The colder weather that has rolled into Utah in recent days bodes well for those getting ready for the state’s most popular hunt.
More than 65,000 hunters are expected afield for this year’s general rifle buck deer hunt, which begins Oct. 22 and ends Oct. 30 in most areas.
Hot weather made it difficult for many hunters to find bucks during this fall’s general muzzleloader buck deer hunt, which ended last Thursday. Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said colder weather helps hunters because it forces deer to feed more.
“That need to feed gets the deer moving and puts them in places where hunters can see them,” Aoude said. “I think a drop in temperature would really help the hunt.”
He said last winter was a good one for deer across most of the state, despite record snowfall totals in some areas.
“Even though the state received a lot of snow, temperatures across most of Utah were mild enough that the snow melted quick on the lower elevation areas where the deer spend the winter,” he said.
While most of the fawns born in 2010 survived the winter, Aoude said there are some areas where persistent cold temperatures caused a lot of fawns to die, including parts of the Cache unit in Northern Utah and units along the south slope of the Uinta Mountains. Another area of concern is Southern Utah, where a severe drought several years ago has kept the overall number of deer down.
An important measure biologists use in monitoring the health of the overall deer population is the ratio of bucks to does. The general goal is to maintain a minimum of 15 bucks per 100 does, and the most recent data suggest that all five DWR regions currently exceed that number.
Randy Wood, wildlife manager in the Northern Region, suggests pre-season scouting of hunting areas to find where the bucks are. The Northern Region is comprised of a lot of private land, he said, so remember to get written permission before hunting on private property.
Fawn production was good last year on the Ogden, Box Elder and Cache units, but yearling bucks are scarce on the eastern portion of the Cache unit due to heavy winter losses. Adult survival was good throughout the area, however, so older bucks will be available to hunters.
Fewer yearling bucks should be available on the Morgan/South Rich and East Canyon units as well because of winter fawn losses, but both units have good buck-to-doe ratios and plenty of mature bucks.
Data suggest that winter mortality was less severe on the north slope of the Uintas than other areas in Northern Utah, and hunters will find deer at higher elevations in remote areas.
Hunters in the Central Region are advised to focus their efforts in the aspen, pine, scrub oak and sagebrush areas in the higher elevations east of I-15. Finding deer in the desert areas west of the freeway is much more difficult and requires a lot of scouting.
The Oquirrh-Stansbury hunting unit southwest of Salt Lake City will be open to hunting for only five days — Oct. 22 to Oct. 26.
Biologists say the hunt in the Northeastern Region will be a bit more challenging this year. A wet year has provided lots of vegetation and plenty of water in pools, ponds, springs and rivers. As a result, the deer are spread out because they aren’t forced to cluster around water.
The deer are in good physical condition because of increased vegetation, but winter took a steep toll on deer along the south slope of the Uintas. Charlie Greenwood, DWR wildlife manager for the region, said some units in the region have shorter seasons, so hunters should check the guidebook carefully.
The outlook in the Southeastern and Southern regions is a mixed bag. In the Northeastern Region, higher than average summer and fall rainfall seems to have resulted in deer being dispersed over a wider area, so hunters may have to cover more territory than normal.
In the Southern Region, the general consensus is that winter losses were heavy and deer are spread out widely, which will make hunting difficult in many parts of the region. However, it’s a large area with a lot of remote territory, so there are always bound to be bright spots.
Tips for a safe hunt
• Be familiar with the area you’re going to hunt. Scout it beforehand.
• Put a survival kit together with basic first aid materials, three ways to make fire, quick-energy snack foods, cord or rope, compass, flashlight, extra knife, and a small pad of paper and a pencil.
• Prepare your firearm. Know how to use it, make sure it’s clean and sighted, and get the right ammunition.
• Know firearm safety.
• Make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition. Bring an emergency kit in case you get stuck or the vehicle breaks down.
• Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
• Never hunt alone.
• Wear proper safety clothing — At least 400 square inches of hunter orange on your back, chest and head.
• Know your physical limitations, and don’t exceed them.
• Prepare yourself for weather changes by dressing in layers.
• Drink plenty of water, no matter how cold it is.
• Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia in yourself and your companions.
• If lost, stay put and build a fire. If you know which general direction you need to go, leave signs pointing rescuers in that direction.
• Do not handle a firearm if you’ve been drinking alcohol.