Hunting News

Hunters Might see more Young Bucks in Utah

Utah's general archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 18, 2012.

Utah's general archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 18, 2012.

Utah’s general archery buck deer hunt will begin in just a few days. As the start of the hunt nears, reports provided by Division of Wildlife Resources biologists share a common theme:

  • Deer herds on many units are doing well—lots of fawns were born in 2011, and most of the fawns survived the mild winter of 2011-2012. Good numbers of young bucks should be available on many of the state’s 30 general-season units.
  • It’s been hot and dry across Utah this summer. On many units, finding water will be the key to finding the deer.

The general archery buck deer hunt—the first major hunt in Utah each year—starts Aug. 18.

This year is the first year general archery hunters will be limited to hunting on one of 30 new deer hunting units in Utah. For the past several years, archery hunters have been allowed to hunt statewide.

Also, as you’re hunting this fall, please remember to ride your all-terrain vehicle only on designated roads and trails. If you take it off a designated road or trail, you and other hunters might lose your privilege to use ATVs on public lands in Utah.

The following are reports for most of the state’s 30 units. The reports are split into five groups based on where the units are located:

Northern Utah

Unit 1 – Box Elder

Plenty of young bucks should be available to hunters this fall. Fawn numbers in 2011 were excellent at around 70 fawns per 100 does. This past winter was dry, and most of the fawns made it through the winter. After last fall’s hunts, buck-to-doe ratios were about 20 bucks per 100 does. With more than 40 percent of the bucks classified as 3-point or better, plenty of mature bucks should be available to hunters. This spring and summer have been very dry. The dry conditions have reduced the amount of water and plants available to the deer. Fewer fawns have been born this year, but fawn production is still average for the unit. Deer across the unit are concentrating around water sources. To locate the deer, you may have to spend more time scouting to find watering locations and habitat the deer are using.

Please remember to get a map for the area you’re going to hunt and to follow Box Elder County, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service road-use rules.

Also, please remember that the unit does have private property on it. You must obtain written permission from the landowner before hunting on private land.

Unit 2 – Cache, and Unit 3 – Ogden

This summer has been drier than normal on both of these units. Expect to find animals concentrated around water sources. Plenty of fawns survived this past winter, so more yearling bucks should be available to hunters this fall. Deer are using summer ranges in areas with mixed conifer. Look for bucks in the mornings and evenings as they move from open meadows and hillsides to areas with cover. To find success this fall, you need to scout and look for deer around water sources.

The overall number of deer on each unit is still below population objectives. Expect the hunt on each unit to be similar to the last few years. Also, please remember that the Ogden unit has large blocks of private property. Don’t wait until the season starts to get written permission to hunt on private property; get that permission now.

Please remember that you may hunt only in the unit you drew a permit for.

Unit 4 – Morgan/South Rich, and Unit 5 – East Canyon

Both of these units are mostly private property. Don’t wait until the season starts to obtain written permission to hunt on private property; get that permission now.

This summer has been drier than normal on these units. Expect to find animals concentrated around water sources. Plenty of fawns survived this past winter, so more yearling bucks should be available to hunters this fall. To find success this fall, you need to scout and look for deer around water sources.

The overall number of deer on each unit is still below each unit’s population objective. Expect the hunt on each unit to be similar to the last few years.

Please remember that you may hunt only in the unit you drew a permit for.

Unit 6 – Chalk Creek

The archery deer hunt on the Chalk Creek unit should be good this year. Biologists are seeing more young bucks throughout the unit. The total number of deer is slightly below the unit’s population objective, but the number of bucks per 100 does is still high. Dry summer conditions have distributed deer at higher elevations, often near a water source. To find success, do lots of scouting, and look for deer in remote locations. Please remember that this unit is comprised mostly of private property. You must have written permission from the landowner to hunt on private land.

