It will be several months before the Utah Division of Wildlife releases data on how successful the 60,000 deer hunters were on the first weekend of the rifle hunt in Utah. The hunt started on Saturday and will run through Oct. 29.
Wildlife biologist Tom Becker said that DWR hires an outside company to take surveys and call hunters to gather information about the hunt.
Becker, who worked inspecting harvested deer at four checkpoints in central Utah, said the hunters he talked to seemed pleased with their experience this year. He worked at checkpoints near Springville, Nephi, Santaquin and Spanish Fork.
“We didn’t have any checkpoints west of I-15 in the central area. So we didn’t check the deer from Tooele County,” Becker said. “The deer I checked east of I-15 in the central area were some of the fattest deer I’ve ever seen. That’s great because if we have a heavy winter they will be able to survive. Usually, though, the deer in Tooele County are not as fat because of the dry conditions out there.”
Hunters were happy, Becker said. “Of course I’m talking to people who shot deer, but most of them said they saw multiple deer and had talked to other successful hunters,” the biologist said. Hunters who shot deer were encouraged to stop at the checkpoints, but it was not mandatory.
“We did hear that there were a couple of big bucks taken in the Vernon limited entry unit,” Becker said. They were deer with at least a 27-inch spread on the antlers and several points.
“I think another positive thing about the first days of the hunt were the great weather conditions,” Becker said. “Hunters had good access to high elevations, and didn’t have to try to navigate muddy roads. Usually, with fabulous weather conditions like this and the amount of deer available we will see the success rate at 25 to 35 percent. It was bright and shiny out there and a lot of the leaves on the trees were gone.”
Biologists check the fat between the skin and brisket, age of the deer, how many points on the antlers, width of antlers and take tissue samples to check for chronic wasting disease. The tissue samples will be looked at in the lab to check for the disease, which was first discovered in the northern and northeastern areas of the state. Recently, the disease has been discovered in a few deer in central Utah.
Officials said most of the deer taken were about 1 1/2 years old. “We also had quite a few bigger deer 2 1/2 years old taken on the first three days of the hunt,” said Covy Jones, another biologist who worked with Becker at the checkpoints. Biologist determine the age of deer by looking at the teeth.