Photo by Bill Bates, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Utah’s first hunt of the fall—the general archery buck deer hunt—starts Aug. 21.
As you head into the woods on Aug. 21, the number of young bucks you see might vary.
If you’re hunting in northern Utah—where the winter was mild this past winter—you could see more young bucks.
If you’re hunting in southwestern Utah, where deep snow covered the deer’s winter range, you might see less.
Overall, the number of mule deer in Utah is holding steady at just over 300,000 deer. The number of bucks wildlife biologists saw after last fall’s hunting seasons averaged about 16 bucks per 100 does on the state’s general season units.
The total number of deer in Utah has been hovering around 300,000 for several years. “That indicates to me that the habitat we have in Utah right now can support about 300,000 deer,” says Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
Aoude says the DWR and other agencies and organizations are pouring millions of dollars into work to improve habitat for mule deer and other wildlife.
Mule deer winter ranges have received most of the attention, but summer ranges are starting to receive attention too.
“Habitat improvement work doesn’t pay off overnight,” Aoude says. “It takes years for plants to grow and establish themselves. But when they do, and the state’s habitat has the ability to support more deer, the number of deer in Utah should grow.”
To find success during the archery hunt, Aoude encourages you to do three things:
- practice shooting your bow until shooting it becomes second nature
- scout the area you’re going to hunt before the season starts
- keep the wind at your face while you’re hunting.
“Those three things can make all the difference between taking a deer home with you and coming home empty handed,” he says. The following are deer hunting prospects for each of the DWR’s five regions:
With the exception of the Cache and Ogden units, all of the general season units in northern Utah have at least 15 bucks per 100 does. And some units have more. Here’s a look at the deer herds on many of the region’s general season units:
Cache and Ogden units
Wildlife Biologist Darren DeBloois says the three-year average for the Cache and Ogden units is slightly below the objective of 15 bucks per 100 does.
Like much of the Northern Region, DeBloois says range conditions are good and the animals are scattered. He also says the past two winters have been mild, and few fawns have been lost.
“Hunters should see good numbers of two-point bucks on both of these units,” he says.
Box Elder unit
Two good years with low winter losses, high fawn production and good range conditions should translate into a good hunt on the Box Elder unit.
Wildlife Biologist Kirk Enright says the unit’s buck-to-doe ratio is 19 bucks per 100 does. “Habitat improvement projects we’re doing with landowners and other agencies is creating better habitat and more deer,” Enright says.
Uintas North Slope units
Biologist Dave Rich says the range on the units is in good shape, and the animals are scattered. "Recent rains have kept things nice and green," Rich says.
Summit and East Canyon units
Biologist Scott McFarlane cautions you that most of the land on these units is private property. Written permission from landowners is required to hunt much of this area.
Phil Douglass, regional conservation outreach manager, shares two reminders:
If the average buck-to-doe ratio on a unit stays below 15 bucks per 100 does for a three-year period, Utah’s mule deer management plan requires that the hunting seasons on the unit be reduced in length until the buck-to-doe ratio improves.
As a result, the archery season on the Cache and Ogden units will be shorter this year.
The season begins Aug. 21 and ends on Sept. 5.
To avoid attracting bears into your camp, store food where bears can’t get to it and keep your camp clean. Additional tips are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/learn-more/bear-safety.html .
Where you decide to hunt in the Central Region will be important this fall. Some areas harbor good numbers of bucks. Other areas have less.
Overall, the number of bucks on the region’s general season units is 15 bucks per 100 does. The area east of Interstate 15, from Spanish Fork Canyon north to Interstate 80 in Salt Lake City, has the best habitat and the highest buck-to-doe ratios.
Buck-to-doe ratios are lower outside of that area. For example, the buck-to-doe ratio on the South Manti unit is 5 to 6 bucks per 100 does. On the Oquirrh-Stansbury unit, the ratio is 7 to 8 bucks per 100 does.
West of I-15, in Tooele and Juab counties, Wildlife Biologist Tom Becker says the deer herds average about 10 to 11 bucks per 100 does. On a positive note, Becker says precipitation has helped the desert areas this year, and the habitat conditions are better than they were last year. The improved conditions should help more deer fawns make it through the upcoming winter.
Scott Root, regional conservation outreach manager, has two reminders:
The archery hunt on the Oquirrh-Stansbury unit will shorter this fall. The archery hunt on the unit runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 5.
You can extend your hunt by hunting on the Wasatch Front Extended Archery Area. You may use archery equipment to take either a buck or a doe on the area from Aug. 21 to Nov. 30. From Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, only doe deer may be taken.
Before hunting on the Wasatch Front Extended Archery Area—or any of the state’s extended archery areas—you must complete the DWR’s Extended Archery Orientation Course. The free course is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/huntereducation .
After completing the course, you must carry your Extended Archery Orientation Course certificate with you while you’re hunting.
You must complete the course each year before hunting on Utah’s extended archery areas.
The archery hunt in northeastern Utah might be better than it was last year. Biologists say the number of deer has increased on most of the region’s general season units.
