The opening of the 1988 general deer hunt could not have been more predictable if a script had been written for all the players to follow. The hunt was, looking back the day after, just as everyone said it would be.
The weather was ideal, the hunting pressure heavy and the number of deer taken on the opener higher than at the same time last year . . . just as big game biologists and weathermen said.The hunt opened with an estimated 200,000-plus hunters leaving camps or vehicles before it was light enough to see much beyond a hand in front of the face. When dawn did break, some hunters reported they thought they were in a war zone. As one hunter said, "There was shooting all around."
While it's difficult to get a feel for the hunt after only one day, since many hunters are still camped in the hills, most of the hunters surveyed Saturday rated this year's opener better than last year's.
The hunt will continue through next week, eventually closing Nov. 1 at dusk.
In previewing the hunt, game biologists felt this was going to be one of the most successful hunts since buck-only hunting was initiated back in 1976. Because of back-to-back mild winters, a high fawn count in the spring, and higher than average counts of deer over the summer, Utah's deer numbers were put at a near-record high.
That, combined with unseasonably warm temperatures and an expected heavy turnout of hunters, was expected to contribute to a 20-year high in overall success. Nearly half of all hunters are expected to tag a deer over the 11-day season.
Weather forecasts indicate that the good weather is expected to continue into next week. The only thing that could keep figures under predicted levels, then, would be the hunters being way off target.
Saturday, some were and some weren't. Hunting pressure was down slightly in Parleys and East canyons. Hunters there had a difficult time, partly because of the large acreage burned over the summer.
Not all hunters, however, had problems. The Christensen family were at their trucks and headed home in time for breakfast with all four tags filled. For the third year in a row, the family _ father Derk and sons Shane, Kerk and Brad _ limited. The four started hunting in their favorite canyon at 7 a.m. and two hours later were back at the trucks with four bucks.
Last year they were down and out with bucks before 7:30 a.m. This year they said there was not enough hunters to move the deer, so they had to wait until the deer moved into the canyon on their own.
Pressure was heavier in some areas of Ogden Canyon and around Henefer.
A steady flow of cars and trucks was coming out of Daniels Canyon around mid-day. Successful hunters were either ending the hunt for the year or hauling deerto the freezer to stop possible spoilage in the hot temperatures, and were planning to return to finish camping for the weekend.
Gary Tobian of Alpine got his deer within the first hour and then headed home. Hunting in the Currant Creek area, he said there were so many hunters, "I decided to take the first thing that came along and get the heck out of there."
Eugene Bohn of Provo, hunting on private lands, didn't have the crowd problem, but when a large four-point came around, he filled his tag early.
Around the north end of Manti, pressure and success were down, reported Utah Division of Wildlife Resources big game biologist Paul Tervort. He said the herdin that area has not rebounded after the bad winter of 1983-84 like those in therest of the state.
Ron Stewart, information officer in the Northeastern Region, said success was very high in the Diamond Mountain and Taylor areas. Officers reported success at nearly 40 percent. As in most other areas, the majority of the deer shot were small two-point.
Success was also reported good by hunters coming out of the Strawberry/Indian Creek area. DWR officer Charles Thompson said most hunters are reporting good numbers of deer and said they were getting shots.
Bruce Giunta, running the DWR checking station at Thistle, in an early report, showed 13 percent success _ 106 hunters checked with 13 deer. Success is expected to go up as more hunters check out of the hills.
Daryl Devey of Alpine said he saw seven bucks in the early hours before he settled on a large four-point.
Wayne Keith of Lindon , also saw several bucks before settling on one. He also reported hearing a lot of shooting in the early hours and seeing a of hunter in the Indinaola area.
To the east, hunting pressure was heavy in the LaSal Mountain and success was fair; pressure was light and hunting poor in the South Book Cliffs; pressure was light and success poor in the Argile area; hunter numbers were up in Trail and East mountains and success was good, with most of the deer being yearlings; and hunter counts were average and success fair in the White Mountains.