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Deer numbers, hunting conditions vary

Utah's archery deer hunt starts Aug. 17, 2013

Depending on which unit you have a permit for, you might see wet conditions and more bucks — or fewer deer and drier conditions — when Utah's general archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 17.

Depending on which unit you have a permit for, you might see more bucks when Utah’s general archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 17

Depending on which unit you have a permit for, you might see more bucks when Utah’s general archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 17.

Photo by Scott Root

If you don't have a hunting permit yet, it's not too late to get one. On Aug. 9, permits for adult hunters were still available for two units in northern Utah:

Unit Permits still available on Aug. 9
1 272
2 61

If you'll be 18 years of age or younger on Aug. 17, the Division of Wildlife Resources has great news: On Aug. 9, archery permits were still available for every general-season hunting unit in Utah.

You can buy one of the remaining adult or youth permits online.

The following is a preview of what you can expect to find when you go afield during this year's general archery buck deer hunt:

Northern Utah

Units (1, 2, 3, 4/5/6, 7 and the western part of Unit 8)

In northern Utah, the news is mixed: The overall number of deer is below objective on most of the units, but the percentage of bucks in the population is really good.

For example, Unit 2 has the lowest buck-to-doe ratio in northern Utah. And even Unit 2's ratio is close to 16 bucks per 100 does. "The number of bucks per 100 does is really good on units across the region," says Randy Wood, DWR wildlife manager in northern Utah.

Wood says decreased snowfall on deer winter ranges in northern Utah increased the number of fawns that made it through this past winter. No matter which unit you have a permit for, Wood says you should see more 1 -year-old bucks and a good population of bucks with two antler points.

Finding the deer varies depending on the unit. On the western side of the region, Unit 1 is extremely dry this year, even in the higher elevations. If you have a permit for Unit 1, Wood says it's important to scout before the season and find the water sources in the unit.

In units on the eastern side of the region, it's an entirely different story: The high country has received plenty of moisture this summer, and the deer are scattered. "Preseason scouting is vital," Wood says. "It's important to locate the deer on the unit you're going to hunt."

If you're hunting lower elevation areas on units on the eastern side of the region, locating water can help you find the deer.

Wood has two reminders for hunters in northern Utah:

  • Northern Utah has more private property in it than any other region in Utah. Make sure you have written permission from the landowner before hunting on private property within the area you're going to hunt.
  • In August, black bears are usually active as they try to put weight on before they enter their dens in November. You can get free bear safety information on our website and from www.wildawareutah.org.

If you have questions about hunting deer in northern Utah, call the DWR's office in Ogden at 801-476-2740.

Central Utah

Units (16A, 17A, 18, 19A and 19C)

If you drew a permit to hunt on Unit 16A or Unit 17A, plenty of 1 -year-old bucks should be waiting for you this fall.

Biologists say two mild winters, followed by good summer rain, have helped the deer herds on both units. They say most of the deer are in higher elevations right now, but some are using mid-elevation areas too.

Dale Liechty, the DWR biologist who manages Unit 17A, expects a good deer hunt, especially for younger bucks. Dennis Southerland, who manages Unit 16A, agrees. "I'm seeing a lot of yearlings," Southerland says. "I'll often see groups of four or five yearlings together."

On units 18, 19A and 19C, the picture isn't quite as bright. Tom Becker, the biologist who manages the units, says all three units have experienced tough winters over the past two years. He says temperatures have plummeted and have stayed cold until spring. "The cold weather has killed many of the fawns," he says.

Finding water is the key to finding deer on Unit 18. Fortunately, the unit has received good rainfall over the past few weeks, and many of the water holes are filled.

If you have a permit for Unit 19A or 19C, Becker encourages you to hike to the higher elevations. That's where deer on the units are typically found.

The biologists also provide tips to help you find success:

  • Hike into the backcountry. Liechty says he often visits with hunters who tell him they haven't seen a deer. When he asks them where they've been hunting, they tell him they've been driving up and down the road. "Typically," he says, "that strategy isn't going to work. There's so much traffic on many of these roads that the deer have learned to avoid them, especially during the hunting season.

    "My advice is to get off the roads and into the backcountry," he says. "If you do, you'll find the deer."
  • Covy Jones, DWR wildlife manager in central Utah, says if you see a buck at the start of the hunt, but it isn't a buck you really want to take, pass up the shot. He reminds you that the archery hunt runs for 28 days. "If you have time to hunt past the opening weekend," he says, "you'll often be successful. Don't rush yourself. Take your time. If you do, you'll often find the buck you're looking for."
  • If you want to see bigger bucks in the future, Southerland encourages you to pass up shots at smaller bucks.
  • Jones encourages you to consider hunting the Walk-In Access areas in the region. More information about WIA areas is available online.

If you have questions about hunting deer in central Utah, call the DWR office in Springville at 801-491-5678.

Northeastern Utah

Units (9A, 9B/9D, 17B/17C, the eastern portion of Unit 8 and the northern portion of Unit 11)

On most of the units in northeastern Utah, the overall number of deer is well below objective. But the percentage of bucks in the population is growing.