Unit 7 – Kamas

Archery deer hunting on the Kamas unit should be fair this year. Thanks to the mild winter of 2011-2012, you can expect to see more young bucks this fall. The overall number of deer on the unit is slightly below the unit’s population objective, but good numbers of fawns have been born over the past few years. Dry summer conditions have distributed deer at higher elevations, often near a water source. To find success, it’s important that you do lots of pre-season scouting. Also, hunting the unit’s backcountry, away from major roads and trails, is another key to success. Please remember to abide by the U.S Forest Service travel plan and to use only approved roads and trails.

Unit 8 – North Slope (Summit County)

Archery deer hunting on the Summit County portion of the unit should be fair this year. Conditions this past winter were mild, and you can expect to see more young bucks. Deer can be found throughout the upper elevations and remote drainages of the unit, away from major roads and trails. Dry summer conditions have concentrated deer near permanent water sources—good scouting before the hunt is a must to find water sources and the deer. Please remember to abide by the U.S Forest Service travel plan and to use only approved roads and trails.

Northeastern Utah

Unit 8 – North Slope (Daggett County)

After last fall’s hunts, the buck-to-doe ratio on the unit was 18 bucks per 100 does, which is the objective for the unit. The number of fawns born in 2011 was slightly lower than normal, but most of the fawns survived this past winter. The number of bucks you see this fall should be similar to recent years. Plant growth has been poor to fair, so the deer will probably be concentrated in areas that have food and water. Because of drought conditions, you may want to concentrate your hunting efforts near water sources. Higher elevation areas may hold more deer thanks to better plant production and cooler temperatures.

Unit 9A – South Slope, Yellowstone

This unit was hit by a hard winter in 2010-2011. Deep snow and cold temperatures killed more than twice as many fawns and does as a normal winter. The tough winter also left the does in poor condition. As a result, the number of fawns that were born and survived in 2011 was also below normal. Those loses have resulted in fewer bucks to hunt. But there’s some good news too. This past winter was very mild. Most of the fawns that were born in 2011 survived the winter, and the does were in good condition for fawning this spring. A good crop of fawns was produced this summer. Hopefully, the recent rains have come soon enough to keep most of the fawns alive until next year. The total number of deer on the unit is below the unit’s objective, but the number is starting to the increase.

The number of deer hunting permits for northeastern Utah was cut by more than 30 percent in 2011, so fewer bucks were taken last fall. Taking fewer bucks last fall means more bucks will be available to you this year. This spring and summer have been dry, so the best forage for the deer is found at higher elevations. Look for deer near water sources and wet areas. Most of the deer are in the conifer/aspen/sage transition zone, but archery hunters occasionally find scattered pockets of good-sized bucks in the high country, including above the timberline.

Unit 9B/9D – South Slope, Bonanza/Vernal

Most of the deer on the unit made it through this past winter, but the overall number of deer is down somewhat because of hard winters that hit the area before this past winter. The number of bucks on the unit should be average to below average. Most of the bucks will be yearlings.

Each fall, the buck-to-doe ratio on the Vernal and Bonanza subunits is typically low, with a three-year average of about 10 bucks per 100 does. After the hunts were over in 2011, biologists found 11 bucks per 100 does. To address this low ratio, the number of rifle hunting permits for the unit has been reduced by 500 permits for the 2012 hunt. The number of hunters during the archery and muzzleloader hunts will be similar to past years.

Conditions are dry, and forage quality is poor. Look for deer near water sources and wet areas. Most of the deer are concentrating in the conifer/aspen/sage transition zone, but archery hunters occasionally find scattered pockets of bucks in the high country, including above the timberline.

The overall number of deer on the Bonanza (Uintah County) portion of the unit is very low. Habitat on the Bonanza subunit is extremely dry this year with little or no plant growth on low-elevation portions of the subunit. Any deer on the subunit will probably be concentrated around water sources, especially in riparian corridors along the Green or White rivers.

