Deer population increase likely to yield more hunting permits
There are more deer in Utah than there have been since 2000 and state biologists are proposing more hunting permits as a result.
Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officials say surveys after the 2013 hunts estimate a population of 332,900 mule deer. The deer population hasn't been this high since 322,000 deer were estimated at the turn of the century.
DWR Big Game Coordinator Justin Shannon said mild winters have helped deer herds in recent years, but better habitat and other efforts like highway fencing, wildlife underpasses and predator control have also played a role in the rebound.
Biologists set a population goal of 350,000 in the Utah Deer Management Plan and are now just 17,000 animals from achieving the tally.
"We are really excited," Shannon said in a news release. "But we still have work to do to reach our goal. We'll keep moving forward."
Another important factor in the population increase is the success of does raising fawns. Fawn-to-doe ratios after the 2012 and 2013 seasons were 65-per-100 and 62-per-100, respectively. Fawn survival studies are also showing an increase in the number of fawns surviving their first year.
The first two years of a study showed just more than 50 percent of fawns survived to become yearlings. The number has grown to almost 80 percent the last two years.
More than 25,000 of the 84,600 general season deer hunters in 2013 returned home with meat for the freezer. Success hasn't been that high since 2007 when 97,000 hunters managed to kill 28,000 bucks.
Biologists will present their suggested permit numbers for the 2014 big game hunts at a series of Regional Advisory Council meetings being held around the state between April 8-16 before the Utah Wildlife Board will review the proposals on May 1 in Salt Lake City.
Among the proposals:
• An increase of 200 on general-season mule-deer permits.
• An increase in antlerless deer permits from 305 to 410. Antlerless deer permits are designed to address depredation on private lands.
The only exception is on the Panguitch Lake Unit, where biologists are recommending 150 antlerless permits to deal with habitat damage on rangeland.
• No public anterless moose permits, because moose populations across the state are either stable or slightly declining.
• Reducing buck pronghorn permits by 67 for a total of 774 in 2014.
• Increasing bison permits on the Book Cliffs from six to 10, but decreasing hunting opportunities for bison on the Henry Mountains from 98 to 74.
• No change in any bull or spike elk permits.
• A decrease of mountain-goat permits from 162 to 108.
DWR hunting presentations
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists will present their proposals for big-game-hunting permit numbers and explain amendments to regulations from the 2014 legislative session at a series of public meetings held across the state.
Public comments will be allowed at the Regional Advisory Council meetings and shared with the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets May 1 at the Department of Natural Resources building, 1594 W. North Temple, in Salt Lake City starting at 9 a.m.
Here's the schedule:
Tuesday • Southern Region, Beaver High School, 195 E. Center St., Beaver, 5 p.m.
Wednesday • Southeastern Region, John Wesley Powell Museum, 1765 E. Main St., Green River, 6:30 p.m.
April 10 • Northeastern Region, DWR Northeastern Region Office, 318 N. Vernal Ave., Vernal, 6:30 p.m.
April 15 • Central Region, Springville Public Library Meeting Room, 45 S. Main St., Springville, 6:30 p.m.
April 16 • Northern Region, Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West, Brigham City, 6 p.m.
Big-game-hunting permit levels for the 2013 season, and recommendations from state wildlife biologists for 2014:
Hunt 2013 2014
General buck deer 84,600 84,800
Premium limited entry deer 183 195
Management buck deer 52 49
Limited entry deer 827 811
Doe deer 305 410
General any bull elk 14,300 14,300
General spike bull elk 15,000 15,000
Limited entry bull elk 2,742 2,842
Cow elk 17,817 16,715
Buck pronghorn 841 774
Doe pronghorn 962 669
Bull moose 71 67
Cow moose 0 0
Bison 104 84
Desert bighorn sheep 37 40
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep 40 38
Mountain goat 162 108
Source: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources