ST. GEORGE – Utah’s general rifle buck deer hunt begins Saturday and is anticipated to bring out over 56,000 hunters over the next eight days of Utah’s most popular hunt.
Those hunters likely won’t be alone as they bring friends and family members along, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is offering a way to help plan for this and future hunting trips through the new Utah Hunt Planner website.
The DWR is also asking the public to help monitor chronic wasting disease among the deer and to report possible hunting violations.
A detailed list of tips for a safe hunting trip, courtesy of the DWR, is supplied at the bottom of this article.
The general rifle buck deer hunt concludes Oct. 30.
Utah Hunt Planner and general hunt outlook
“As with all types of hunting,” said Justin Shannon, big game coordinator for the DWR, “the hunt itself is one part of the overall experience. Being together with family and friends, making memories and enjoying the resource, is what it’s all about.”
The new website offers notes from the biologist who manages the unit that hunters will be going to, general information about the unit and safety and weather items. Information about the number of bucks on the unit compared to the number of does is also given. Hunter’s will also find maps that show the unit’s boundaries, public vs. private land and the various types of deer habitat found on the unit.
“We want you to have a successful, enjoyable time,” Shannon said. “The experience you have is important to us. We’re hoping the information on the site will help you plan your most successful hunt yet.”
As for the outlook for the hunt, surveys conducted by DWR place Utah’s total deer population at over 384,000. This is the highest it has been since the 1980s, according to DWR officials. In just four years, the state’s mule deer population has grown by more than 100,000 deer.
The number of rifle hunters who are taking a buck is also increasing. In 2013, 37 percent of those with a general rifle buck deer permit took a deer. That number rose to 43 percent by 2015.
“And not all of those deer were young animals,” Shannon said. “The number of mature bucks that hunters are taking keeps growing.”
Shannon expects this fall’s hunt to be similar to the hunt in 2015.
“I think the success rate, and the number of bucks hunters see, will be similar to last year,” he said. “And last year was really good.”
2016 deer check stations test for chronic wasting disease
As hunters take to the field, DWR officials are encouraging them to bring the deer they bag to a chronic wasting disease check station so they can take samples for the purpose of monitoring the disease.
“The process will take only a few minutes, and your cooperation will help us monitor the disease and study its impact on the state’s deer herds,” DWR official posted on Facebook Wednesday.
According to the DWR website, chronic wasting disease is a degenerative neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It was first detected in Utah in 2002. A total of 72 deer and two elk have tested positive for the disease.
The location of check stations in Southern Utah and statewide, as well as the dates they will be open, is listed on the DWR website.
While out bagging a deer, help DWR bag poachers
“We need your help,” said DWR Capt. Mitch Lane. “We need you to keep your eyes and ears open while you’re enjoying time in the outdoors. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, please let us know.”
Some of the DWR’s most significant cases have started because someone supplied a tip of possible violations, said Rick Olson, DWR’s law enforcement section chief.
If hunters see a clear violation of the law, incidents of poaching or something that just doesn’t seem right, they are advised to contact DWR. Confronting the parties involved the intentional violation is not encouraged.
DWR offers the following ways people can report violations:
- If you see a wildlife violation occur, calling Utah’s Turn in a Poacher (UTiP) hotline is the best way to get an officer to the scene.
- The hotline – 1-800-662-DEER (3337) – is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- If you can’t remember the UTiP number but you’re hunting or fishing at the time the violation occurs, pull out your Utah hunting or fishing license or permit. The number is written on the license or permit.
- If you can’t remember the UTiP number, and you don’t have a hunting or fishing license or permit with you at the time the violation occurs, you can also call the nearest police department or sheriff’s office. The office will send a DWR officer or another law enforcement officer to the scene.
- Hunters can also send information via email to [email protected].
Supplying the GPS coordinates of the area where the incident occurred is also advised.
Tips for a safe hunt
“There’s so much more to deer hunting than taking a deer,” said Kirk Smith, hunter education coordinator for the DWR. “Being in the mountains with your family and friends, enjoying the beautiful fall scenery and seeing the variety of wildlife that live in Utah can make any deer hunt a memorable experience.”