Even though the number of deer is rising, the overall number of deer is still below objective on five of the seven units, though.
Ron Stewart, regional conservation outreach manager, says the weather has been good to deer this year. “The winter was relatively light in the Uinta Mountains,” Stewart says. “Most of these herds came through the winter without much winter loss.”
(Most of the region’s general season units are located in the Uinta Mountains.)
Even though the general season units didn’t receive a lot of snow, rain this spring and summer has kept the vegetation on the mountains green. That’s provided good forage for the deer. But it’s a mixed blessing for hunters.
“The rainfall means the vegetation will be green,” Stewart says, “so the deer may not receive an early warning by hearing the rustle of dried leaves and grass as you sneak up on them. But it also means the deer won’t be clustered near a few, isolated watering holes either.”
Stewart reminds you that the archery season on the South Slope, Vernal unit will close early this fall. The archery season on the unit runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 5.
The following is a snapshot of the deer herds on the region’s seven general season units:
Unit Number of deer Bucks per 100 does
Up, and near objective 18
South Slope, Yellowstone
Up, but below objective 14
South Slope, Vernal
Up, and at objective 12
Nine Mile, Anthro
Up, but well below objective 34
Up, but well below objective 12
Stable, but well below objective 19
You might see a few more bucks in southeastern Utah this fall. The overall number of deer is up from last year.
While that’s good news, there’s still plenty of room for growth—the overall number of deer on most of the region’s general season units is between 55 and 60 percent of the number called for in management plans. “One exception is the Abajo unit,” says Brent Stettler, regional conservation outreach manager. “The number of deer on the unit is above the unit’s objective of 13,500 deer.”
Another positive sign is the number of bucks per 100 does that biologists counted after last fall’s hunting seasons. Stettler says the number of bucks on all of the region’s general season units is above the minimum objective of 15 bucks per 100 does.
Stettler says much of southeastern Utah experienced a cool spring and received plenty of rain in July. “Deer are widely dispersed across their summer range,” Stettler says.
So what’s the secret to taking a deer in the region this fall?
“Hunters may experience higher success rates by simply spending more time away from roads and other areas that experience high use by hunters,” says Justin Shannon, the region’s wildlife manager. “Hiking an extra mile may be more difficult. But it may also provide a more rewarding hunting experience.”
Shannon also encourages you to do some pre-season scouting. Once you’ve selected a particular area, learn where the springs, seeps and creeks are. Get to know the game trails, the bedding areas and the escape routes the deer might take once the hunt starts.
Develop a hunting strategy that will account for changes in deer activity once archers start moving through the woods.
Southern Utah received something last winter that it rarely gets: lots of snow.
The snow that fell could result in fewer younger bucks in the region this fall. On the positive side, the moisture has also led to healthy mature deer with bigger antlers.
Another plus is the number of bucks per 100 does. The buck-to-doe average on the region’s general season units is 20 bucks per 100 does. The Southern Region has more bucks per 100 does than any region in the state.
Buck-to-doe ratios on the general season units vary from a low of 11 bucks per 100 does on the Monroe unit to 30 bucks per 100 does on the Southwest Desert unit.
Biologists say additional precipitation this spring and summer has provided excellent forage and water for the deer. The deer should be spread across their summer range when the hunt starts on Aug. 21. The following is a look at the deer herds on most of the region’s general season units:
Monroe and Plateau/Fishlake units
Wildlife Biologist Vance Mumford says this past winter was a long one on the Monroe and the Plateau, Fishlake units.
“The number of fawns that died this past winter was higher than normal,” Mumford says. “That will affect the number of yearling bucks available during the hunt, especially since the number of fawns we started with was lower than normal before the winter even hit.”
Mumford says there should be plenty of mature deer to hunt, though. “Those who hunt smart and scout areas for mature deer should have a good hunt,” he says.
Mumford says lots of rain has fallen on the two units this past spring and summer. That has led to healthy deer and good antler growth. “I’ve seen some good mature buck groups on the Fish Lake unit,” he says.
Mumford reminds you that the archery hunt on the Monroe unit is shorter than it is on many units in the state.
The archery hunt on the unit runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 5.
Plateau, Boulder unit
“We just went through the meanest winter around here in memory, even the memories of the really old guys,” says Jim Lamb, regional wildlife biologist. “I have seen very few yearling bucks.”
The mature bucks Lamb has seen look good, however. And they’ve had good antler growth. “I’m not expecting great success this fall during the deer hunts,” he says. “The elk hunts, on the other hand, will be great. The elk seem to have wintered well. I’ve seen quite a few spikes recently.”
Pine Valley, Zion and Southwest Desert units
Wildlife Biologist Jason Nicholes says he counted more than 20 bucks per 100 does on each of the three units after last fall’s hunts. “Yearling bucks may be down slightly due to some light winter kill,” he says.
Panguitch Lake and Mount Dutton units
More fawns than normal were lost to heavy snowfall on the Panguitch Lake and Mount Dutton units this past winter. Wildlife Biologist Dustin Schaible says that may result in fewer younger bucks for hunters.