DWR
Utah's deer and elk herds are doing well, which should be good news for hunters. Utah's archery hunt kicks off Saturday.

With the exception of parts of northern and northeastern Utah, the number of buck deer in Utah is about the same as it was last fall.

That means plenty of bucks should await hunters when Utah's 2008 general archery deer hunt kicks off Saturday.

The state's general archery elk hunt also begins Saturday.

"Heavy snowfall last winter took some fawns in parts of northern and northeastern Utah," said Anis Aoude, big-game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Even though herds in parts of northern and northeastern Utah lost some deer, most of Utah's deer herds are doing well.

"We manage the state's general-season units, so there's between 15 to 20 bucks per 100 does in the herds," Aoude said. "Almost all of the state's units are meeting that goal.

"After last fall's hunts, two of the state's public land units were above 20 bucks per 100 does, and three of the units were below 15 bucks per 100 does. All of the remaining public land units had 15 to 20 bucks per 100 does in their herds."

Aoude said if hunters have not scouted out their hunting area, he would advise they do so before the hunt.

"Those that are successful year in and year out do their homework," he said. "They get out and find the places where the bucks are.

"During the archery hunt, the deer are usually still in their summer patterns. Doing some pre-season scouting is the best thing you can do to increase your chance at harvesting an animal."

The following is a look at deer hunting prospects in each of the DWR's five regions:

Northern Region

Biologists report mule deer herds in the region probably have more adults than yearlings.

"The winter was hard on the fawns," said Randy Wood, assistant wildlife manager.

Most of the bucks taken each year are yearlings. Because of the number of yearling bucks that died this past winter, hunting in the region could be challenging.

"Moving from north to south in the region, our surveys suggest a general downward trend in fawn survival," said Phil Douglass, conservation outreach manager. "That probably reflects how severe the winter was last year."

Because of heavy precipitation in northern Utah this past winter and spring, summer range conditions are very good in high elevations.

"Food and water are very abundant this year," Douglass said. "Because of that, the deer will probably be widely scattered. Hunters will have to do a lot of scouting and stalking."

Douglass said good optics, including range finders, can be useful tools to help you locate the deer and determine their distance so you can make a clean and effective shot.

"Because the deer will be scattered, hunters need to hone their skills so they can make the most of the opportunities they get," he said.

"The lower elevation and transition habitats have been affected by the hot, dry summer. In these areas, you'll likely see deer concentrated in places that have food and water," said Justin Dolling, wildlife manager.

Wood encourages hunters to pay close attention to the large tracts of private land in the Northern Region.

Central Region

Initial observations by DWR biologists in the region indicate decent numbers of bucks.

The number of younger bucks that died this past winter won't be known for sure until data is collected from the rifle deer hunt check stations and through hunter surveys, but biologists anticipate a good hunt.

"Mountain vegetation is very green, lush and abundant this year along the eastern half of the region," said Scott Root, conservation outreach manager. "Despite the extra heat over the last while, there are many places in the mountains that look more like it's June than late July. If archers are patient and concentrate on well-used game trails or water sources, they should have an excellent chance at seeing deer."

If hunters don't take a deer in August or September, Root encourages them to hold onto their tag.

"The region has several extended archery hunt units that you can hunt through much of December," he said. "These units provide great archery hunting opportunities."

Archery elk tags are unlimited in number.

Northeastern Region

Heavy moisture this past winter and spring brought an end to dry conditions in northeastern Utah. But the moisture also reduced the number of deer on the South Slope of the Uinta Mountains near Vernal.

"About 10 to 15 percent of the fawns that were born in that area in spring 2007 died this past winter," said Ron Stewart, conservation outreach manager.

"Overall, though, deer herds in northeastern Utah are in good shape," Stewart said. "Depending on where you hunt, you can expect to see fair to good numbers of young bucks. And those young bucks will be mixed in with a good number of older bucks."

In addition to improving the habitat, the moisture in the region this year is providing deer with a lot of water sources. Deer are expected to be scattered during the archery hunt.

Barring a tough winter this year, Stewart said the moisture received during the past few months should increase the number of deer being seen.

"The moisture has really improved the deer habitat," Stewart said. "Our biologists saw good numbers of fawns this spring. Several of the does even had twins."

Southeastern Region

Deer were lost in some parts of southeastern Utah after the severe winter.

Most of the deer that died were fawns, so hunters will probably see fewer young bucks in the region this fall.

"The losses were most pronounced in the northern part of the region. We expect the harvest to be down a little this year from last year because there will be fewer yearling bucks," said Bill Bates, region supervisor. "Fawn survival was better on the LaSal and Abajo mountains. We expect deer harvest in those areas to be about the same as last year."

Overall, though, Bates said hunting should be good regionwide.

"Buck-to-doe ratios are at all-time highs," he said. "Hunter success has been excellent during the past few years, and it should not drop much this year. Even though some fawns were lost, the number of older bucks that made it through the winter was about average this year."

Bates said hunters who get out and scout should be able to find the deer.

"With the dry summer, it will be important to hunt near water," he said. "Get to know the area you plan to hunt. Identify springs, seeps and creeks. Familiarize yourself with game trails, bedding areas and escape routes."

Bates reminded hunters that the presence of hunters, the phase of the moon and a change in the weather are all factors that can cause the behavior of deer to change.

Southern Region

Archery hunters can expect a fair hunt.

"The deer are holding at high altitudes, and I expect they'll stay there into the fall," said Lynn Chamberlain, conservation outreach manager.

"Recent rains have encouraged growth in the forage plants, so the deer are in good condition," Chamberlain said. "Biologists are reporting good winter survival, which translates into a good crop of young bucks.

"We're also noticing a few mature bucks in most areas."

Chamberlain said hunters should be prepared to hunt hard.

"The deer have plenty of water," he said, "so they probably won't be concentrated at watering holes."