Slight Reduction in Buck Deer Hunting Permits

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The number of general season buck deer permits has been decreased slightly for hunts in Utah this fall.

DWR Press Release

Utah Wildlife Board approves permits for 2017 big game hunts

Salt Lake City — Drought conditions, followed by a tough winter in parts of Utah, means 1,625 fewer hunters will be hunting buck deer during the state’s general hunt this fall. More hunters will be hunting desert bighorn sheep, bison and pronghorn, though.

After hearing presentations from Division of Wildlife Resources biologists, chairmen from Utah’s five Regional Advisory Councils and members of the public, the Utah Wildlife Board—a panel of seven citizens appointed by Gov. Gary R. Herbert—approved permits for this fall’s hunts. The following are the total number of permits the board approved:

Hunt                                                2016                            2017

General buck deer                            90,675                          89,050

Premium limited entry deer                184                              184

Management buck deer                      55                                61

Limited entry deer                              1,166                           1,191

Doe deer                                           755                              1,470

General any bull elk                           15,000                         15,000

Youth any bull elk                              500                              500

General spike bull elk                        15,000                         15,000

Limited entry bull elk                          2,752                           2,833

Cow elk, public draw                         13,680                         10,060

Cow elk, private lands only                12,010                         8,915

Buck pronghorn                                 771                              849

Doe pronghorn                                   630                              750

Bull moose                                        68                                68

Cow moose                                       20                                22

Bison                                                96                               148

Bison (archery only)                           0                                  10

Desert bighorn sheep                         42                                53

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep           35                                32

Mountain goat                                   102                              106

Mountain goat (archery only)               0                                  2

General buck deer permits

During the 2016 general buck deer hunt, 90,675 hunters took 31,800 buck deer. That’s the highest success rate in Utah since 1996, when nearly 104,000 hunters took almost 33,000 bucks.

Even though hunters harvested plenty of bucks last fall, that’s not the main reason the number of bucks per 100 does has declined slightly in some areas in the state. Justin Shannon, big game coordinator for the DWR, says a difficult winter two years ago, followed by drought conditions in 2016—and then a severe winter this past winter—have reduced the number of younger bucks in some areas.

“Before this winter started,” he says, “we found a statewide average of 59 fawns per 100 does. In some parts of Utah, the winter of 2016 – 2017 was pretty severe, and we know some fawns died. In northern Utah, there will probably be fewer 1½-year-old bucks on some of the units this fall.”

The hunting units that were hardest hit last winter are the units on which the number of permits was decreased.

On a positive note, after the hunts were over last fall, the statewide buck-to-doe ratio, on general season units in Utah, averaged 21 bucks per 100 does. That’s slightly higher than the 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does objective, and 18 to 20 bucks per 100 does objective, that the various general season units are managed for. “There should still be plenty of bucks to hunt in Utah this fall,” Shannon says.

Doe deer permits

While buck deer permit numbers went down a bit—from 90,675 in 2016 to 89,050 in 2017—the number of doe deer permits went up.

Minimizing depredation in agricultural fields is the main reason for the increase. If the board didn’t allow public hunters to take the does, private landowners would end up taking many of them.

All of the additional doe deer permits are for units in southern Utah.

“We recommended the increase to reduce the number of deer that are getting into farmers’ fields and eating their crops,” he says. “We want to give public hunters a chance to take the deer before the does get into the farmers’ fields.”

Permit increases

While the number of buck deer has decreased slightly in Utah, other big game populations are growing. Desert bighorn sheep, bison and pronghorn are three examples. Here’s a recap of the number of permits the Wildlife Board approved for the three species:

Hunt                                                     2016                            2017

Desert bighorn sheep                             42                                53

Bison                                                    96                               148

Bison (archery only)                               0                                 10

Buck pronghorn                                     771                              849

Doe pronghorn                                       630                              750

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