Bill Bates, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Hunters will take to the hills Saturday for the biggest hunt of the season — the general rifle deer hunt. Utah wildlife managers expect this to be a good year, and the weather should be dry and sunny.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s most popular hunt — the general rifle deer hunt — starts Saturday.

The state Division of Wildlife Resources expects that 60,000 hunters, along with their family and friends, will be in Utah's forests and hills that day.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are predicting cooperative dry weather to make it more comfortable for hunters, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures along the Wasatch Front that will generally increase over the weekend to the low 60s.

Although the mule deer population has been on a steady decline for the past 40 years, wildlife section chief Bill Bates said the number of hunters has dropped as well — making the chances of getting a buck about the same as it was in 1983 when nearly 229,000 hunters were going after a buck.

"The percent of success is about the same — about a 30 percent success rate," Bates said, adding that the state's move to go to a 30-unit system will also help to spread people out a little better.

"We are looking forward to a good hunt this year," he said.

Weather conditions last year coupled with over-winter survival are indicators that young bucks will be in the offering, as well as the older bucks, Bates said.

Each hunter generates anywhere from $60 to $100 per day in the field, contributing money to local economies and helping the state agency continue its work in habitat conservation and improvement, he said.

"The impact to the general community is incredible" and supports the $100 million investment the state agency has made in habitat improvement over the past seven years, Bates said. Efforts aimed at predator control and disease monitoring have helped to stabilize the population.

"I really think we are starting to turn the corner," he said.

Beyond getting the buck, Bates said the chance to leave the concrete and get out in the wild has its own value.

"The real magic about the deer hunt is just the excitement, and for families in rural communities this is always a big thing," he said. "The real memories of coming together and having a good time."

Bates said he and his son went out during the muzzleloader hunt.

"We spent four days out hiking and tooling around in the woods," he said. "The biggest thing was just a chance to talk to each other, getting away from town. It is great for families. I am firm believer in that."

The hunt lasts until Oct. 27.

Email:, Twitter: amyjoi16