Coming up Saturday, many of the major deer and elk archery hunts in Utah begin. DWR forecasters predictions are flying fast and furious around Utah’s various media entities. Anis Aoude, Big Game Coordinator for the DWR, predicts that most of the deer are going to be up high. “This year especially, it was a late spring. Things are still green everywhere and if it’s warm animals are going to want to be in the cooler elevations up at higher elevations. You know there are those few deer that stay low year round and some of those guys that are good at looking through a lot of country to find a few deer can still find those bucks that stay low,” Aoude said. “But if you are looking for a lot of deer, you’d probably want to be in the high country.”
Typically, deer in velvet want to be where it’s cooler and are often found bedded down in dense pockets of shade during the day, only venturing out during daylight in the early morning or evening hours. Using your optics and spotting them, then stalking them in their beds is often the best method for success.
This year, deer hunters will be allowed to hunt statewide, instead of having to choose a region as they have in past years. That being said, the southern and southeastern regions generally have the most deer. Says Aoude, “A lot of times, the northern, central and northeastern come in about the same. But really the top two regions in the state are the southern and the southeastern,” he said. “We had a little bit more severe winter in the southern region this year so there may have been some fawn mortality, higher than usual but it shouldn’t effect the hunt too much. There is a high buck to doe ratio in that region. So it really shouldn’t be that much different than last year. There may be fewer yearly bucks around, but there is certainly enough mature bucks to make up for that.”
The DWR is predicting more young bucks in the northern region because of the light winter. The total number of deer in Utah is holding steady at about 300,000, with a statewide average of 16 bucks per 100 does. Utah’s Southern Region comes in highest with a 20 to 100 ratio of bucks to does. Neighboring Colorado, by comparison, has an average of 25-30 bucks per 100 does, so Utah wildlife officials still have some work to do. Aoude says the Division and other agencies and organizations have put millions of dollars towards improving habitat for mule deer and other wildlife.
Winter ranges have received most of the work thus far, but summer ranges are beginning to see some help arrive.
“Habitat improvement work doesn’t pay off overnight,” Aoude says. “It takes years for plants to grow and establish themselves. But when they do, and the state’s habitat has the ability to support more deer, the number of deer in Utah should grow.”
We hope so. As for now, there are deer out there to be had for the hunter who takes the time to learn how to hunt, and where to hunt.