While rifle deer hunters have until Sunday to fill their tags, early reports from the Division of Wildlife Resources indicate that the estimated 60,000 hunters in the hills for the start of the season last Saturday experienced slower hunting than a year ago.

While 2016 ranked among the best hunts in decades, biologists say this past winter’s harshness in the northern parts of Utah coupled with beautiful weather over the weekend made for slower hunting in the northern, north-central and northeastern parts of Utah.

According to northern region wildlife manager Randy Wood, biologists staffed four check stations over the opening weekend and saw 144 deer come through. That compared to 282 a year ago at the same stations.

“This past winter was a tough one on the Box Elder, Cache, Ogden and Kamas units,” Wood says. “All of these units received lots of snow and experienced long periods of extremely cold temperatures. On the Cache unit, more than 90% of the fawns died.”

In northeastern Utah, checking stations in 2016 saw 100 deer come through. That was down to 70 on opening day this year.

Hunting was better in parts of southern Utah. Reports showed mixed results but some of the checking stations saw similar results to a year ago.

“Overall, the hunt was slower than last year, with fewer yearlings in the mix,” said Teresa Griffin, DWR wildlife manager in south-central and southwestern Utah. “Hunters were taking lots of 2- to 3-year-old deer, though.”