The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ central Regional Advisory Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve a new management plan for hunting mule deer.

DWR big game coordinator Covy Jones outlined the proposed new guidelines Tuesday evening for hunting mule deer, which were worked out over eight meetings between March and September. The current statewide management plan was approved in 2014 and expires in December.

Part of the plan includes giving biologists more tools and greater opportunity to make recommendations to meet mule deer target populations throughout the state. Biologists would consider herd health and range conditions when making these suggestions.

The plan also seeks to update unit plans to set reasonable population objectives based on the mule deer’s body condition, cause-specific mortality, range trend, historic population estimates and fawn production data.

Jones called for the expansion of antlerless hunts to improve population performances and provide additional opportunities for meat hunting.

Jones suggested continuing to manage general season hunting with a ratio of 15 to 17 bucks per 100 does on 11 units and 18 to 20 bucks per 100 does on 18 units.

Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurological disease that causes loss of bodily functions and abnormal behavior in mule deer, is addressed in the new management plan, which includes strategies for preventing the disease from spreading and detecting it as quickly as possible in newly contaminated areas.

“No deer is going to survive Chronic Wasting Disease,” Jones said Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of actively addressing the disease.

Season lengths were approved as follows: a 28-day archery season, 9-day muzzleloader season, 5-day early any-weapon season on selected units, 9-day any-weapon season on all units and a 9-day late muzzleloader season.

The guidelines were influenced by a survey of 2,055 randomly selected local hunters.

“This entire management plan was developed using extensive research and was designed to maintain healthy deer populations throughout Utah and to provide expanded opportunities for hunting and wildlife viewing across the state,” Jones said in a DWR press release.

The newly approved plan will go into effect in December and will be in place until December 2026.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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