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Utah’s big game hunting season gets underway, conflicts already starting

Sportsman permits
Mike Keller
Buck mule deer

Hunting big game is popular throughout fall and winter in the Wasatch mountains. But not everyone hunting is doing it legally. KPCW reports on how to address suspected illegal hunting and potential conflicts.

Old Town Park City resident Annie Hazlehurst said she runs on the Vail and Park City trail system daily in all seasons. She frequently interacts with hunters on private or city-owned trails where hunting is not permitted.

"One set of hunters that I ran into actually had the audacity to ask me what the hell I was doing running on trails with dogs," Hazlehurst said. "This was at like 7:30 in the morning in September, when it was hunting season." She said, "this is private property, there is no hunting here, and we got in a screaming match."

Hazlehurst said she often sees hunters or their staging gear in the upper areas of Park City Mountain, near Shadow Lake and the Keystone Trail. She said hunters see her coming, and they jump off the trail to hide.
"You know, the ones who run from me and who, you know, when I run into them, I'm like, ‘you do realize there's no hunting here,’ and they'll look at me and be like, ‘oh, we're not hunting,’” Hazlehurst said. "We're just going for a walk, and I'm like, with your rifles and your camouflage gear?"

Hazlehurst acknowledges hunters may get confused and mistakenly come over the Wasatch Crest ridge from Big Cottonwood Canyon, where hunting is allowed on some forest service land. She feels Vail and Deer Valley could do better with signage.

Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources Scott Root is the conservation outreach manager. He strongly discourages anyone from confronting hunters.

"I would like people to be very careful about approaching a hunter," Root said. "I would probably encourage to just call law enforcement and ask them if they'd like to investigate further. You know, you don't want to get in somebody's face, and if people are too aggressive, they could actually be in trouble for interfering with a hunt if the hunter was legal. Anytime you confront somebody, you never know how that's going to go."

He said hunters are responsible for knowing where they can go. Root said city ordinances restrict firing a gun within 600’ of a structure, regardless of if it is public or private property.

"It's on the hunter to know that they are hunting in a legal area because it would just be a full-time job for us to give such a perfect map that they would know exactly where they can and can't hunt," Root said. "You know what, they need to take that responsibility and do their research well in advance of any hunt. Obviously, we don't want them to go up to the mountains and assume that all the mountains are all public. Yeah, that doesn't work!"

You can find hunting season maps and calendars on the Utah Hunt Planning Guide on the DWR webpage.

If you suspect someone of poaching or hunting illegally, contact the UTip hotline at 800-662-3337.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.