Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rifle Deer Hunt Forecast and Reminder of Shorter Season

Photo courtesy of Dustin Stettler

You might see a few more young bucks when Utah’s general rifle buck deer hunt starts Oct. 23. But you’ll also have fewer days to take one. Utah’s most popular hunt will be shorter this year. More than 70,000 hunters expected afield.

Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says 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 fewer young bucks.

Aoude says 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.

When you can hunt this fall depends on two things: your age and the area you choose to hunt:

On most of the state’s units, those over 18 years of age can hunt for five days, from Oct. 23 to Oct. 28. Those who are 18 years of age or younger can hunt for nine days, from Oct. 23 to Oct. 31.

There are five units, however, where all hunters—regardless of their age—may hunt for only three days. The hunt on the following units in the following regions runs from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25:

Northern Region
Cache unit
Ogden unit

Central Region
Oquirrh-Stansbury unit

Northeastern Region
South Slope, Vernal unit

Southern Region
Monroe unit

The rifle hunt on the five units runs Oct. 23 – 25.

While approving rules for Utah’s 2010 hunts, members of the Utah Wildlife Board decided to shorten the season on the units. They made their decision after learning about the number of bucks per 100 does on the five units.

Utah’s statewide deer management plan says action must be taken to increase the number of bucks per 100 does on units that fall below an average of 15 bucks per 100 does for three straight years. A map and boundary description for each of the five units is available at .

The following are deer hunting prospects for each of the DWR’s five regions:

Northern Region
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 unit
Biologist David Rich says archery hunters had very limited success on the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains this fall. He says unseasonably warm temperatures have kept many of the deer at higher elevations.

“Rifle deer hunters will need to scout the area before opening day and expect to hunt remote areas away from heavily used roads and trails,” Rich says. “The best advice I can give is to do your homework before the season begins.”

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 rifle hunt on the Cache and Ogden units will run for only three days this fall. The hunt on the units runs from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.

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 .

Central Region
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 three reminders:

The rifle hunt on the Oquirrh-Stansbury unit will run for only three days this fall. The rifle hunt on the unit runs from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.

Please remember that you may not use a rifle or a muzzleloader to hunt deer or elk in Salt Lake County, south of Interstate 80 and east of Interstate 15. Much of Emigration Canyon is also an archery-only hunting area. A map of the Emigration Canyon archery-only area is available at

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 .

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.

Northeastern Region
If you can adapt to the weather, you might see more young bucks in northeastern Utah this fall.

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,” he says. “Most of the herds on these units 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 kept the vegetation on the mountains green through most of the summer. That vegetation is providing the deer with good forage. But it’s a mixed blessing for hunters.

“The spring and summer rainfall was a real bonus,” Stewart says. “The vegetation grew extremely well. Most of the units are providing deer with plenty of forage.” However, the weather this fall has been dry—and so is the vegetation. “If the weather stays dry,” Stewart says, “hunters will have a more difficult time approaching the deer; the crunching of dry leaves will give the hunters away.”

To compensate for the noisy conditions, Stewart encourages you to get out early—well before shooting hours—and to pick a good spot to stop and watch. “The more a hunter wanders around, the more sounds he’s going to make,” he says. “That noise increases the chance that deer in the area will hear you and run for cover in the thick brush and dark timber.”

Stewart reminds you that the hunting season in the region is shorter this year, especially on the South Slope, Vernal unit. Across most of the region, the hunt for those over 18 years of age runs Oct. 23 - 28. Those 18 years of age or younger can hunt from Oct. 23 to Oct. 31.

On the South Slope, Vernal unit, however, all hunters—regardless of age—may hunt for only three days. The hunt on the South Slope, Vernal unit runs Oct. 23 - 25. The total number of deer is still below objective on five of the region’s six general-season units. But the number of deer on most of the units is up from last fall. The following is a snapshot of the deer herds, including the number of bucks per 100 does and the estimated number of deer:

Unit Bucks per 100 does Total number of deer
North Slope 18 Up, and near objective
South Slope, Yellowstone 14 Up, but below objective
South Slope, Vernal 12 Up, and at objective
Nine Mile, Anthro 34 Up, but well below objective
Currant Creek 12 Up, but well below objective
Avintaquin 19 Stable, but well below objective

Southeastern Region
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.

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 hunters start moving through the woods.

Southern Region
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 transitional range when the hunt starts on Oct. 23. The following is a look at the deer herds on region’s general-season units:

Beaver and Fillmore units
Wildlife Biologist Blair Stringham says archery and muzzleloader hunters saw good numbers of bucks on both the Fillmore and Beaver units this fall. He reminds you that access is limited on the north end of the Tushar Mountains because of the Twitchell Canyon fire. The latest fire and road closure updates are available at .

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 fell 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 rifle hunt on the Monroe unit is shorter than it is on many units in the state.

The rifle hunt on the unit runs for only three days, from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.

Plateau, Boulder unit
Wildlife Biologist Jim Lamb says this fall’s archery and muzzleloader hunts on the Plateau, Boulder unit were among the toughest in recent memory. “I had two guides call me this week asking me where they could find a good buck,” Lamb said earlier this month. “Usually, they are on the best deer around by this time of the season.”

Panguitch Lake and Mount Dutton units
Wildlife Biologist Dustin Schaible says good precipitation and warm fall temperatures have kept deer in higher elevations, but some migratory movement has been observed on a few units. “The deer will probably be scattered across their transitional range during the rifle hunt,” he says.

Schaible says some hunters had a difficult time finding bucks during the archery and muzzleloader hunts. “But some really nice deer have been taken this year,” he says.

Because of the abundant summer rain, deer are currently spread across their range and are not as tied to watering areas.

“The fawns look excellent this year,” Schaible says. “In some areas, they’re nearly as big as the adults. That’s likely because we had good summer conditions.”

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.


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