Randall Thacker, DWR assistant wildlife manager in northeastern Utah, says the Utah Wildlife Board started decreasing the number of deer hunting permits in the area three years ago. Board members took the action because the number of bucks per 100 does was below the objective called for in management plans for the units.

"Reducing the number of permits is the major reason the number of bucks per 100 does is growing," Thacker says.

With the exception of the South Slope/Vernal portion of Unit 9B, where biologists found only 10 bucks per 100 does after last fall's hunts, the ratio of bucks to does is improving on every unit in the region. "The ratio on many of the units is 17, 18, 19 or even 20 bucks per 100 does," Thacker says.

To find the bucks, Thacker encourages you to look for pockets of green vegetation. He says parts of northeastern Utah have received plenty of rain over the past weeks. "But the rain has fallen in a spotty pattern," he says. "In some areas, one spot will be dry while only a mile or two away, the vegetation is green and providing deer with plenty to eat."

Thacker says most of the green vegetation is at higher elevations. But even mid-elevation areas, including oak brush areas on Unit 17B/17C, are attracting and holding deer.

Even though the overall number of deer is below objective, Thacker says the deer population is improving after a hard winter in 2010 - 2011. "Most of the bucks will be younger bucks," he says, "but because hunting permits have been reduced over the past three years, you should see a fair number of 2- and 3-year-old deer too."

In addition to hunting deer, Thacker encourages you to buy a $25 antlerless elk-control permit. He says northeastern Utah has an abundant elk population. "If a cow elk comes to the water hole you're hunting," he says, "you'll be happy you have that permit."

More information about antlerless elk-control permits is available on page 24 of the 2013 Utah Big Game Field Regulations Guidebook.

If you have questions about hunting deer in northeastern Utah, call the DWR's office in Vernal at 435-781-9453.

Southeastern Utah

Units (12/16B/16C, 13A, 14A and the southern part of Unit 11)

Brad Crompton says the amount of water and green vegetation he and other biologists found on Unit 12/16B/16C and the southern part of Unit 11 this summer surprised him.

"The area has received a lot of rain over the past few weeks," says Crompton, DWR assistant wildlife manager in southeastern Utah, "and forage for deer is in good condition. Some of the summer range has forage that's up to your knees."

Unit 12/16B/16C is the largest unit in southeastern Utah and one of the largest units in the state. Crompton says does on the unit have produced about 70 fawns per 100 does each of the past two years. Mild winters have allowed most of the fawns to survive.

"You can grow a lot of deer with fawn numbers that high," he says.

Crompton credits extensive habitat work and prescribed burns for much of the increase. He says the vegetation on the unit is wet, which will make it easier for hunters to move around and stalk deer.

On units in the southern part of the region, the outlook isn't quite as good. Crompton says the number of bucks per 100 does has stayed the same on Unit 13A and Unit 14A for the past two years. And only about 50 fawns per 100 does have been born each of the past two years. "I think the hunt on the two units will be similar to last year or maybe even a little slower," he says.

While it's fun to hunt new areas and see new country, Crompton says finding a good area to hunt, and then hunting it often, is the key to deer hunting success.

"As you get to know the country," he says, "you'll learn the patterns the deer follow and where you'll likely find them based on conditions on the ground."

If you have questions about hunting deer in southeastern Utah, call the DWR's office in Price at 435-613-3700.

Southwestern Utah

Units (20, 21A, 21B, 22, 23, 24, 25A, 25B, 25C/26, 28, 29 and 30)

If you have a permit for a unit in southwestern Utah, Teresa Griffin has good news: The overall number of deer, and the number of bucks compared to the number of does, is growing.

Even though last winter was colder than normal in the region, Griffin, the DWR wildlife manager in southwestern Utah, says many fawns have survived the past two winters. "Lots of young bucks are coming into the population," she says. "Most of the biologists think this year's hunt will be better than last year's."

Griffin says biologists are also seeing good numbers of mature bucks on many units in the region.

Griffin says extensive work to improve habitat, more highway crossings that allow deer to cross roads safely and predator control are among the reasons the herds are growing.

So where should you go to find bucks on your unit?

Griffin says southwestern Utah has received a lot of rain over the past weeks. "Water is all over the place," she says, "so focusing on water holes won't be as productive as it would be in a drier year."

To find the deer, Griffin encourages you to get off the roads and the beaten paths and into the backcountry. "Find a good place to sit at dawn and dusk," she says, "and scan the area for deer."

She says biologists were finding deer in different places in early August. For example, on units 21B and 22, the deer were up high. On the lower elevation units — units 20, 29 and 30 — deer were concentrating in heavy oak brush about mid-elevation on the units.

"It's really important to get out before the season starts, and find where the deer are," she says.

Even though southwestern Utah has lots of public land, Griffin says some areas have large chunks of private land too. She reminds you that you must have written permission from the landowner before hunting on private property.

If you have questions about hunting deer in southwestern Utah, call the DWR's office in Cedar City at 435-865-6100.

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