Wildlife News

Board approves big game permits

Board members receive encouraging news about Utah's deer herds

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Utah Wildlife Board heard some encouraging news about Utah's deer herds at their meeting on May 1.

After hearing the news, the seven-member board approved 200 additional general season buck deer permits for this fall's hunts. Permits for the remaining big game hunts in Utah were also approved.

Permit numbers

The following shows the number of big game hunting permits available in 2013 and the number the board approved for 2014:

Hunt 2013 permits 2014 permits
General buck deer 84,600 84,800
Premium limited-entry deer 183 183
Management buck deer 52 49
Limited-entry deer 827 811
Doe deer 305 410
General any bull elk 14,300 14,300
General spike bull elk 15,000 15,000
Limited-entry bull elk 2,742 2,842
Cow elk 17,817 16,775
Buck pronghorn 841 781
Doe pronghorn 962 669
Bull moose 71 67
Cow moose 0 0
Bison 104 84
Desert bighorn sheep 37 40
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep 40 38
Mountain goat 162 108

Deer doing well

Biologists base their hunt recommendations on deer classifications they do each year. During the classifications, biologists survey deer on their winter ranges to determine how many bucks, does and fawns are in the herds.

Mule deer are doing well in Utah.

Mule deer are doing well in Utah.

Photo by Lynn Chamberlain

What the biologists found during their most recent deer classification, combined with the success general season deer hunters found in fall 2013, paint an encouraging picture:

The success hunters found on general season units this past fall was the best it's been since 2007.

In 2013, a total of 84,600 hunters harvested more than 25,000 bucks on general season units. In 2007, a total of 97,000 hunters harvested about 28,000 bucks on general season units.

After the hunts were over last fall, biologists classified the deer herds to see how many bucks per 100 does were left on general season units. For every 100 does they counted, they also counted an average of 19 bucks.

Shannon says biologists manage 14 of Utah's 30 general season units for 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does. The remaining 16 units are managed for 18 to 20 bucks per 100 does.

"So, to be at 19 bucks per 100 does is great news for Utah's hunters," Shannon says. "It means the herds have plenty of bucks in them."

Based on surveys after last fall's hunts, biologists estimate the total number of deer in Utah at 332,900.

That's only 17,000 deer shy of a short-term, statewide goal of 350,000 deer. And it's the most deer in Utah since 2000, when an estimated 322,000 deer were in the state.

Deer studies the DWR started in 2010 also provide encouraging news.

Part of the deer studies involve placing radio collars on does and fawns and then tracking their survival and reproductive rates.

During the first two years of the study, just over 50 percent of the radio-collared fawns survived an entire year. Over the past two years, however, the annual survival rate has jumped to almost 80 percent.

Does are also producing plenty of fawns. For example, in fall 2012, biologists found an average of 65 fawns per 100 does. That number dropped slightly in fall 2013 — 62 fawns per 100 does — but that ratio is still well within the range needed to help deer numbers grow in Utah.

Why are deer doing so well?

Shannon says several factors have combined to help Utah's deer herds:

At the top of the list are mild winters that have allowed deer to survive until the following spring.

The DWR and its partners have conducted many long-term habitat projects. Those projects are starting to pay off by providing deer with better habitat.

Highway fencing, underpasses that allow deer to cross safely under roads, predator control and other management actions are helping too.

"We're really excited," Shannon says, "but we still have work to do to reach our goal of 350,000 deer. We'll keep moving forward."

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