Utah’s most popular hunt — the general rifle buck deer hunt — kicks off Oct. 21. More than 60,000 hunters, along with their families and friends, will be in Utah’s backcountry, relaxing, enjoying the fall colors and looking for that elusive mule deer buck.
Initial, scattered reports from hunters and conservation officers with the Division of Wildlife Resources during the general archery deer hunt in August and September, and the general muzzleloader hunt in late September, indicate buck numbers might be down a bit in certain parts of the state. Good numbers of deer — especially older, mature bucks — are still available, though.
This past winter, deep snow and bitter cold gripped parts of northern and northeastern Utah. The hardest hit areas were the Cache hunting unit in northern Utah and the South Slope unit in northeastern Utah.
To try to help deer in the areas, DWR biologists started an emergency feeding program. Despite the supplemental feeding, between 70 and 90 percent of the fawns born during spring 2016 died. For that reason, members of the Utah Wildlife Board lowered the number of hunting permits available for those units this fall.
“Hunters probably won’t see many one-year-old bucks on those units,” says Justin Shannon, Wildlife Section chief for the DWR. “Some older bucks should still be available, though.”
Shannon also has good news to share: the number of bucks per 100 does is at or above objective for every deer hunting unit in Utah. “Last year’s buck deer hunt was the best we’ve had in decades,” he says. “I think success will be down a bit this year, but I still expect a really good hunt.”
The 2016 success rate will be hard to beat. In 2016, a total of 87,000 hunters took a combined total of 32,000 bucks during the general archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts. That’s the most deer taken since 1996, when 104,000 hunters took a combined total of 33,000 bucks during the three hunts.
During the 2016 hunt, though, 17,000 fewer hunters were in the field. “The success rate for 2016 was 37 percent,” Shannon says, “compared to 32 percent for the 1996 hunt.”
Utah Hunt Planner
As you prepare for the hunt, Shannon encourages you to visit the DWR’s online hunt planer or enter the address into your web browser. That’s the url for the new Utah Hunt Planner website.
Once you arrive at the site, you’ll find notes from the biologist who manages the unit you’re going to hunt, 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. You’ll also find maps that show the unit’s boundaries, which land is public and which is private, and the various types of deer habitat found on the unit.
Shannon says DWR biologists want you to have a great experience during the hunt. “We want you to have a successful, enjoyable time,” he says. “The experience you have is important to us. We’re hoping the information on the site will help you plan your hunt and be better prepared to find success.”