If You Find Water, You Could Find the Deer


It's almost time to get into Utah's backcountry and hunt buck deer. The general archery hunt starts Aug. 18.

DWR Press Release

General archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 18

If you have a permit to hunt during the general archery buck deer hunt, finding water should be your primary goal.

In addition to serving as the Division of Wildlife Resources’ big game coordinator, Covy Jones is an avid archery hunter. He says a lack of water this year makes finding a water source more important than ever.

Jones says deer get water from three sources: ‘free water’ from ponds, puddles, streams and lakes; ‘preformed water’ from plant material; and ‘metabolic water’ that oxidizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins release inside the animal during digestion.

“Deer get a lot of the water they need from the plants they eat,” he says. “The forage is extremely dry this summer, though, and it isn’t holding much water. Deer are having to rely a lot more on free water from ponds, seeps and other water sources.”

Jones says hunting from tree stands isn’t popular in the West, but this season might be the perfect time to give it a try. “If you can find a water source, and then wait in a tree stand near that source, the chance you take a deer will go way up this year,” he says.

(Please remember that you cannot build a tree stand on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Hunting from a portable tree stand is fine, though.)

Jones says deer numbers have dipped a bit in Utah this year, but — at 363,000 bucks, does and fawns estimated in the state in January 2018 — plenty of bucks are still available to hunt.

Utah’s general archery buck deer hunt starts Aug. 18. If you’re among those heading afield, Jones has the following tips, advice and reminders:

Tip 1–Keep the meat cool

After you take a deer, don’t hang it in a tree to try to cool the meat. The hot temperatures will spoil it. And, hanging a deer in a tree might draw bears into your campsite.

Instead, after taking your deer, cut the animal up in the field, and remove the meat from the bone. After removing the meat, place it in a cooler. “Dry ice can be used to cool the meat quickly and keep it cool for a prolonged period,” Jones says. “Keep the meat as cool as possible.”

Tip 2–Be careful with fire

Several massive wildfires have burned in Utah this year, and conditions are prime for more.

Before you head afield, contact the USFS or the BLM to learn if campfires are allowed in the area you’ll hunt. If they are allowed, keep your fire small, and make sure it’s completely extinguished before you leave it. Pour water on the fire, stir, more water, stir, until it’s cold to the touch. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!

Tip 3–Be patient

Finding success during the archery hunt requires stealth and patience. For example, if you’re going to spot and stalk, don’t walk through the woods, hoping to find a deer without spooking it. Instead, spend time glassing the area to find deer and the areas where they’re bedding. Then, after they’ve bedded, plan your stalk, remaining quite and doing all you can to approach the deer at an angle that keeps your scent from reaching the deer.

Tip 4–Walk 90 degrees into the wind

As the sun heats the ground, the wind direction changes. For example, wind almost always blows up canyons in the morning and down canyons in the afternoon. To know the direction the wind is blowing, buy an inexpensive item called a wind or breeze checker. Releasing powder from the checker will let you know the direction the wind is blowing.

Once you’ve determined the direction the wind is blowing, approach the deer from the side (a 90-degree angle) rather than approaching it with the wind in your face (180-degree angle).

If you approach with the wind in your face — and then the wind shifts and starts blowing from your back — it’ll blow your scent directly to the deer. Approaching from the side lessens the chance that a wind shift carries your scent to the deer.

Tip 5–Be courteous, and have fun

If you’re going to hunt on public land, you’ll be hunting with other hunters. “Be courteous,” Jones says, “and help each other have a good experience. The archery hunt is a great time to be in Utah’s mountains. Enjoy your time afield.”

Tip 6–Visit the Utah Hunt Planner

Before you go afield, visit wildlife.utah.gov/huntplanner. That’s the url for the agency’s Utah Hunt Planner website. As you navigate the site, you’ll find notes from the biologist who manages the unit you’re going to hunt, general information about the unit, and safety and weather items. Information about the number of bucks on the units, compared to the number of does, is also given. You’ll also find maps that show the units’ boundaries, which land is public and which is private, and the various types of deer habitat on the unit.

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