Hunting was, as predicted, good on the opening weekend of the Utah Deer hunt. It will be good and on the second and last weekend . . . that is if hunters are willing put in the effort.
Hunting is traditionally tougher on the second weekend. Less hunting pressure is one reason, fewer deer is another. The biggest share of the total harvest - this year expected to be around 50,000 deer - happens on the first two days of the hunt.Hereafter, hunting gets tougher.
According to figures from checking stations set up over the weekend, overall success was up over last year.
At the southern tip of the state, at the Bloomington station, 1,832 hunters were checked with 615 deer among them for 33 percent success. Last year 1,336 hunters were checked with 460 deer for 34.4 percent success. Game managers aren't sure why hunting pressure jumped. One reason could have been that predictions of good hunting attracted more out-of-state-hunters.
At the Snowville station, 1,577 hunters were checked with 353 deer. Hunting pressure dropped from 2,253 last year mainly because of nearly 100,000 acres of once-huntable land there was closed. A lot of hunters checked into the area, but found gates closed and moved.
At Blacksmith Fork, 2,121 hunters were checked with 181 deer. Overall success for the weekend was only nine percent, but this is up from five percent last year on the first weekend. Most of the deer checked were yearlings.
At the Ogden Canyon station near Pineview Reservoir, 4,191 hunters were checked with 500 deer.
At a new station near Kamas, 1,727 hunters were checked with 217 deer.
According to Bruce Anderson, information specialist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, success was up at Blacksmith Fork, Ogden Canyon and Snowville.
At a checking station on the North Book Cliffs, 539 hunters were checked and 62 had deer.
Hunting on the North Manti and North Book Cliffs areas was rated from slow to very slow. The reason is poor fawn production due to the lingering drought. One good indicator of this was the fact that the number of yearlings and mature bucks checked was about even. Normally, about 80 percent of the harvest is yearling bucks.
At the Thistle checking station, Bruce Giunta said he checked more deer this year and felt the average deer was larger this year.
Hunting in the LaSal Mountains east of Moab was good. Most of the deer taken here were the smaller yearlings. Success on the Blue Mountains was down. Last year it was at the top of the success charts with 44 percent success. Because of the drought it was much lower this year.
In the Southern Region, the best hunting was in three areas - Kolob Mountains, Sevier Valley and New Castle. Most of the deer were yearlings, but overall success was higher than last year.
Pressure was higher than expected on the Beaver Mountains.
According to Lynn Chamberlain, information officer, hunting in many areas in the southern areas was slower because hunters and deer were separated.
"The snow (on Friday) drove the deer out of the higher elevations. The problem was, the hunters stayed high," he said.
This weekend, he felt, the deer are going to be lower, in the heavier brush, and will be even more difficult to locate.
"Hunters are going to have to get out of their vehicles and hunt. But there are still a lot of deer around," he added.
Anderson noted that a combination of snow and being pushed by hunters will move the deer to heavy cover.
He suggested hunting around the fringes, or working with groups to drive brushy areas.
Opening weekend was better than expected, but not as good as some hunters would have liked. Wet roads kept many hunters from getting back into more familiar areas, and cold temperatures and snow kept others closer to camp.
Jay Moser Jr., of Bennion, was hunting in the Joe's Valley area on opening weekend. He said it was cold and wet and that travel was very difficult, but that he saw a lot of deer. In one herd he counted 40 head of deer.
Dave Yost of West Jordan, hunting along the Skyline Drive, saw only one buck, but it was one of the larger deer checked - a four-point with 24-inch spread.
Fred Addis of Provo, hunting on the south side of Spanish Fork Canyon near Dairy Fork, did not see a deer on opening day.
They were, he believed, near water . . . "And there wasn't much in Dairy Fork."
Two of the larger bucks checked on opening day came out of East Canyon near Big Mountain. Walter Reed of Salt Lake, and Gene Christiansen of West Jordan, each tagged large four-points.
The hunt will continue through Tuesday. Weather conditions are expected to remain warm and dry, which will dry up the road and open more areas. As the game officers pointed out, however, the deer will be harder to locate.