The archery deer hunt will open Saturday. It will be, as it usually is, the first unofficial census of deer and range conditions in Utah.
Pre-season predictions call for a "better" deer hunt than last year or the year before. That means that about one in five hunters are expected to take home a deer during the season, which runs through Sept. 8.Two key ingredients go into making this a successful hunt - skill and luck. And those with both may chance into a large buck this year. Early checks with wildlife managers around the state support the theory that this is the year hunters should begin to see larger bucks.
Mike Welch, big-game program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, predicts a better hunt, compared to the previous two.
"Looking at the information we've received, it appears we're on our way to recovery. We had a good fawn crop this year. Those deer will be spikes and two-points now. According to our biologists, they're seeing a lot of those deer around right now," he said.
The one exception to this is the southern regions. Dry conditions there cut the number of fawns, but that will be made up for with a good carry-over of older deer.
Game biologists in the Southern Region are seeing more mature bucks this year, which accounts for the popularity of this area with hunters this year. But, with yearling production being down, there will be fewer spikes and two-points to hunt. The two are expected to balance out, which means overall success should be about the same as last year in the two areas.
The Southeastern Region is also expected to be good hunting. Carry-over was good, but the deer don't seem to be as larger, overall, as those in the Southern Region.
Hunting is expected to be improved in the Northern, Central and Northeastern regions. Deer numbers, as expected, are up this year. Most of the deer taken, however, will be the smaller spikes and two-points.
Unlike the previous two years, hunters will find deer scattered. In past years, during the drought, deer stayed close to watering holes. This year finding water is not a problem. Deer could be anywhere.
The wet spring also resulted in a heavy growth in vegetation, which means deer will be going into winter in excellent conditions.
Welch also points out that the good high-country growth has kept deer out of the farmers' fields and off winter range.
He also recommends that hunters go to areas they are familiar with, rather than going into areas where they "think" they may have better hunting.
Because of the thick vegetation, hunters should be especially careful with fires this year. Fire danger is high.
As always, hunters need to know if the areas they are hunting are public or private land. And, if they are private, make sure they have written permission in their possession before trespassing.
The archery hunt is a buck-only hunt, with the exception of the Wasatch Front Extended Area. This area extends from I-80 north to Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties. (Check proclamation for detail boundaries.) Along with an extend hunt date, through Nov. 25, hunters are allowed to take either a buck or a doe.
And while archery hunters are not required to wear hunter-orange on the archery hunt, those in the extended area during the general rifle will be required to wear hunter-orange.
There are still general deer and elk tags available for this year's hunts.
All of the tags for the Southern Region sold out on the first day. And there are only a few tags left for the Southeastern Region.
DWR officials expect that the next region to sell out will be the Northeastern.
There are still a longer number of deer permits available for the Northern and Central regions. DWR officials warn, however, that as the general rifle date gets closer, they may also sell out.
This there is a cap of 97,000 permits for the general deer hunt.
There are also permits available for the elk hunt. Hunters need to make sure they are buying the right elk tag. Options are spike or any bull. The any bull permits, however, does not allow hunters to take any bull in any region. Used in a spike-only unit, the any bull permit is good only for spike bulls.