It was cold, wet and muddy Saturday, but aside from that it was a typical Utah deer hunt opener.
Shooting started about the time there was enough light to distinguish trees from mountains, and with the intensity of a small war in many areas. By daylight, trucks were starting to move about, and all too frequently were getting stuck. And by 10 a.m., checking stations around the state were starting to see hunters.By noon there were deer in camps, larger deer very visible and smaller ones more out of the way. By dusk major roads were clogged with campers and trucks with trailers and Jeeps coated from tires to tops with mud.
By early today, it all started over again . . . the shooting, the muddy roads, the deer hanging in camp and the congested roads. Pretty much a typical deer hunt.
How successful a hunt it will be is still in question. Most of those checked on Saturday were the successful ones who were willing to call it quits with a filled tag.
Consensus among game biologists was that hunting was, if anything, a little slower than expected. Traffic just wasn't as heavy at checking stations as usual. Also, a few more hunters seemed to be heading home earlier this year.
One reason, of course, was the weather. It was cold and wet, and even in the afternoon it didn't warm up that much. Off-pavement roads were big problems, too. They were icy and hard in the morning, but quickly turned to slippery and muddy by mid-morning.
The deer that were taken Saturday appeared to be larger than is typical on the first day. Several field officers, too, commented on the generally good condition of the deer.
Dr. David Smoot of Salt Lake City, took a nice three-point early Saturday above Woodland. He said it was one of three bucks he'd seen early Saturday. The biggest one, he said, "got away."
Alan Payne of Ogden, hunting in the Monte Cristo area, saw two small bucks and got one. He said roads in the area were very icy in the morning, then got very muddy and slippery.
Raymond Ferrin of Clearfield, was hunting on the ridges near the Snowbasin Ski area. He said he saw a lot of deer, especially does, early. He shot a small two-point. He also noted that in coming out he saw seven other parties with deer.
Lex Ewing of Ogden, hunting on private lands, saw 18 deer . . . "all nice, fat deer. Bucks." He shot a nice three point.
Some of the biggest deer seen on opening day came from East Canyon, 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City.
Walter Reed of Salt Lake City, shot a nice four-point shortly after opening. Hunting near Big Mountain, he said he saw, "four bucks, about a dozen does and a bunch of elk."
Randy Reed of Dugway, another member in the party, shot a two-point east of the summit.
Gene Christiansen of South Jordan, saw only one deer Saturday, but it was one of the biggest deer checked. The large four-point also came from the summit of East Canyon. He said most of the shooting seemed to be at lower elevations.
In the northern region, fewer hunters were checked this year. Feeling was that success was down and that the cause was the drought. Pressure was also down in the Raft River and Blacksmith Fork areas.
There were fewer hunters, too, in the Nebo, Hobble Creek and Manti areas. Officers there felt the main reason was the weather. Snow was reported down to the 7,500-foot elevation. Pressure was up in the Strawberry area, but overall success appeared to be down slightly. Roads were reported to be very muddy.
Game officers felt that pressure was going to up sharply in two eastern units - the Book Cliffs and Daggett. The two units were three-point-or-better last year, but this year were turned back to open units. Many hunters went there this year expected higher deer numbers.
Reports were that pressure was high, that overall success as about average and that most of the deer taken were the smaller yearlings.
The weather forecast is for continued warming and clearing through the week. By midweek, hunters should find high-country roads dry and passable and temperatures generally warmer. It is likely, too, that they will find the deer at lower elevations.
Before the hunt, game officers said the deer were scattered. Snow at higher elevations on Thursday and Friday started many of the deer moving to lower-elevation winter range.
The hunt will run through Oct. 30. Success this year is expected to be around 33 percent.