The Beehive State may or may not have any beehives—but Utah offers plenty of bird hunting opportunities.
Desert in the west, forest in the northeast, and the Great Salt Lake up north—Utah is a state where diversity is a defining characteristic including in bird hunting. Utahans have a lot of beautiful land to be proud of, 60 percent of which is publicly owned. Wildlife management areas and state parks make up a good portion of that. Enjoy the temperate climate and sunshine while exploring and bird hunting in the state.
Past that, Utah is a bit of an overlooked mecca for upland hunting. When you have equal opportunity to move across extremes of upland pursuit from forest grouse species, to wild quail, to chukar, it’s a wonder that more people do not make it a destination state. There are 10 upland game bird species/subspecies to hunt in Utah! Five of those are grouse. Move past “upland” and you have four dove/pigeon species and three rabbit species. If we get a little loose on our definition, you can tack on sandhill cranes as well.
|Game Species||Dates||Daily/Possession Limits||Restrictions|
|Dusky Grouse||Sept 1 – Dec 31, 2020||4/12 (including ruffed grouse)||None|
|Ruffed Grouse||Sept 1 – Dec 31, 2020||4/12 (including dusky grouse)||None|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse||Sept 26 – Oct 18, 2020||2 birds the whole season||Permit draw required / Limited locations|
|Sage Grouse||Sept 26 – Oct 18, 2020||2 birds the whole season||Permit draw required / limited locations|
|White-tailed Ptarmigan||Sept 1 – Oct 31, 2020||4/12||Permit required (free)|
|Gambel’s Quail||Nov 7 – Dec 31, 2020||5/15 (including California quail)||None|
|California (Valley) Quail||Nov 7 – Dec 31, 2020||5/15 (including Gambel’s quail)||None|
|Scaled (Blue) Quail||CLOSED||—||—|
|Youth Quail Days||Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2020||5/15||See regulations|
|Chukar||Sept 26, 2020 – Feb 15, 2021||5/15||Antelope Island is closed|
|Youth Chukar Days||Sept 19 – 21, 2020||5/15||See regulations|
|Hungarian Partridge||Sept 26, 2020 – Feb 15, 2021||5/15||None|
|Youth Hungarian Partridge Days||Sept 19 – 21, 2020||5/15||See regulations|
|Ring-necked Pheasant||Nov 7 – Dec 6, 2020||2/6 male birds only||The Goshen Warm Springs WMA is closed|
|Youth Pheasant Days||Oct 31 – Nov 5, 2020||2/6 male birds only||See regulations|
|Mourning and White-winged Dove||Sept 1 – Oct 30, 2020||15/45 (Limits singly or in combination)||None|
|Collared Dove (African and Eurasian)||Year round||No Limit||Collared doves must remain fully feathered so they can be identified|
|Band-tailed Pigeons||Sept 1 – 14, 2020||2/6||Permit required (free)|
*All game hunting seasons, limits, and laws are subject to change. For the latest information from the state check out the Utah page on upland and turkey. This information was last updated August 6, 2020.
Grouse Hunting in Utah
When I think of hunting Utah my first thought is the idea of duskies (blue grouse) in the mountains. Dig a little deeper and you can find yourself in the pursuit of sage grouse, ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and even their smallest cousin: the white-tailed ptarmigan.
Dusky and Ruffed Grouse Hunting in Utah
Dusky grouse are a fine option for bird hunting in Utah. Come November, when the leaves from most trees have fallen, you can find dusky grouse concealed in or around pine trees. They have a wider range than the ruffed grouse, but perhaps the best places to hunt them are in Cache County and along the Wasatch Plateau.
But during that pursuit, remember that the king of game birds, so strongly associated with the northwoods of America, also lives in Utah. Ruffed grouse habitat runs along the Wasatch Plateau, a range of mountains running from Cache to Sevier County and extending into the Wasatch National Forest. You can find them in pine woods, but more likely they’ll be in oak, maple, and woods near bodies of water.
The generous forest grouse seasons open September 1 and close December 31 with a daily bag limit of 4.
Sharp-tailed grouse have a much smaller habitat range in Utah than those forest grouse. Hunting is limited to Box Elder and Cache counties (Northern Utah) and most of the habitat falls on private property. As a result, Utah suggests it’s best to get the permission of land owners before applying for the $10 permit. Permit applications are accepted in July and drawn in August.
Greater Sage Grouse
There are four areas open for hunting greater sage grouse in Utah. The first is Diamond, Blue Mountain in the lower southeast corner, followed by Parker Mountain in the lower central region. Rich County is in the upper east corner while West Box Elder is in the upper north corner.
There is a season limit of 2 birds (ether sex). In addition to a normal license, you will need to apply for a $10 permit to hunt greater sage grouse. The application deadlines mirror those for Sharp-tailed grouse and preference points can be accrued.
