By Greg Sheehan
By Greg Sheehan
We feel fortunate here at Huntin’ Fool® to have Greg take time out of his very busy schedule as Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to give us some insight from his unique perspective. Huntin’ Fool® has had a working relationship with Greg for many years, and Huntin’ Fool® consultant Drew Dockstader served on a license agent board with him. Greg is the real deal and has always worked with the best interest of the wildlife and sportsmen in Utah in mind.
After about 18 months as the Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife it is great to see the many successes and accomplishments that we are making. I would like to share a few thoughts about where we have been and where we are headed.
Last winter was mild, and soon the autumn hunts will begin. Autumn is the time of year that fills the air with scents of the earth, ripened gardens, and storms on the horizon. Those with coveted trophy hunting permits will look back on months of planning their trip, getting into the best physical condition that they can muster, and concluding any scouting time spent in the field.
During my 35 years of hunting, I have been blessed to hunt in most western states, Canada, and Africa, but I have spent more time hunting big game in Utah than any other place. When I first began hunting big game in the late 1970’s the mountains were loaded with Mule deer and everyone looked forward to the hunt. Schools closed the Friday before opening day, and the highways were soon full of old campers and pickup trucks. There weren’t ATV’s or side-by-sides back then. If you knew someone with horses or an old restored Willy’s jeep, then you knew they were serious about getting into the backcountry. Equipment was simple back then as camo clothing had not been invented and having a variable power scope, of any brand, was rare as many guns still sported open sights. In the evenings on those cool October nights the mountaintops throughout Utah were lit up with campfires and the sounds of excitement as everyone anticipated the opening morning frenzy when shots began to be heard shortly after sunrise.
Within 1/2 hour you were certain to hear shooting both near and far until it began to quiet down by 9 am or so. As we traveled back to camp in midday we hoped to see big bucks already awaiting us or sometimes to hear that others were waiting for us to help go get a deer from deep in a nearby canyon. We did not all get a deer each year, but we all experienced time with family and friends and looked forward to doing it again the following year. Life was much simpler then. We all could buy an over-the-counter deer permit, and concepts like bonus or preference points had not been dreamed up yet.
Those were great times for Mule deer hunting in Utah and throughout the West. Anyone who has hunted for 30 or more years still dreams of that great opportunity again, but there is good news out there. Our Utah deer herds have started to respond to the efforts we are making in Utah to help our Mule deer. Over 1 million acres of habitat projects, statewide predator control, and highway fencing is paying dividends as we see our deer numbers rebound. Our conservation offices work tirelessly to ensure that our deer on treasured areas such as the Henry Mountains, Paunsaugunt, and all other areas of the state are safe from those who would steal your trophies.
Although many of us old timers share memories of deer hunting in the West in the 70’s and 80’s, there are other memories that those of us from Utah can’t share. Those are the memories of harvesting majestic bull elk, enormous bull moose, elusive Bighorn sheep, and Rocky Mountain goat. That is because those species, along with many others like Bison and wild turkeys, did not roam freely in the great numbers that we see in Utah today. Each year we issue thousands of permits for those coveted species that people dream of their entire lives. With harvest success rates ranging from 80% to 100% on mature animals on most of these hunts, there are few hunters who don’t end their hunts with great memories and trophies.
In the past couple of years our employees, working closely with many sportsman’s groups, have created new herds of many species and also supplemented populations of others. Soon you will have even more Bighorn sheep and Mountain goat units in the state to apply for, so keep an eye out as those units come online. Also don’t forget our incredible angling opportunities. There are more fish species in great numbers now than there have ever been in Utah. Any waterway in Utah will provide a unique and successful fishing experience this year, so please check them out.
I am very proud to help lead our employees at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as they work to bring you more opportunities for hunting, fishing, and viewing wildlife in the state. Also, being able to work so closely and share experiences with our sportsmen and other wildlife enthusiasts makes this job very rewarding. I hope to hear your thoughts and experiences soon, so please email me at GregSheehan@utah.gov if would like to share those with me, and please send pictures of any success you have had. Best wishes out in the field this fall and in the upcoming draws next spring!