Two new programs being presented by the Division of Wildlife Resources could have wild turkey hunters hunting in new territory for the 2006 spring hunt.
The programs will be presented starting next week in a series of public meetings.
The DWR is proposing opening Walk-In Access and Cooperative Wildlife Management Units programs for 2006.
The Walk-In Access program would run for three years on a trial basis in northern Utah. If the program is implemented for the 2006 spring turkey hunt, hunters in the northern part of the state would have access to eight to 10 private property areas.
"The Walk-In Access program is a big deal in many of the Midwestern states," said Dean Mitchell, upland game coordinator for the DWR. "It's opened thousands of acres of private land to hunters and anglers. We hope it will do the same thing here."
Private lands that have good wild turkey populations and provide wild turkeys with good habitat are eligible for the program. Property becomes enrolled in the program in two ways: (1) By DWR biologists approaching landowners to see if they are willing to open their property to public hunters and (2) by landowners approaching the DWR about enrolling their property in the program.
In return for enrollment, the DWR agrees to pay the landowner to allow hunters on his or her property.
Maps showing lands enrolled in the Walk-In access program would then be available from DWR offices. The maps would indicate whether hunters can hunt the property without contacting the landowner or whether they would need to call the landowner in advance to allow them to hunt.
Hunters accessing the property will be asked to take good care of the property while hunting.
The CWMU program the DWR is proposing to implement for the spring 2006 turkey hunt has been in place in Utah for several years for big game and has opened thousands of acres of private land to public big game hunters.
Private landowners who qualify as a CWMU will be given permits they can sell to hunters. In return, the landowner agrees to allow an equal number of public hunters, who obtain a permit for a particular property through the state's drawing, onto the land.
Mitchell said a CWMU program for wild turkeys would be a win-win situation for everyone. Hunters would gain access to private lands, and landowners would receive a financial incentive to manage their lands for wild turkeys.
If the plan is accepted, hunters would be able to apply for one of the permits through a drawing or they could contact a CWMU operator directly to inquire about purchasing a permit from the operator.
"If this recommendation is approved, we anticipate having five CWMUs available for wild turkey hunters this spring," Mitchell said. "We believe additional CWMUs would be added to that number in the future."
In addition to the Walk-In Access and CWMU proposals, Mitchell said the DWR will recommend a 5 to 10 percent increase in wild turkey hunting permits for 2006.
"Utah's turkey populations are doing really well, but we need a couple more wet springs, like the spring we had this year, to help populations on units that are at lower elevations. Nesting conditions have been poor on these areas for years because of the drought," Mitchell said. "If the wet springs continue, nesting conditions will remain good and the number of turkeys on those units will continue to grow."
Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:
Sept. 13 — Southern Region at 7 p.m. in Kanab High School, 59 E. Red Shadow Lane.
Sept. 14 — Southeastern Region at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum, 885 E. Main St. in Green River.
Sept. 15 — Northeastern Region at 6:30 p.m. at the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College, 1100 E. Lagoon St. in Roosevelt.
Sept. 20 — Central Region at 6:30 p.m. at the Department of Natural Resources, 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City.
Sept. 21 — Northern Region at 6 p.m. at the Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West in Brigham City.
Those who attend the meetings will learn more about the proposals and can provide their input and suggestions. Citizens representing Utah's five Regional Advisory Councils will take the public input received to the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets Oct. 6 in Salt Lake City to approve Utah's 2006 Wild Turkey Hunting Guide.