SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah's general rifle buck deer hunt gets underway Saturday, the state's big game coordinator is touting a new website — wildlife.utah.gov/huntplanner — aimed at helping hunters.
According to Justin Shannon, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, the new website features notes from biologists who manage the different units in the state, safety and weather information, as well as data on the number of bucks and does in a particular unit.
Hunters will also find maps that show unit boundaries, which land is public and which is private, and the various types of deer habitat found on a given unit.
In a prepared statement, Shannon said the number of deer in Utah is the highest it's been since the 1980s. And the number of bucks, compared with does, is impressive too.
Based on surveys conducted by DWR biologists, Utah has a total population of more than 384,000 mule deer. In just four years, the state's mule deer population has grown by more than 100,000 deer.
The number of bucks in the herds is also rising. After the hunts were over in 2014, the average ratio of bucks to does — on general season units in Utah — was 21 bucks per 100 does. After the 2015 hunts, the ratio increased to 23 bucks per 100 does.
Shannon expects this fall's hunt to be similar to the 2015 hunt.
"I think the success rate and the number of bucks hunters see will be similar to last year," he said in the statement. "And last year was really good."
Shannon also offered some tips for a safe and enjoyable hunt:
• Be familiar with the area you're going to hunt. If possible, scout the area before the hunt.
• Put a survival kit together that includes a small first aid kit, three ways to make a fire (e.g. matches, a cigarette lighter, fire starters), quick-energy snack foods, a cord or rope, a compass or Global Positioning System, a flashlight, an extra knife and a small pad of paper and a pencil so if you become lost, you can leave information about yourself and the direction you're traveling.
• Never carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle.
• Treat every firearm like it's loaded.
• Be sure of your target and what's beyond it.
• Make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
• Carry a shovel, an ax, tire chains, jumper cables and a tow chain in your vehicle.
• Never hunt alone.
• Wear proper safety clothing.
• Prepare for weather changes by dressing in layers.
• Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
• Be aware of the signs of hypothermia — violent shivering, stumbling or becoming disoriented. If you notice these signs, sit down immediately and build a fire. Get warm and dry as fast as you can.
• Watch for signs of frostbite.