SOUTHERN UTAH — The Division of Wildlife Resources urges those who have a Utah rifle buck deer permit, but haven’t taken a buck yet, to not give up.
Based on the number of deer brought through DWR check stations during the opening weekend of the hunt, the number of bucks in Utah is similar to, or higher, than it was in the fall of 2013.
The DWR’s five regional wildlife managers are still gathering data from biologists staffed at the check stations, but preliminary findings indicate three things:
- the number of bucks taken was similar to, or higher, than it was last fall
- the number of deer taken included a higher percentage of mature bucks
- the amount of fat the deer had on them—a vital factor in determining whether the remaining deer survive the upcoming winter—was really good.
“As far as deer go, Utah is in a good place right now,” Covy Jones, DWR regional wildlife manager in north-central Utah, said. “It looks like we might be reaping the benefits of habitat work that the agency and its partners started in Utah years ago.”
Jones’ experience was similar to the experience other DWR regional wildlife managers had during the opening weekend.
On Saturday, the day the hunt opened, Jones assisted biologists at a check station in Nephi.
“The hunters we talked with — even those who didn’t take a deer — were having a good time,” Jones said. “They were seeing bucks and enjoying the weather.”
The number of deer that came through the check station increased compared to the number recorded in 2013, where 13 deer were checked through the station compared to 22 this year.
On opening day, most of the bucks hunters take are 1-year-old deer, also called yearlings. On opening day this year, less than 50 percent of the bucks at the Nephi check station were yearlings. The remainder included 2-year-old deer and three big bucks that were at least 3 years old.
On Oct. 19, the second day of the hunt, Jones worked with biologists at a check station outside of Santaquin and said he was impressed by the amount of brisket fat he measured on the deer hunters had taken.
“If a yearling has four millimeters of brisket fat, that’s good,” Jones said. “Some of the yearlings we checked at the station on Sunday had 12 millimeters of fat. That’s great for a deer that young. That much fat should help deer in the area make it through a normal winter.”
Dax Mangus, regional wildlife manager in northeastern Utah, said two mild winters in northeastern Utah have led to good deer survival and more fawns being born. And that’s led to deer herds growing in that part of the state.
“We are seeing that in the harvest,” Mangus said. “Hunters are passing yearling spikes and forkies and are taking more 2-and 3-year-old bucks; nice 3 and 4 points. The proportion of yearling bucks in the harvest is down from historic numbers, and hunter success rates and satisfaction are up.”
Mangus says unseasonably warm weather over the opening weekend didn’t get the deer up and moving for hunters, “but it made for really nice camping weather.”
Utah’s general rifle buck deer hunt runs through Oct. 26. All of the permits for the hunt have been taken. In addition to reports from north-central and northeastern Utah, DWR regional wildlife managers report the following for the remaining regions in the state:
Southwestern and south-central Utah
Plenty of deer were checked at check stations in southwestern and south-central Utah, DWR Regional Wildlife Manager Teresa Griffin said. Most of the deer had plenty of fat.
“Lots of green vegetation is still available for the deer,” she said. “So they’ll be able to put even more fat on before winter hits.”
Griffin worked at a check station in Washington County on Sunday. She checked more mature 4-point deer than young spikes, Griffin said.
On Saturday, while working in the northern part of the region, she helped check a deer that had a 30-inch antler spread. Taken on the Pine Valley unit (Unit 30), the big buck sported 9 points on one antler beam and 6 points on the other.
“We’re working to confirm this, but we’ve also received reports that a buck with a 39-inch antler spread was taken on the Zion unit (Unit 29),” she said.
Southeastern and east-central Utah
In southeastern and east-central Utah, wildlife manager Guy Wallace and assistant wildlife manager Brad Crompton said the number of deer checked was similar to, or higher than, it was last fall.
At the check station in Wellington, Crompton checked 31 deer this year compared to 34 in 2013; but at the LaSal Junction station near the LaSal and Abajo Mountains, Wallace and biologist Dustin Mitchell checked 54 deer on the 2014 opening weekend compared to the 44 on the 2013 opening weekend.
Of the deer checked at the LaSal Junction check station, 47 percent of the deer were 1-year-olds, Wallace said. The remaining 53 percent were 2 to 3 years of age.
DWR biologists in northern Utah focused their opening weekend efforts on checking deer in the southern part of the region. Information for the northern part of the region will be available after hunter surveys are completed this winter.
DWR Regional Wildlife Manager Randy Wood said it appears hunters on the Chalk Creek, East Canyon and Morgan-South Rich unit (Units 4/5/6) and the Kamas unit (Unit 7) took a higher percentage of mature bucks than they normally do. He also said deer checked at the stations had plenty of fat and were in good condition.
The total number of deer that came through the stations was also up. For example, at Brown’s Canyon, a check point near Kamas, 10 deer were checked the last time the check point was held four or five years ago. In 2014, the number of deer checked at the station jumped to 30.
At the rest stop at Mountain Green, a check point the DWR has ran for years, the number of deer checked jumped from between 60 to 70 deer on the 2013 opening weekend to almost 100 deer during the 2014 opening weekend.
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