The report to the Utah Wildlife Board was clear: To reach deer-management objectives, things are going to have to change.
The cap of 97,000 deer permits issued each year won't be enough."We'll have to further restrict the harvest of buck deer," Mike Welch, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, told the board.
These restrictions could come in the form of lowering the hunter cap even more, moving season dates, allowing primitive weapons-only hunting in some of the more depleted units, or looking at limited entry hunting on an as-needed, unit-by-unit basis, he said.
The management plan approved in 1996 calls for a minimum post-hunt buck-doe ratio of 15 bucks per 100 does, with 30 percent of those bucks being three-point or better.
Welch told the board that while some counts are close to the objective, too many are still lagging.
Under the plan, there would be a statewide wintering herd of 418,700 deer. A survey of wintering deer in 1997-98 reported a herd size of 285,650 deer, "which means we're more than 130,000 deer short of our objective," he said.
Among the reasons he listed for the low population are development, fire and a changing food supply.
The foothills along the Wasatch Front, for example, were overgrazed by pioneers, which opened the range to foods more suited to deer or browse. In recent years, fire, development and a resurgence of grasses has greatly reduced the available browse.
The elk population is in much better shape. The management plan calls for eight bulls per 100 cows, with half of the bulls being 21/2 years old or older.
Welch said the winter bull/cow ratios the past two winters has been excellent on all units.
The management objective calls for 65,449 elk. Counts this past winter set statewide numbers at 59,810 elk, or only 5,639 short of the objective.
The fact that elk are better able to survive cold winters and that they eat on the grasses that are coming back, has helped keep elk numbers high.
Welch recommended and the board approved a study of an overpopulation of elk on the Little Creek and Bitter Creek subunits in the Book Cliffs area.
"The division expects to conduct these studies in coordination, and with the cooperation of interested stakeholders, including ranchers and the Ute Indian tribe," he said.
New hunting strategies and the elk/deer management plans will be discussed at a series of Regional Advisory Council meetings this fall.
In other action, in order to protect newly introduced Colorado cutthroat trout, a portion of Crandall Creek in Emery County will be closed.
Under an emergency amendment signed by John Kimball, director of the DWR, the section between the culvert near Crandall Canyon Road, upstream to the head-waters, is officially closed.
"Closing this portion of Crandall Creek to fishing will allow the newly reintroduced population of Colorado cutthroat to establish themselves," said Tom Pettingill, sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR. "Fishing will not reopen until the fish are reproducing on their own, and we see good numbers of fish in the stream."