ST. GEORGE – Today was the first day of Utah’s General Rifle Buck Deer Hunt which runs until Oct. 28. Mark Hadley of Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources, provided the following briefing on the first few hours of the hunt statewide with a look ahead at the remainder of the season.
The weather was pleasant across the entire state today. Skies were blue and sunny, and temperatures were comfortable. You couldn’t ask for a more pleasant day to hunt deer.
The weather is a mixed blessing to hunters, though. When temperatures are pleasant, deer will feed during the night and then move into heavy cover shortly after daybreak. They’ll often stay in the heavy cover until an hour or so before nightfall.
Hunters who push through the heavy cover during the day today, or who wait until the deer move out of the heavy cover an hour or two before nightfall, should have the best chance of taking a deer today.
The hunt runs until Oct. 28, so plenty of days are still available to hunt. Right now, the weather forecast is calling for a storm front to move into Utah on Monday. If that happens, the deer hunt should really pick up:
• Snow from the storm would push the deer out of the higher elevations.
• The deer would also move more because colder temperatures are more comfortable for them to move in. The deer would likely stay in the open later into the morning before moving into heavy cover. And they’d likely come out of the heavy cover earlier in the afternoon.
Hunters who don’t have a permit yet can still participate in the hunt. More than 300 permits are still available to hunt on the Box Elder unit in Box Elder County.
Biologists counted 20 bucks per 100 does after the hunting seasons were over last fall, so plenty of bucks should be available on the unit during the rifle hunt.
If you buy one of the 300 permits, buy one from a hunting license agent or a DWR office.
If you buy one at the DWR’s website, the permit might not arrive in the mail before the hunt is over.
Things that stood out
Two items stood out to me today:
1. The condition of the deer that biologists checked.
Except for the southern part of the state, Utah has been bone dry this year.
Despite the dry conditions, however, the deer that were checked were in good condition. While biologists would like to have seen a little more fat on the animals, the animals still had plenty of fat on them. That fat is important in helping the deer survive the upcoming winter.
2. The number of mature deer that were checked at DWR checkstations.
Usually, yearling deer (deer that are 1½ years old) make up the bulk of the deer that hunters take.
Checkstations across most of Utah were reporting a high percentage of older deer, however.
One example is the checkstation off U.S. Highway 40 near Strawberry Reservoir. DWR Biologist Randall Thacker said 10 deer had been checked in by 1 p.m. The deer included three yearlings, one 2½-year-old deer and six deer that were 3½ years of age or older.
Thacker says hunting permits in northeastern Utah were cut two years ago, and then again last year. Fewer permits might have reduced the number of mature bucks that hunters took over the past two years, providing more mature bucks to hunters this year.
Also, despite fewer hunters this year (fewer rifle permits were available this year after Utah switched to hunting deer on 30 separate units) , more deer were checked through the station by 1 p.m. today (10 deer) compared to the last two years, when only five deer were checked through the station by 1 p.m. each year.
Reports from each region
Southern Utah (southwestern and south-central)
DWR Regional Conservation Outreach Manager Lynn Chamberlain provided the following report at 1:30 p.m. for the following units:
Hunters are seeing lots of small bucks. Many hunters are passing up the smaller bucks in hopes they’ll find a buck that’s bigger.
Field officers had checked three deer—two yearling bucks and an older 4-point.
Deer have started moving down from the higher elevations. They’re in the transitional zone between their summer and winter ranges.
The first few hours have been slow.
Pine Valley unit
No reports from the east side of the unit. On the west side, deer are on the move, and not many have been taken so far. Deer on the unit are widely scattered—some are still on their summer ranges while others are down on their winter ranges.
Four deer had been checked at a checkstation on state Route 18 by 1:30 p.m.
Southern Region Wildlife Manager Teresa Griffin says hunting on the unit is great. Several deer have already been checked. Most of the deer are mature bucks, including one deer with a 30-inch antler spread and one with a 26-inch antler spread.
The deer that were taken were in good shape and had lots of fat on them.
Zion unit - This unit is mostly private property, and hunting pressure is usually light.
Chamberlain talked with five different hunters who were hunting on public land on the unit. All five hunters had seen smaller bucks. And each hunter passed up the buck or bucks he saw up in hopes of finding a bigger buck later on.
DWR Regional Conservation Outreach Manager Brent Stettler provided the following report at 1:45 p.m.:
The number of yearling bucks is up from last year.
The Abajo Mountains provided the best hunting during the first few hours of the hunt. Hunting was a little slower on the LaSal Mountains, but hunting on the LaSal’s was better this year than it was last year.
Hunting on the Range Creek unit was rated as mostly good, while hunting on the Manti unit was fair.
Conditions right now are fairly dry, which is making it a little more challenging for hunters to sneak up on the deer.
The moon was only an 1/8 full last night and is waning, so deer might not feed quite as much at night. That’s good news for hunters.
Nice conditions were keeping hunters in the mountains, and not many hunters had come through the checkstations by 1:30 p.m.
By 1:30 p.m., the following number of deer have been checked at the following checkstations:
Nephi - A few good-sized deer.
Santaquin - Two mature deer, a 3-point taken on public land on the Fish Lake unit in southern Utah and a 24-inch 4 point taken on the Boulder Mountains in southern Utah.
The two hunters who took the deer said they didn’t see a lot of other bucks.
Spanish Fork - A few deer, mostly yearlings.
The report for Northeastern Utah is available above.
DWR Regional Conservation Outreach Manager Phil Douglass says the following number of deer were checked at the following checkstations in northern Utah by 1:30 p.m. today:
Pineview Reservoir - 13
Mountain Green - 8
Logan Canyon - 3
Snowville - 3
Most of the deer were 2½ years old or older. Very few younger bucks were checked in.
The condition of the deer also surprised biologists. Despite the dry conditions this year, the deer were in good shape. The deer had plenty of fat on them, which is good news at the deer herds prepare for the winter.