Unit 11 – Nine Mile (Duchesne County)

Deer density on the Duchesne County portion of the unit is extremely low. Expect to see very few deer. During the archery hunt, most of the deer will be at the highest elevations on the unit. Hunting near water sources will give you your best chance at taking a buck. The buck-to-doe ratio on the unit is higher than most general season units, so if you find a deer, there’s a good chance the deer will be a buck. The north end of the unit is mostly Ute tribal land. There are three main roads, however, that you can use to travel through the Ute tribal lands to reach U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands. Those roads are the Left Fork of Antelope Canyon, Nutter’s Ridge and Sowers Canyon. If you have questions about accessing USFS lands through the tribal lands, contact the USFS or Duchesne County.

Unit 17B/17C – Wasatch Mountains, Currant Creek/Avintaquin

Many of the fawns born in 2010 died during a long, hard winter in 2010-2011. As a result, fewer yearling bucks were available to hunters last fall. The bucks that survived will be 2 year olds this fall, but because fewer yearling bucks were available on the unit in 2011, you’ll likely see fewer 2 -year-old bucks this fall.

That same tough winter of 2010-2011 also led to does producing fewer fawns in spring 2011. That, in turn, led to fewer fawns going into this past winter. The good news is that this past winter was mild, and most of the fawns born in 2011 survived it. That means a fair number of yearling bucks should be available to hunters this fall. The overall number of deer on both subunits is still below the population objective for the subunits. You’ll find more deer on the Currant Creek portion of the unit than you will on the Avintaquin portion. The large amounts of high elevation summer range on the Currant Creek subunit provide excellent habitat for bucks during the archery hunt.

Southeastern Utah

Unit 11 – Nine Mile (Carbon County)

The buck-to-doe ratio remains above the unit’s management objective of 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does. The number of fawns born in spring 2011 was slightly above the 3-year average for the unit. Most of the fawns on the unit survived this past winter, so a few more bucks should be available to hunters this fall. Forage conditions, especially on the transitional and summer ranges, are worse than last year. However, hunting this fall should be similar to the past few years.

Unit 12/16B/16C – Central Mountains, Manti/San Rafael (Emery and Wayne counties)

After last fall’s hunts, the buck-to-doe ratio was up slightly compared to the 3-year average, but it’s still just below the unit’s objective of 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does. The number of fawns born the past few years has remained stable, but more fawns survived this past winter because the winter was so mild. This unit was very dry this spring, but it received some much-needed rain in July. Forage conditions, especially on the transitional and winter ranges, are worse than last year. Overall, hunting should be about the same as last year.

Unit 13 – La Sal, La Sal Mountains

After last fall’s hunts, the buck-to-doe ratio on the unit was above its management objective of 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does. A wet summer on the unit in 2011 increased the number of fawns that were born. The winter on the unit was mild, and most of the fawns born in 2011 made it through the winter. This unit was very dry this spring, but it recently received monsoonal moisture. That moisture has improved the forage conditions. Overall, hunting should be slightly better than last year.

Unit 14 – San Juan, Abajo Mountains

The buck-to-doe ratio is above the unit’s objective of 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does. The number of fawns that were born and survived their first year of life increased thanks to a wet summer in 2011 followed by a mild winter. Windy conditions and a lack of rain dried the forage this past spring. However, recent rains have helped improve the forage. Overall, hunting should be similar to last year or slightly better.

Central Utah

Unit 12/16B/16C – Central Mountains, Manti/San Rafael (Sanpete County)

The number of deer on the unit is below objective. Even though it was hot and dry during the early part of the summer, habitat conditions are still fairly good. Afternoon showers that have fallen recently have helped. The deer are concentrated mostly in the higher elevations, but many smaller bucks are available at the lower elevations too. Hunting should be fair.

Unit 16A – Central Mountains Nebo

The number of deer on the unit is below objective, but there is some good news. Not many bucks were taken on the unit during last fall’s hunts, so a fair number of mature bucks should be available to hunters this fall. Also, fawn production was good last summer. This past winter was milder than normal, and most of the fawns made it through the winter, so you should see more young bucks this fall. Because early summer was so dry, you’ll likely find deer concentrated in the higher elevations.

A wildfire burned about 47,000 acres on the unit this past summer. Most of the land that burned was range the deer rely on in the winter. The temporary loss of this range may affect the deer population over the next several years. The burned area is in the southeast portion of the unit. The area is already starting to green up after recent rain showers, but hunting opportunities in the area may still be limited this fall.

