Even though the overall number of deer in Utah is going up, the number of general buck deer permits available for hunts in Utah this fall is going down.
Last week, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a decrease of nearly 2,000 permits for this year compared with last year. A total of 84,600 general deer permits will be available for 2013, down from 86,500 in 2012.
Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said that even though the total number of deer in Utah is going up, the number of bucks per 100 does is still below the management objective on some of the state’s hunting units. He said two factors determine how many buck deer permits can be offered on a unit: The average number of bucks per 100 does on the unit over the past three years, and whether that number has increased, decreased or stayed the same during the three-year period.
Biologists found a little of everything on Utah’s 30 general-season units after last fall’s hunts. On some units, the number of bucks per 100 does was above objective and was rising. Other units were stable, while on some units, the number of bucks per 100 does was declining.
“Based on the data we collected,” Aoude said, “we recommended 1,900 fewer permits for this fall’s hunts.”
He said the number of bucks taken by hunters last fall was up about 34 percent from 2011, and the total number of deer in Utah, after the hunts were over, was up, too.
“Two years ago, after the hunts in 2011,” he said, “Utah had about 286,000 deer. Despite hunters taking more bucks in 2012, about 318,000 deer were in the state after the hunts were over last fall.”
The Utah Wildlife Board approved some other big-game hunting changes at its meeting last Thursday, including reducing the number of limited-entry buck deer permits from 967 in 2012 to 827 for this fall. Protecting buck deer on the north end of the Book Cliffs is the major reason for the reduction.
“The low number of fawns that are produced on the Book Cliffs makes it harder to replace bucks once they’re taken,” Aoude said.
However, the board decided to allow more cow elk permits, increasing the number from 14,763 in 2012 to 17,817 for this year. Aoude said Utah’s elk populations are doing well — so well, in fact, that more cow elk permits are needed to try to bring the total number of elk back to the statewide management objective of 70,965 animals.
There will also be more pronghorn permits this year. Buck pronghorn permits increased from 664 in 2012 to 853 for this fall’s hunts, and doe pronghorn permits increased from 537 in 2012 to 962 for this fall. The productive pronghorn herd on the Parker Mountains in south-central Utah is the major reason for the increase. A tough winter hit the unit two years ago. Snow and cold killed a lot of pronghorns and dropped the herd below its management objective.
“This is a really productive herd, though,” Aoude said. “The animals have already bounced back. More doe pronghorn permits are needed to get the animals back to the management objective of 1,500 pronghorn.”