White-tailed Ptarmigan Hunting in Utah
Yes, the white-tailed ptarmigan is a grouse species. It also is not native to Utah or any of the lower 48 states for that matter. The state of Utah introduced white-tailed ptarmigan to expand upland opportunities in the state and did so successfully. In our recent film #PublicGrouse we pursued this high elevation bird and found them but they can be difficult to locate without prior research. You can also check out a story on hunting ptarmigan in Utah in the Spring 2020 issue of Project Upland Magazine.
They are also rather vulnerable to hunting once located. Relying heavily on their camouflage and not used to being pursued by hunters and dogs, they will hold very tight and are often difficult to get to flush. We certainly stress that a covey of birds can only take so much stress and self-imposed tighter limits should be ethically practiced.
Daily limit is 4 birds with a possession limit of 12. A free permit (on top of your regular hunting license) is required to pursue white-tailed ptarmigan in Utah.
Quail Hunting in Utah
You could not call a state a mecca for bird hunting without some species of quail readily available to hunt. Utah has two species of quail: Gambel’s quail and California quail. Gambel’s quail are located in the southwest corner of the state in Washington County. California quail thrive in areas with dense brush and access to water. There are in fact isolated populations of scaled quail but the seasons are closed. Be sure to know how to identify the “blue quail” (scaled quail) before pursuing quail in the state.
There is a daily bag limit of 5 (combined or single species). The state of Utah also offers youth hunting dates ahead of the general season.
Chukar Hunting in Utah
Ptarmigan are not the only non-native species to live wild in the Utah mountains. Chukar populations exist in huntable numbers throughout mountain ranges in the state for those interested in the red-legged devil. The state of Utah has a strong culture of chukar hunting including the non-profit Utah Chukar and Wildlife Foundation. With vast public land opportunities this upland game bird should be on your short list for Utah.
Daily limit for chukar in Utah is 5 birds with a possession limit of 15. There is also a youth season ahead of the general season.
Hungarian Partridge Hunting in Utah
As if Utah was not already crushing it on the wild non-native species opportunities they figured why not have a Hun population as well. Mirroring the regulations of chukar for the most part, populations of Hungarian (gray partridge) can be found in the northwest part of the state primarily in Box Elder and Cache counties. The state identifies that most good Hungarian partridge populations are isolated to (or by) private land so be ready to start knocking on doors to get into good numbers.
Ring-Necked Pheasant Hunting in Utah
Pheasant were introduced in 1890 and remain to this day because of the demand for bird hunting in Utah. That is partially the result of humans raising and releasing populations back into appropriate wildlife areas. Utah released 10,000 ring-necked pheasant for the 2017 season. North of the Great Salt Lake is one place to look for them, but you can find pheasant on many hunting preserves throughout the state.
There is a daily bag limit of 2 male birds.
Dove and Pigeon Hunting in Utah
Dove may be migratory but upland game hunters are often found pursuing these delicious flying birds. With four species of dove in Utah including a year-round season (no limit) on African and Eurasian collared-dove what’s not to love about them? Mourning dove and white-winged dove offer a season starting in the first days of September and running to the end of October with daily bag limits of 15 birds.
If obscure upland hunting opportunities are your thing, Utah has the band-tailed pigeon which is the closest living relative to the passenger pigeon. The state offers a limited season in September, but you must apply for a free permit.
Related Conservation and Non-Profit Organizations for Utah Bird Hunting
COVID-19 Restrictions in 2020
There are no restrictions on the hunting season due to COVID-19, but the State of Utah reminds hunters to observe social distancing practices and stay home if you feel unwell. Any changes will be communicated via the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources COVID website.
Hunting Licenses, Hunter Safety Courses, and Dog Training in Utah
|Regular License (18-64)||$34||$72|
|Teen License (14-17)||$16||—|
|Youth License (13 and Younger)||$11||—|
|Youth Non-Resident (17 and Younger)||—||$29|
|Resident 65 or Older||$25||—|
|Non-Resident 3 Day Small Game||—||$42|
|Sage Grouse Permit Application||$10||$15|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse Permit Application||$10||$15|
|White-tailed Ptarmigan Permit||$0||$0|
|Band-tailed Pigeon Permit||$0||$0|
* License fees, laws, and availability are subject to change. Applications for restricted species have limited dates to apply. For the latest information please go to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Anyone born after December 31, 1965, must pass an approved hunter education course and receive proof of completion before applying for a hunting license. Utah does have a Trial Hunting Program which is open to both residents and non-residents. Under this program, anyone over the age of 12 can try bird hunting in Utah for three years without the requirements of hunter education. They must be accompanied by a licensed hunter over the age of 21. For more information, check out the hunter education course.
You may train your dog year round for bird hunting in Utah. There are some wildlife management areas which are exceptions to this and only allow dog training during open seasons. The Division of Wildlife Resources encourages dog trainers to closely monitor dogs from April 1 to August 15. You may train a dog using legally acquired pen-raised game birds, but they must be banded.
The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for the most up to date information on bird hunting in Utah.