Slightly slower Utah deer hunt opener

After one of the best deer hunts in Utah in decades, the 2017 general rifle hunt has come out of the gates a little slower in some parts of the state.

A harsh winter in the northern parts of Utah, plus pleasant weather during the opening weekend of this year’s hunt, might be among the reasons why.

Top half of Utah

The northern, north-central and northeastern parts of Utah saw the biggest change. Randy Wood, wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources in northern Utah, says biologists staffed four check stations over the opening weekend. A total of 144 deer came through the stations on Saturday and Sunday. In 2016, a total of 282 deer came through the same four stations during the first two days of the hunt.

“This past winter was a tough one on the Box Elder, Cache, Ogden and Kamas units,” Wood says. “All of these units received lots of snow and experienced long periods of extremely cold temperatures. On the Cache unit, more than 90% of the fawns died.”

More fawns dying this past winter should result in hunters taking fewer 1 -year-old deer this fall. And that’s exactly what biologists saw at the check stations in northern Utah: 22% of the deer taken were 1 years old, 21% were 2 years old and 57% were older than 2 years of age.

Usually, the percentage of 1 -year-old deer taken is much higher.

Riley Peck and Dax Mangus, DWR wildlife managers in north-central Utah and northeastern Utah respectively, reported similar results. By the end of the first day of the hunt in 2016, Peck says about 100 deer were checked at a check station in Spanish Fork Canyon. This year, biologists checked just over 70 deer by the end of Saturday.

In addition to some fawns dying over the winter, Peck says the weather during the opening weekend of this year’s hunt might have been a factor. “The weather was great,” he says, “and that likely pushed deer deeper into the trees, making it more difficult for hunters to find them.”

Bottom half of Utah

While the hunt was slower in the upper half of the state, the hunt was faster in parts of southern Utah. Guy Wallace, DWR wildlife manager in southeastern Utah, staffed a check station at LaSal Junction near the LaSal Mountains. He says the overall number of bucks taken was down a bit from 2016, but not by much. And he says the number of 1 -year-old bucks taken was actually up a bit from 2016.

“Southeastern Utah didn’t experience the type of winter the northern parts of the state did,” Wallace says. “Conditions were milder, and plenty of fawns made it through the winter.”

Teresa Griffin, DWR wildlife manager in south-central and southwestern Utah, reported mixed results: in some areas, hunters did well while in other areas, the hunt was slower.

“Overall,” she says, “the hunt was slower than last year, with fewer yearlings in the mix. Hunters were taking lots of 2- to 3-year-old deer, though.”

At the check station at Pine Valley, 65 bucks were checked by the end of the weekend. About 100 deer were checked at the checkpoint as Sand Ledges. “[DWR biologist] Jim Lamb said some dandies were checked through from units that included Thousand Lakes, the Boulder and Mount Dutton,” Griffin says.

DWR field biologists also say some big deer were taken on the Pahvant unit.

Still time to hunt

Utah’s general rifle buck deer hunt runs until Oct. 29. If you have a permit for the hunt, there’s still time to get into Utah’s backcountry and enjoy the fall weather while pursuing mule deer in Utah.