about the same number of animals on Antelope Island.

Success has dipped to between 80 and 90 percent.

There were 50 permits issued - 20 hunter's choice and 30 cow - for the Henry Mountain unit and five for the Antelope Island.

The cow hunt will open Oct. 1 and the hunter's choice hunt Nov. 5.

Sheep

The hunt for the desert bighorn sheep is considered one of the most prized, and one of the most difficult.

Indian rock art tells us that sheep have been in the southern reaches of the state for hundreds of years. There was, in fact, a sizeable herd in the early 1900s.

In the 1950s, however, the herds suffered from the influx of people, many of them looking for uranium.

In 1965, an intensive effort started to bring the herd back. By controlling hunting and transplanting, the herds started to grow. In 1977, for example, 25 permits were issued.

A disease hit the herds in both the North and South San Juan units and nearly eliminated all of the animals.

This year hunting remains closed in the north unit and there is only one permit for the south unit.

Because most of those going after bighorn plan on spending the time necessary, this hunt has been very success over the years, with success between 90 and 100 percent some years.

The first hunt for Rocky Mountain Sheep was in 1981. This year there were five permits issued for the Rattlesnake and Uinta units.

The desert bighorn hunt will open Sept. 24. The Uinta Unit for Rocky Mountain sheep opened Sept. 3. The Rattlesnake Unit will open Nov. 12.

Goat

There is no evidence that Rocky Mountain goats were ever in Utah until they were introduced into the Lone Peak area back in 1967. That year six goats were placed on the north side of Little Cottonwood. Eventually, the animals moved over to the south side of the canyon.

The first hunt was held in 1981. That year one permits was issued.

Since, animals have been trapped and moved to other areas of the state. This year there are five units being hunted. The hunt opened Sept. 10 and will end Oct. 30.