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Fog and snow limit hunting success

As expected, most of the deer checked are yearling bucks

Cold, wet and muddy. That, in a few words, sums up the opening morning of the 2007 general deer hunt.

As a result, opening-morning success was on the slow side in the northern reaches of the state. To the south, weather was not a problem. In fact, around the Panguitch area, the weather was bright and sunny.

The storm front appears to have started to the north of Millard and Sevier counties.

The best chance hunters had was to find their target somewhere between sunrise and roughly 9 a.m. Then the rain, snow and fog moved in and visibility faded into a white haze.

Then, as Arlo Wing, regional game biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources at the Pineview station, explained, "Hunters likely headed back to camp to wait out the storm and then see what happened.

"Visibility, though, was a problem. There were places where you could only see 75 to 100 yards."

Trevor Neal of Ogden, for example, took a yearling buck at around 9 a.m., "just before the snow." He said he saw between 50 and 60 deer, mostly does and fawns, "and a couple of bucks."

He was hunting in an area in the eastern part of the northern region and, along with seeing lots of deer, he said he saw "a lot of hunters. In fact, I think I saw more hunters than anything."

Mike Jensen, also from Ogden, hunted near Woodruff and shot a yearling buck at around 8:30 a.m.

He said he saw only three bucks and a "bunch" of does, and "not a lot of hunters where we were, but there were a lot of hunters on top of the Monte Cristo area. Getting around wasn't bad until I got the deer, then the roads and weather turned bad."

Ron Ferrin of Ogden was hunting on co-op land near the Causey Reservoir dam in an area called Sourdough. "I saw just this one buck, then it started to snow and I couldn't see a thing," he said.

Some of the largest deer taken were off private land west of Evanston.

Brock Richins and father Jeff of Kaysville were hunting near the Castle Rock area. Brock took a nice non-typical buck with a 28-inch spread early Saturday. The two reported that they saw about 40 deer, "with some bucks that were larger and some smaller."

Dave Hennessy and his nephew, Casey, were hunting in an area near East Canyon in the early hours when each filled their 2007 tags. Casey's buck was one of the largest checked on Saturday.

Steve Terry was hunting on private land near Devil's Hollow when he tagged a typical buck. He said he only saw five bucks and about a dozen does. His challenge was made more difficult in that his objective is to tag a buck larger than the one from last year, "and I did."

As expected, most of the deer checked were yearling bucks. A relatively mild winter and favorable spring resulted in good survival of the younger deer.

Scott McFarlane, big game biologist for the DWR, said there were several mature bucks checked before noon at the Mountain Green station on Saturday, "but most of the deer we checked were yearlings.

"Most of the hunters we checked were getting their deer early, in the first few hours of daylight, before the snow and fog moved in."

Because of poor visibility, one hunter in the northern region mistook a spike elk for a deer, shot it and then, seeing his mistake, turned himself and the elk over to game officers.

Dale Liechpy, big game biologist in the central region, reported a steady stream of cars and trucks headed down Spanish Fork Canyon by mid-afternoon, "when the weather was at its worst."

Only 14 deer had been checked and all were yearlings or small two-points, with one two-by-three.

There were a couple of large deer taken off the Blue or Abajo mountains west of Monticello. There were also some bucks taken in the Sanpitch area and off Mount Nebo.

Generally, though, there were no reports of exceptionally good hunting anywhere within the state by mid-afternoon on Saturday. That could change with a swing in the weather pattern on Sunday.

The hunt will run for nine days in the north, central and northeastern regions, and for five days in the southern and southeastern regions.