Deer Herds Doing Well in Utah

deer herds doing well
deer herds doing well
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR)
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR)

Utah  -( The number of buck deer in Utah has increased again this year.

If you’d like to hunt those bucks this fall, you need to submit your application no later than 11 p.m. on March 3.

Applications for permits to hunt deer and other big game animals in Utah will be accepted until March 3.
Judi Tutorow, wildlife licensing coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, encourages you not to wait until the last minute. “Even though the application period is fairly long,” she says, “don’t let the end of the period sneak up on you. I recommend applying as soon as you can.”

You can apply for a hunting permit online.

Before you apply, you need to download the latest version of either the Chrome or Firefox web browsers. Both browsers are compatible with the latest security standards the DWR is using.

“Based on surveys our biologists conducted in 2015,” she says, “most of Utah’s big game populations are doing really well. Don’t miss out.”

Deer herd update

Mule deer are among the big game animals Utahns enjoy hunting.

Every fall — after the deer hunts are over — DWR biologists conduct deer surveys. During the surveys, biologists count the number of bucks per 100 does, and the numbers of fawns per 100 does, that they see.

Surveys after last fall’s hunts found a statewide average of 23 bucks per 100 does. And that’s on general season units that consist almost entirely of public land.

“Utah’s deer herds have come a long way since 1993,” says Justin Shannon, big game coordinator for the DWR.

In the early 1990s, the statewide average was 8 bucks per 100 does. “More bucks in the population this fall means more bucks of all ages, including mature bucks, should be available to hunters,” Shannon says. “Every general season hunting unit in Utah is at or above the buck-to-doe ratio called for in the unit’s management plan.”

Biologists are still compiling data that will allow them to estimate the total number of deer in Utah. But Shannon says the final figure will likely be higher than the 355,600 deer estimated in Utah after the hunts were over in 2014. “We should have that figure by mid to late February,” he says.

In addition to the buck portion of the population doing well, the number of fawns and does is increasing too. Surveys after last fall’s hunts found a statewide average of 64 fawns per 100 does. That’s a high average and one of the major reasons deer populations are increasing in Utah.

The number of fawns that are surviving from year to year is also encouraging. In December 2014, biologists placed radio collars on 180 fawns across Utah. A year later, 77 percent of the fawns were still alive. Even though that figure is down slightly from the 82 percent that survived the year before, it’s still very high and enough to keep the herds growing.

As the deer herds have grown, hunter satisfaction with the hunts has grown too.

“This fall will be the fourth season in a row that more bucks will be available to hunters,” Shannon says. “The state’s herds have a lot of positive momentum right now. We’re in a rare window where giving more hunters a chance to hunt, and keeping lots of bucks in the herds, can happen at the same time. That’s because the number of deer in Utah is increasing.”

Why are deer doing so well?

Shannon says a combination of several factors has led to Utah’s deer herds doing well:

At the top of the list is weather. For several years, plenty of rain has fallen from spring through fall. And the winters have been mild. Getting the right amount of precipitation at the right time has allowed deer to enter the mild winters in good condition and make it through to the following spring.
So far, this winter has also treated deer well. Warmer breaks between snow storms have allowed deer to move through the snow and find food.

The DWR and its partners have completed almost 1,500 habitat restoration projects since Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative began in 2005. More than 1.2 million acres have been restored. These long-term projects are providing deer with better habitat.
Highway fencing that keeps deer off roads, and underpasses that allow deer to cross safely under roads, is reducing the percentage of the deer population that’s hit and killed by cars.
Predator control and other management actions are helping too.