Utah's deer population continues to struggle, the victim of a changing food resource and harsh winters.

In some cases, overall numbers are half of what wildlife managers would like to see.

"Currently, we're between 70 and 75 percent of our objective statewide. Some units are at or above objectives, but generally we're below. The units that are in the best shape are mostly in the Southern Region," said Anis Aoude, big-game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Herds are, generally, in better shape in the northern and central areas this year than they were last year.

The reason is the winter of 2007-08 was harsh, and a lot of fawns born during the previous summer died.

This past winter was mild and the early part of summer moist, so survival was good, and the overall health of the deer is better than last year.

"The rain provided a lot of good, nutritious vegetation for the does. And that helped the does provide plenty of milk for the fawns they gave birth to earlier this summer," said Aoude.

The nutritious vegetation also helped bucks grow bigger antlers, so hunters can expect to see a few more big bucks.

"When deer have vegetation to eat like the vegetation they have now, even 2- to 3-year-old bucks can grow some nice antlers," he added.

Another problem deer face is the changing complexion of the range. Where once it was rich in forbs and shrubs, these lands are now growing grasses. Elk eat grasses, but deer don't.

Reports from the Northern Region noted that while being a long way from management objectives, hunters can expect to see more deer this season than last.

Looking at some of the individual units, Randy Wood, regional wildlife manager, said the number of deer in the Box Elder units, for example, has increased.

Biologists estimate numbers are around 14,300, which is 72 percent of objective.

In the Cache and Ogden units, fawn production was up, so there should be more yearling bucks available this year.

The buck-doe ratio on the Cache unit, by comparison, was 10 bucks per 100 does after last fall's hunt. The objective is 15 per 100 does.

He said because of the mild winter, deer numbers have increased in the Morgan/South Rich and East Canyon units.

Again, because of the harsh winter of 2007-08, overall numbers are down in the Central Region.

The three-year average, however, is at the management objective of 15 per 100 does.

There is a lower buck-doe ratio on the Nebo and Oquirrh-Stansbury units.

The loss of fawns has also reduced the number of deer in the Northeastern Region. The buck-doe ratio is 14.5-to-100.

Because of milder weather conditions in southern units, herds there are in better overall shape.

And while overall numbers are below management object, the buck-doe ratios are up.

For example, the ratios on the Central Mountains-Manti and LaSal Mountain units are 17 per 100 does, and the Abajo Mountain unit is 20 per 100 does.

Brent Stettler, regional conservation outreach manager, pointed that numbers are down, and that while the overall objective is close to 40,000 deer, actual numbers are around 20,000.

"The LaSal Mountains unit, with an estimated herd size of 7,400 deer, stands at only 57 percent of its herd-size objective of 13,000 animals," Stettler said. "However, the Abajo unit has rebounded to 85 percent of its herd objective with a current population of about 12,800 deer."

In the Southern Region, ratios on the Panguitch Lake unit are 19 bucks per 100 does.

And, said Dustin Schaible, wildlife biologist, the number of deer on the Mount Dutton unit continues to increase. After last fall's hunt, the ratio was 22 bucks per 100 does.

The Southwest Desert unit has a ratio of 27 per 100 does, and the Zion unit was 25 per 100.

Because these units do have a higher number of bucks, they also tend to draw more hunting pressure.

Consensus is fall hunters can expect to see a few more deer than last year and that because of the wet spring and good nutritional values, they can expect to see a few more larger bucks.

The general any-weapon deer hunt will run from Oct. 17-25.

South Slope (Vernal), LaSal Mountains, Central Mountains (Nebo), Oquirrh-Stansbury and Monroe hunting units are only open from Oct. 21-25.

The 97,000 tags for the general deer hunting seasons were sold by June 13.