<strong>LOGAN—</strong> On Saturday the general-season buck deer hunt begins, and this year marks a big change for deer hunters in Utah. Not only are the number of tags given out the lowest it has been in many years, but the way that they are distributed has been drastically changed as well.
Traditionally tags have been distributed according to a five region breakdown, this year the tags are being distributed into 30 different units.
According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, these changes began back in 2010. The 2010 general-season buck deer hunt was difficult for many Utah hunters. Poor weather and a shorter hunt contributed to lower success, and the DWR and Wildlife Board were very concerned about the lack of deer observed by hunters. After collecting feedback from the public and the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), the Wildlife Board approved unit-based hunting in December 2010, and in June 2011 they decided on 30 unit boundaries.
“Really the biggest change we’re going to see is the amount of hunters out state wide.” Douglas said. “Back in the 70s and 80s the number of tags given out was around 210,000. This year we have around 50,000 tags, 25 percent of that number. People have said for a long time that they would like better quality and fewer hunters.”
“Although deer herd populations won’t see a big increase there will be an increase in buck-to-doe ratio,” Douglas said. “This means for hunters that the quality of deer will go up. We may not see these increases in the next year but in the future that quality will increase.”
The new zoning did have a lot of hunters worried about being able to hunt in groups. The DWR said that you may still apply as a group for general-season deer permits, but there is a maximum group size of four hunters.
“One of the factors of this year’s hunt is last year’s mild winter,” Douglas said. “This should contribute to good deer populations. We’ve been hearing reports that we are seeing good number of deer. There is also a lot of habitat work being done in the state, and there are good reports because of it.”
Since 2009 USU has been studying the wildlife culverts added in Sardine Canyon back in the mid 1990s using cameras on both the east and west entrances. Initial findings indicated that the culvert wasn’t as effective as it could be. With a few minor changes to the fencing, a recent study found that 284 deer used the culvert in January-June of this year.
Archery hunters have also been concerned with the new changes. Starting this year they have to apply for and hunt on a single unit. Although, if they obtain a general-season archery permit in 2012 and if they complete the archery ethics course, then they may also hunt the extended archery deer areas during the extended archery season.
The new zoning didn’t make a big change to land owner buck permits. As in the past it’s on a first come first serve basis. The only change it makes is if you have multiple properties and they are in different units. Then the owner must decide which unit he would like the permit for.
“From the DWR standpoint it has never been about increasing (deer) populations,” Douglas said. “It’s been about increasing the buck-to-doe ratio, thus increasing the quality of deer.”