The hunt started Oct. 20 and continues through Oct. 28.
A little snow likely made a big difference during the opening weekend of Utah’s general rifle buck deer hunt. In some areas, snow and colder temperatures pushed deer out of the high country and towards their lower elevation wintering areas.
“The toughest hunting was in southern Utah,” said a statement from DWR. On Saturday, DWR biologists set a station up to check hunters coming off the LaSal and Abajo mountains in southeastern Utah. Guy Wallace, wildlife manager in the Southeastern Region, said the number of deer brought through the station from Saturday through Monday was down 50 percent from 2017.
“I think snow in the high country got the deer moving and scattered them a bit,” he said. “It might take a few days for hunters to find them.”
Wallace also said the number of fawns was down in 2017, and he expects hunters to take fewer 1½-year-old bucks this fall. “It’ll be interesting to see how the overall hunt turns out,” he said.
In south-central and southwestern Utah, Southern Region Wildlife Manager Teresa Griffin reported similar results: the number of deer brought through check stations in the region was down an average of 50 percent from what it’s been over the past few years. “Most of the deer look healthy,” she said, “but, because of the drought, their antlers weren’t quite as big as they’d normally be.” Also, she said “The deer migration seems to be spread out right now and that might have contributed to lower success rates over the weekend.”
Griffin said an abundance of acorns, and water from recent rain storms, is likely the reason deer are spread across so many different areas. “Snow that fell two weeks ago likely got the deer moving, but it warmed back up, and the deer might have paused a little to take advantage of the warmth,” she said. “In some areas, there was almost a little green-up after the storm that came through on Oct. 6 and 7.”
Additionally, an early rifle hunt was held Oct. 10 – 14 on several units in the region. The early hunt reduced the number of hunters in the field during the regular hunt.
“Fewer hunters afield might have also contributed to fewer deer coming through the check stations over the weekend,” she said.