The current statewide mule deer management plan is a five-year plan that was approved in 2014. Because it is due to expire in December, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing a new seven-year statewide plan, along with some other amendments to the hunt drawing process, and is requesting the public’s feedback on all the proposals, according to spokesperson Faith Jolley.
If approved, the new statewide mule deer management plan will guide the management of mule deer in Utah from December 2019 to December 2026. Some of the main changes to the plan include: Allowing biologists to make recommendations each year to achieve the target objectives of deer population throughout the state. This will allow for more fluctuation of buck deer permits from year to year.
Updating the specific unit is designed to set realistic and attainable population objectives for each unit across Utah. Biologists will consider herd health and range conditions when setting these objectives.
It will evaluate areas for new extended archery hunt units to offer additional hunting opportunities throughout the state.
The plan will continue to manage general season hunting with a ratio of 15-17 bucks per 100 does on 11 units and 18-20 bucks per 100 does on 18 units. The plan also recommends keeping the management of limited-entry units the same with a ratio of 25-35 bucks per 100 does on seven of the units.
This new management plan also includes a portion about slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease in Utah. Chronic wasting disease is a highly contagious, neurodegenerative disease found in deer, elk and moose, which is caused by protein particles. Infected animals develop brain lesions, become emaciated, appear listless and have droopy ears, may salivate excessively and will eventually die.
Research has shown that male deer are more likely to be infected with chronic wasting disease than females, with male bucks between 4-6 years old as the most likely to be infected. As such, the management plan looks at some possible strategies such as targeting prime age bucks and holding hunts later to help target these male deer and slow the spread of CWD, officials say.
“Mule deer are the most popular species to hunt in Utah. 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,” DWR big game coordinator Covy Jones said. “We truly value wildlife and want Utahns to have input on how they are managed, as well.”
To view the entire plan, visit the DWR website.
One proposal the DWR would like public feedback on is amendments to the hunt drawing process. The demand for hunting in Utah continues to grow, and hunters have voiced concerns about fairness and lost opportunities in the hunt drawing process. As a result, DWR is proposing several changes to allow for fewer forfeited permits and more opportunities.
Here are some of those changes: If a hunter surrenders their permit(s) at least 30 days before the season opens, their previously acquired bonus/preference points will be reinstated and the waiting period will be waived, if applicable. However, if they surrender the permit(s) less than 30 days before the season opens, they will lose their bonus/preference points. This change is recommended because of the difficulty of reallocating those permits when there is less than 30 days notice, resulting in a lost hunting opportunity for others.
Hunters who do accept a reallocated permit for the same species they had a permit for will receive a full refund for their general season permit and will have all preference points reinstated, including one for the current year.
The waiting period for a limited entry buck deer hunt will increase from two years to five years.
Hunters will forfeit their preference points for almost any over-the-counter permit purchase, with a few exceptions. Because of recent changes to management buck deer hunts, there will no longer be permit quotas allocated to youth and to individuals who are 65 and older.
“We believe these small changes to the hunt drawing process will give all hunters more equal opportunity to make memories hunting some of Utah’s most valued wildlife,” DWR wildlife licensing coordinator Lindy Varney said.
The public is being asked to give feedback on each of the proposals. The public can now view the presentations and give feedback online, as well as via the traditional methods of emailing the Regional Advisory Council member in their area and attending the RAC meetings in person, said Jolley.