The first of the 1988 big game hunts, archery deer, will open at daybreak Saturday. It is expected that more than 26,000 archers will take bow in hand and roam the mountainsides this weekend.

It is also expected that this year's hunt will rate high with hunters, that hunters successful or not will consider it better than last year's. Utah's deer herds, game managers statewide report, are in high numbers and in good shape.The 17-day hunt for deer, hunting only with bow and arrow, begins Saturday and will close Sept. 5. The archery elk season will run from Sept 3 to 18.

Bowmen will be able to take one buck deer on their regular big game license with archery tag, and a second antlerless deer on a special control permit if they applied for and received one. There are still some permits available.

Last year, 25,386 archery tags were sold. During the hunt 2,181 bucks and 953 does were taken, for an overall success figure of 12.9 percent. Surprisingly, this figure is down slightly from the previous five hunts. Between 1981 and 1985, hunters posted around 15 percent success. Part of the reason for the drop in success was an increase in hunters afield.

This year hunters can look forward to having more deer available, but also to slightly more difficult hunting conditions.

As one game manager put it, "It's dry and because of it deer are a little stressed . . . they'll be a little more wary of hunters."

Dry conditions will also means that deer will have changed their usual summer routines. Instead of roaming freely, they'll be closer to water supplies now. And, because of the dryness, it will also be more difficult tracking and stalking deer over tinder-dry groundcover.

Still, overall success this year is expected to be up, even though hunting will be more difficult. Game mangers have said they seldom go anywhere in the mountain, now, that they don't see deer.

The dry conditions will also offer hunters a new hunting experience this year. The lack of water in some areas has turned whole herds into what some call "farm deer." That is, having found mountain forage dry, they've moved down to spend evenings feeding in farmer's fields.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources big game managers report some serious problems in Davis County and areas in the Central and Southern regions, where landowners report heavy crop damage.

Because some deer have moved closer to fields, hunting will be easier for some hunters.

According to Bruce Anderson, DWR information officer in the Northern Region, "There are deer in every canyon (in Davis County). We've had road kills all summer, many more than we would normally have. Hunters will find the nearby canyons good weekday hunting opportunities for an afternoon or evening."

Because it is so dry, hunters will find deer concentrated around water. In some cases that may be at higher elevations, but in some cases it may be along the lower benches of mountain near lakes and reservoirs.

In the Central Region, game manger Paul Tervort, also reported problems with "farm deer." He said there are more depredation problems this year, and they are occurring much earlier than in past years.

He, too, said conditions were dry, "in fact, I don't recall in all my years ever seeing them this dry."

In the Southeastern Region, reports are that hunting should be good, with good fawn production and a mild winter contributing to increased herd size in most areas. The report also said officers have noticed a good carryover of the older, larger bucks.

In the Northeastern Region, herd conditions are excellent and range conditions are being called fair, reports Dave Olsen, big game manager.

Because most of the depredation problems are on private land, hunters hunting in the lower elevations are being urged to contact landowners before going onto the property.

One long-time hunter suggested bowmen scout an area before the hunt and look for trails used by deer to reach water . . . then set up a blind, then spending this hunt sitting and waiting for what comes along.

Those who prefer to stalk deer will find walking difficult and noisy. One hunter likened these conditions to "walking on corn flakes."

Archery regulations require that bows have a minimum pull of 40 pounds, that tips on the arrows have at least two cutting edges, and that arrows not be chemically treated.

Archers can not be in or ride on a vehicle when arrows are not in a quiver. Also, archers can not discharge a bow from a vehicle. It is also against the law for archers to have a firearm in possession or in camp while hunting.

Deer hunters must have a big game license ($15) or combination ($35), plus an archery deer tag ($10) to hunt. Elk hunters must have a big game or combination and an archery elk tag.

As noted, there are still some control deer permits for the taking of antlerless deer on a first-come, first-served basis by mail. For information, call the DWR Hotline at 530-1297. A recorded message will tell hunters where permits are available and how to apply.