Unit 17A – Wasatch Mountains, West

Most of the fawns born in 2011 made it through this past winter, so good numbers of young bucks will be available to you this fall. Drought conditions this summer have affected habitat at the lower elevations, so you’ll find deer at higher elevations where feed and water are still available. Deer are scattered throughout the higher elevations on the unit. You might have to spend some extra time scouting to find the deer.

Unit 18 – Oquirrh-Stansbury

The number of fawns born in 2011 was slightly higher than normal. This past winter was mild, and most of the fawns survived. Habitat and water conditions are extremely dry this summer, though, and many of the fawns that were born this summer are struggling.

You’ll find deer in upper elevation areas that have green vegetation and water. The buck-to-doe ratio is at objective for the unit and is above the unit’s long-term average.

Fire restrictions have been in place all summer, and the landscape is still very dry. Deer at lower elevations might head to crop lands to find food. Please remember that you must obtain written permission from the landowner to hunt irrigated crop lands, even if the lands aren’t marked as no trespassing. Also, please remember that you may not use all-terrain vehicles in wilderness areas on the Stansbury Mountain range. Designated trails are available for ATVs in other parts of the unit. You can obtain ATV information from Tooele County and the U.S. Forest Service.

The best maps for the unit are Tooele and Rush Valley 1:100,000 scale maps.

Unit 19A – West Desert/West

Deer continue to struggle on this desert unit. Even though deer numbers are low, expect to see more yearling bucks than you’ve seen over the past few years. The unit received above normal precipitation in 2011, and the winter was mild. Plenty of fawns survived the winter. Most of the deer will be in upper elevation areas where the vegetation is greener and water is available.

Fire restrictions have been in place all summer, and the landscape is still very dry. Deer at lower elevations might head to crop lands to find food. Please remember that you must obtain written permission from the landowner to hunt irrigated crop lands, even if the lands aren’t marked as no trespassing.

Also, please remember that you may not use all-terrain vehicles in wilderness areas on the Deep Creek and Cedar Mountain ranges. Designated trails for ATVs are available in certain parts of the unit, however. You can obtain ATV information from Tooele County and the Bureau of Land Management offices in Salt Lake City and Fillmore.

The best maps for the Deep Creek Mountains are the Wildcat and Fish Spring 1:100,000 scale maps. The Tooele and Rush Valley 1:100,000 scale maps are the best maps for the Cedar Mountains.

Unit 19C – West Desert, Tintic

Deer numbers are low across this unit. Many wildfires that have burned over the years have diminished habitat for the deer. This year’s wildfire on the Lake Side Mountains, along with a hot, dry summer, has contributed to the poor habitat conditions. To find the deer this fall, focus your efforts on water sources that hold water even during dry years.

Southern Utah

Unit 20 – Southwest Desert, Unit 29 – Zion, and Unit 30 – Pine Valley

The archery hunt on the Pine Valley, Zion and Southwest Desert units should be good this year. Most of the deer survived this past winter, and the populations on all three units should have lots of yearling bucks in them. The overall number of deer on the Southwest Desert unit is still very low. The overall number of deer on both the Zion and Pine Valley units is at objective on each unit.

This spring and early summer were very dry, and water was becoming hard to find. Recent monsoonal rains have improved water and range conditions slightly, however, allowing deer to range farther from their water sources.

Unit 21A – Fillmore, Oak Creek

Thanks to mild conditions, more fawns made it through this past winter. Expect to see more young bucks this fall. Also, because the summer has been so dry, expect to find the deer near water.

A large fire burned this summer on U.S. Forest Service land near the unit. (The land that burned is open only to hunters who have a limited-entry permit for the area.) Some of the deer may have redistributed themselves because of the fire. You might want to look for deer in places you haven’t seen them before. Expect a fair to good hunt.

