SALT LAKE CITY — Several Utah elk and deer archery hunts have begun and hunters are out in Utah’s back country. Here’s what hunters should encounter for the hunts and some tips to help them be successful.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) biologists estimate that there are just over 370,000 mule deer in Utah, which is about 100,000 additional deer than were in the state in 2011.
“Over the last three years, we’ve had the highest deer numbers in Utah in 25 years,” DWR big game coordinator Covy Jones said. “We have more bucks on the statewide landscape currently than we’ve ever had. A lot of that is due to good habitat work and climate.”
There are an estimated 80,000 elk currently in Utah. The DWR management plan involves managing for just over 79,000 elk so “we are at our objective for elk statewide,” Jones said.
“The total population number has stayed the same for the last couple years, and we are maintaining that number,” Jones said. “There are a lot of elk out there.”
“Hunters who are targeting bull elk and buck mule deer should expect some of the best antler growth they have ever seen,” Jones said. “It’s been a great year for deer and elk. With the wet spring, habitat has flourished, providing the necessary nutrition for antler growth. Hunters are set up to have a very memorable year.”
What can hunters do to be successful?
Hunters hoping to harvest a deer or elk this fall, make sure they are hunting in areas away from the road.
“Elk avoid roads, so especially when you are hunting elk, get off the road,” Covy said. “Get out and do some hiking and scout to see where these animals are.”
When it comes to deer, bucks and does are not together right now. So if there are a lot of does in an area, it’s a sign that a hunter should probably move to a different spot.
Does have to care for their fawns, so they typically prefer areas where there is a lot of water and the terrain is more gentle, like in rolling aspen groves.
“Bucks will gather in herds of little ‘bachelor groups’ and they like more rugged mountain terrain,” Jones said. “So if you are looking for a bigger buck, look for terrain that is harder to access.”
Another tip for hunters is to know the direction of the wind. That way, adjustments can be made and a hunter’s scent can be prevented from reaching the animals before getting within range.
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, hunters can buy an inexpensive item called a wind or breeze checker. Releasing powder from the checker will let the user know the direction the wind is blowing.
Once the direction the wind is blowing has been determined, approach the deer from the side (a 90-degree angle) rather than approaching it with the wind in your face (at a 180-degree angle).
If a hunter approaches with the wind in their face and then the wind shifts and starts blowing from their back, it’ll blow the hunter’s scent directly to the deer. Approaching from the side lessens the chance that a wind shift will carry a hunter’s scent to the deer.
Hunters should also be prepared for any weather and should always have a first aid kit and plenty of water with them. The weather in Utah’s mountains can change very quickly and go from sunny to snowing in a matter of minutes, so hunters need to be prepared with adequate clothing and supplies.
It is also a good idea to visit the Utah Hunt Planner before heading out into the field. It is a great resource that includes notes from biologists who manage the various hunting units across the state, as well as 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 provided. Users will also find maps that show the units’ boundaries, which land is public and private, and the various types of deer habitat on the unit.
Utah Hunt Planner can be accessed online at https://dwrapps.utah.gov/huntboundary/hbstart.
“Hunting should be fun, and you should enjoy it,” Jones said. “It’s a great time to see Utah’s amazing wildlife. If you aren’t having fun and making memories, you are doing something wrong. Get outdoors this fall and enjoy the great state we live in.”