SALT LAKE CITY — The deer you shot on public land ran onto private property and then died. You shot and killed what you thought was a spike elk only to discover that it was actually a cow elk. You just finished filleting the six rainbow trout you caught before realizing that the catch limit at the reservoir was actually four. Before you find yourself in any of these scenarios, here's what Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers would like you to know.
Do your research before going into the field
Buck deer crawling through fence
If you want to hunt on private property, you must get written permission from the landowner in advance.
Just like you'd never fly a plane without getting some training and doing a lot of preparation, you shouldn't go fishing or hunting without making sure you know the laws. A common mistake that DWR conservation officers see is people killing wildlife or fishing without a valid permit, often due to negligence and not carefully checking their hunting permit.
You have to take hunter education or participate in Utah's Trial Hunting Program to obtain a hunting license in Utah. Then, make sure to read and become familiar with the laws in the guidebook for the species you are hunting. You also need to make sure you carefully check your permit so you know which season, species and unit you are allowed to hunt.
If you are wanting to hunt on private property, you must get written permission from the landowner in advance. Do not trespass — it can result in fines and a class B misdemeanor. If you do obtain permission to hunt on private property, be respectful and close any gates that you open and don't cut or alter any fences in order to get to an area.
"The best way to stay out of trouble is to review those regulations and also check your permit carefully before you go out in the field," DWR Capt. Wyatt Bubak said. "It's shocking how many people go hunting without even opening their envelope to see what permit they drew. They often don't check their permit until after they have harvested an animal, and then finally discover that they hunted in the wrong unit or season, or sometimes for the wrong species."
The same goes for fishing. If you’re planning a fishing trip, make sure you have a current fishing license and take the time to read the fishing guidebook so that you know the requirements for the waterbody you're visiting. You should understand which species must be released, what the limit is for each species and if bait is allowed.
"There are hunting unit boundaries and fish limits for a reason," Bubak said. "These things help us manage various wildlife species according to specific plans and to maintain healthy populations for each area or waterbody. If we don't enforce the boundary or limits, our management plans don't work as well."
There are a lot of resources available on the DWR website, including maps to the hunting boundaries and popular fishing spots, and guidebooks that detail Utah's hunting and fishing laws.
"If people have additional questions or concerns about the law, they can also call one of our DWR offices and talk to a law enforcement officer," Bubak said