Unit 21B – Fillmore, Pahvant

The buck-to-doe ratio on this unit has slowly increased over the last few years. Last year, spring and summer rains provided excellent forage and water. The forage and water, coupled with a mild winter, helped most of the fawns make it through the winter. Overall, the number of bucks on the unit has increased slightly over the past two years. Expect a fair to good hunt in 2012. You can also expect to see more young bucks this year.

Unit 22 – Beaver

The buck-to-doe ratio on the Beaver unit is 18 bucks per 100 does. The overall number of deer on the unit is also strong.

This summer has been very dry, so expect to find deer concentrated near and around water sources. You can anticipate a good hunt on the Beaver unit. With a mild winter, the survival of fawns and mature bucks was higher than normal. Expect to see more young bucks on the unit.

Unit 23 – Monroe, and Unit 25A – Plateau, Fishlake

Although the overall number of deer is still below the units’ objectives, the deer herds on both the Monroe and Fishlake units are showing improvement over last year. The combined effect of good fawn production in 2011, followed by a mild winter, means good numbers of yearling bucks should be available to you this fall.

The buck-to-doe ratios on both the Monroe and the Fishlake units have also improved. After the hunts were over last fall, the ratio on the Monroe unit was 14 bucks per 100 does. The Fishlake unit had a buck-to-doe ratio of 19 bucks per 100 does. Because this past winter was so mild, most of these bucks made it through the winter. And that means more bucks with large antlers should be available on these units this fall.

During the spring and early summer, both units experienced very dry conditions. The dry conditions reduced plant growth on lower and mid elevation ranges and dried some of the plants out. Fortunately, summer monsoons have hit hard in recent weeks. The rain has kept forage green at higher elevations.

During the archery hunt, focus your efforts in areas that have the greenest forage. The deer will be concentrated in these areas. These areas include north-facing slopes and areas that are partially shaded by aspen trees and oak brush.

Please remember that you may hunt only in the unit you drew a permit for.

Unit 25C/26 – Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits

Boulder. One huge change for the Boulder subunit is fewer hunters. This popular area has drawn lots of hunters in the past. Switching general deer hunting from five large regions to 30 smaller units should reduce the number of hunters on the unit and improve hunting. Deer on the unit did very well in 2011. And wet conditions sent the deer into the winter in great condition. Young bucks should be more plentiful and a little easier to find than they have been in the past. Most of the water sources on the unit have re-filled with water in the last few weeks, so plenty of water should be available for the deer.

Kaiparowits. The Kaiparowits portion of the unit was very dry this past spring and early summer. Recent rain storms have helped, though. The rains may cause flash flooding, so watch the weather forecast carefully before hunting the unit. The Kaiparowits portion of the unit sits at a lower elevation than the Boulder portion does, and it typically has lower deer densities. To find deer on the Kaiparowits portion of the unit, focus your efforts on water sources.

Unit 25B – Plateau, Thousand Lakes

A report wasn’t available for this unit. Conditions should be similar to Unit 25C (the Boulder portion of the Plateau unit).

Unit 24 – Mt Dutton, and Unit 28 – Panguitch Lake

Lots of fawns were born in summer 2011. And most of those fawns survived this past winter. Observations of mule deer this summer suggest higher numbers of young bucks on both the Mount Dutton and Panguitch Lake units. After the fall 2011 hunting seasons were over, the buck-to-doe ratio on both units was 18 bucks per 100 does.

Dry conditions during the spring and early summer congregated the deer near water sources at higher elevations. Rain has fallen recently, and many dugouts and depressions are holding some water again. The recently received water has spread the deer out again. However, it appears some areas are still being affected by the drought. If you’re hunting in an area affected by the drought, hunting near water will give you the best chance at seeing deer.

The U.S. Forest Service has implemented a travel management plan for many areas on Mount Dutton and Panguitch Lake. Although hiking into some of these areas isn’t as convenient as riding an all-terrain vehicle, you’ll see more deer if you hike into areas that are closed to ATVs, especially if water is nearby. Please obtain a map for the area you’re going to hunt and abide by all U.S. Forest Service road-use rules.

Image courtesy of Dan Thurgood

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