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Utah’s Most Popular Hunt Starts Oct. 22

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Hot weather made it difficult for many hunters to find bucks during this fall’s general muzzleloader buck deer hunt. Utah’s muzzleloader deer hunt ended on Oct. 6. Next up is the state’s most popular hunt, the general rifle buck deer hunt.

The rifle hunt starts Oct. 22. Between now and then, Anis Aoude says colder temperatures would help hunters a bunch.

Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says colder weather forces deer to feed more. “That need to feed gets the deer moving and puts them in places where hunters can see them,” he says.

Deer have also grown their heavy winter coats. With their heavy winter coats on, deer are more comfortable moving in temperatures that are 40 degrees or less.

“I think a drop in temperature would really help the hunt,” Aoude says.

Deer numbers

When you go afield on Oct. 22, Aoude says the number of buck deer compared to the number of doe deer that will be waiting for you is good across most of Utah. He says this past winter was a good one for deer across most of the state.

“Even though the state received a lot of snow,” Aoude says, “temperatures across most of Utah were mild enough that the snow melted quick on the lower elevation areas where the deer spend the winter.

“Most of the fawns that were born in 2010 made it through the winter,” he says. “These deer will be available to hunters as yearling bucks this fall.”

Aoude says there are some exceptions, though — portions of the Cache unit in northern Utah, and units along the south slope of the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah, were hit with cold temperatures at the start of winter. The cold temperatures remained through most of the season.

“The snow in these areas crusted over and stayed that way through most of the winter,” Aoude says. “Quite a few fawns died.”

Another area of concern is southern Utah, where a severe drought several years ago has kept the overall number of deer down. “The number of fawns born in the southern part of the state has been fairly low over the past few years,” Aoude says. “Hopefully, the wet winter and spring this year will help the vegetation. If the vegetation improves, so will the overall number of deer.”

Bucks per 100 does

Every fall — after the archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts are over and while the deer are grouped together during their breeding period — DWR biologists conduct deer surveys.

During the surveys, the biologists compare the number of bucks they see to the number of does they see.

The chart below shows what the biologists found. The chart lists the number of bucks per 100 does:

RegionВ В В  В В В  2008В В В  2009В В В  2010В В В  Three-year average

NorthernВ В В  В В В В В В В В В В В В В В В  15В В В  18В В В  22В В В  18

CentralВ В В  В В В  17В В В  16В В В  18В В В  17

NortheasternВ В В  15В В В В В В В В В В В  15В В В  18В В В  16

SoutheasternВ В В  17В В В  15В В В  14В В В  16

SouthernВ В В  В В В В В В В В В В В В В В В  19В В В  18В В В  16В В В  18

Northeastern Region

Ron Stewart, Northeastern Region conservation outreach manager, provides the following report:

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 — the weather has not forced them to cluster around water.

The deer are in good physical condition, another positive result of the increased vegetation. But — because of winterkill — the number of deer is down along the South Slope of the Uinta Mountains, from Strawberry Reservoir to the Colorado border.

“The hunt on the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains will be comparable to last year,” says Charlie Greenwood, DWR regional wildlife manager. “On the south slope, expect fewer bucks, especially spikes, because of the winterkill. Also, check the guidebook carefully as some units, such as the South Slope-Vernal unit, have shorter seasons because their buck-to-doe ratios are below the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does.

“The rest of the region’s general season subunits have ratios ranging from 19 to 25 bucks per 100 does.”

Stewart says hunters who get out and scout before the hunt are the hunters who will find success.

“The deer are in great shape,” he says, “and we have a good ratio of bucks to does on most units in the region. However, the overall number of deer is down because of winterkill, and the deer that remain can be anywhere along the face because there’s so much water and good vegetation. A lack of water isn’t holding them to only a few spots.

“Hunters who know their unit — where the deer have been and where they’re most likely to go to escape other hunters — are the hunters who are most likely to find success.”

Southeastern Region

Justin Shannon, Southeastern Region wildlife manager, provides the following report for different parts of the Southeastern Region:

Northern part of region

Deer hunting in the northern part of the region should be slightlybetter than last year, due to increased fawn production in summer 2010 and higher fawn-to-doe ratios last fall. Southeastern Utah experienced a relatively mild winter in 2010 – 2011, which led to better-than-average fawn survival. Last year’s fawns will be yearlings when the rifle hunting season starts. Yearling bucks will probably make up the majority of the harvest in the northern part of the region.

Southern part of the region

Deer hunting on these units should be similar to that experienced by hunters last year. However, last year’s deer hunting success was down from previous years, partly because of the hard winter of 2009 – 2010. Fawn-to-doe ratios were below average last summer and fall on these units, which will result in fewer bucks for hunters during this year’s rifle hunt.

Across the region

Higher than average summer and fall rainfall seems to have resulted in deer being dispersed over a wider area. Hunters may have to cover more territory than they’ve had to cover in past years. Sources of water will be more widespread, which will be challenging for those who prefer to hunt near sources of water. As with all types of hunting, rifle hunters are encouraged to scout before the season begins to locate a shootable buck and to pattern his movements and behavior. Hunters are also encouraged to prepare for all weather conditions and to carry a survival kit.

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