The following is taken from the DWR website:
- Be familiar with the area you’re going to hunt. If possible, scout the area before the hunt. “Scouting before the hunt is absolutely vital,” Smith said. “You need to know the conditions in the area and how deer are responding to those conditions. The better you know the area, the better chance you’ll have of taking a buck.”
- Put a survival kit together. The kit should include:
- a small first aid kit.
- three ways to make a fire (e.g. matches, a cigarette lighter, fire starters).
- quick-energy snack foods.
- a cord or rope.
- a compass or Global Positioning System unit.
- a flashlight.
- an extra knife.
- a small pad of paper and a pencil (if you become lost, you can leave information at your last location about yourself and the direction you’re traveling).
Preparing your firearm
- Be as familiar as possible with your firearm. Know how to load and unload it, and where the safety is and how to operate it.
- Make sure the barrel of your firearm doesn’t have any obstructions in it.
- Make sure you have the correct ammunition for your firearm.
- Visit a shooting range, and sight in your firearm. When you sight in your firearm, make sure you use the same ammunition you’ll use during the hunt.
- Never carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle.
- Treat every firearm like it’s loaded.
- Always control the muzzle of your firearm. Never let the muzzle point at anything you don’t intend to shoot. And make sure you don’t accidentally point the muzzle at yourself.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
- Carry a shovel, an ax, tire chains, jumper cables and a tow chain in your vehicle.
- If you experience mechanical problems with your vehicle or you get snowed in, stay with your vehicle – don’t leave it.
Before leaving on your trip
- Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
While in the field
- Never hunt alone.
- Wear proper safety clothing: 400 square inches of hunter orange on your back, chest and head. This is the minimum amount that’s required.
“I’d recommend that you wear even more,” Smith said. “Hunter orange really helps you stand out to other hunters.”
Field dressing your animal
- Use a sharp knife. A sharp knife cuts better than a dull knife and is safer to use.
- Cut away from you. Never bring a knife blade towards you while cutting.
Your physical well-being
- Know your physical limitations, and don’t exceed them.
- Prepare yourself for weather changes by dressing in layers. Dressing in layers allows you to regulate your body temperature by adding or removing clothes as needed.
- Drink plenty of water, no matter how cold it is. “You can still become dehydrated,” Smith said, “even in cold weather.”
- Hypothermia (the loss of body temperature) can occur in temperatures as warm as 50 degrees.
- Be aware of the signs of hypothermia. Some of the first signs are violent shivering, stumbling or becoming disoriented. “If you notice these signs,” Smith said, “sit down immediately, and build a fire. Get yourself warm and dry as fast as you can.”
- Frostbite: If you’re hunting in cold weather, watch for signs that you’re getting frostbite. White spots on your skin are the first sign. Check your face, feet and hands regularly. You’ll notice the first signs of frostbite on your face sooner if you’re hunting with a companion who can alert you.
If you get lost
Don’t panic. Sit down and build a fire, even if it isn’t cold. Having a warm fire to sit by has a soothing effect.
“Building a fire will help you relax and think clearly,” Smith said.
After calming down, try to get your bearings and think your way out of the situation. If you think you know the direction you need to travel, get the pad of paper and pencil out of your survival kit, and leave a note at your location. Indicate on the note who you are and the direction you’re traveling. If you find other hunters, don’t be embarrassed to ask them for help and directions.
If you don’t know which direction you should travel, stay at your camp. If possible, build a shelter several hours before sundown. Build a smoky fire (this type of fire can be spotted from the air) or build three fires (a distress signal that can also be spotted from the air).
Remaining at your camp is usually a good option.
“Many people don’t know this,” Smith said, “but you can live without food and water for several days. Staying at your camp is usually a good choice.”
Alcohol and firearms don’t mix
- Do not handle a firearm if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
- Do not give alcohol to someone who’s cold. Instead of warming the person, alcohol will actually make them colder.
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