Utah Wildlife Board Discusses Mule Deer Decline

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Unfortunately Utah's mule deer population has been in decline for decades and like most western states, the reasons are complex. However last December the Wildlife Board decided to dramatically cut 2012 hunting permits by more than 13,000. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the board is also looking at other ways to boost the mule deer population.

Biologists told the board there could be a number of reasons for the decline, including winter conditions, predation and an estimated 3,000 mule deer a year being killed on state highways. One board member said poaching also should be looked at, though it hasn’t been a problem in recent years.


arrowflipper's picture

No surprise

Why does this not surprise me?  I lived in Utah for 10 years and I saw how ridiculous they can be.  Oh, the hunting was great and there were lots of mule deer, but they do some mighty stupid things down there.

Like legislating that the Great Salt Lake can not rise above a certain level.  I wonder if that worked.

When I moved there, you could hunt in all of the deer seasons, using a different weapon each time.  If you drew a doe permit, you could shoot both a doe and buck.  Then things began to change.  And along with some of these changes, the numbers of deer we saw declined.  When I started hunting one particular area, it was not uncommon to see fifty to one hundred bucks on opening day.  My last couple of years there, we would see more like twenty on opening day.  I know what you're saying.... "Wow, I'd like to see twenty bucks in one day".  But to go from 70 down to 20, something was wrong.

So now that they're going to implement something that has NO value to the herd, they're just proving that they haven't changed in their mentality.  Why would they want to trust scientific studies when they can do something crazy?

Unfortunately, the newspaper

Unfortunately, the newspaper article seems to have been written by a reporter that wasn't completely familiar with the issues.

The Utah Wildlife Board, last December, decided that it wanted to increase the buck-to-doe ratio in Utah herds to give Utah hunters a better hunting experience (18 to 20 bucks per 100 does). The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), the state's wildlife agency that implements policy decisions by the Wildlife Board, said that the only way to increase the buck-to-doe ratios was to harvest fewer bucks each year, hence the projected decrease in permits.

To make a long story short, there has been a good deal of controversy about this because the UDWR says that raising buck-to-doe ratios will have absolutely no positive effect on increasing overall herd numbers and that doing so might even hurt overall herd populations since more bucks mean increased competition with does and fawns on winter ranges.

Many Utah hunters (including me) are upset with this decrease in hunting permits since it will do nothing to help the herds, yet it will increase permits fees and result in less hunting opportunities due to the fewer number of permits. Utah wildlife officials at the UDWR are reportedly very frustrated with their Wildlife Board that seems intent on ignoring established science, long-term statistical data and solid wildlife management practices in favor of personal opinions, behind-the-scenes pressure from trophy hunting groups and general ignorance of biology by several members of the board.

Utah has actually seen a general upward trend in mule deer herd numbers over the past ten years. Much of this increase is attributed to an aggressive winter range habitat restoration program by the UDWR. The figures that I've seen is that $70 million has been spent on mule deer and wildlife habitat restoration in Utah over the past five year — primarily sagebrush steppe restoration. This aggressive program is unmatched by surrounding states and is projected to yield significant mule deer increases over the next 10 to 20 years. Utah is also engaged in an aggressive program to fence high-traffic roads and to create deer underpasses and overpasses along these highways to facilitate mule deer migration from summer to winter ranges. The longterm outlook for Utah's deer herds seems generally positive — that is unless the Utah Wildlife Board succeeds in sabotaging the this upward trend by forcing the implementation of ignorance-based and scientifically unsupported policies that, in the long run, will do more damage than good to Utah's herd numbers.

hunter25's picture

The article does make it

The article does make it sound like they are just guessing at a lot of things instead of using actual data to back up claims. I didn't know our flashing sign program over here was considered successful because where I live they have all been replaced by miles of game fences because the number of collisions was still so high.

Using the smaller units sounds like a good idea to but the right number of hunters in the right places according to the herd size.

I hope they get things figured out and back on the road to recovery because Utah is a beautiful state and I plan on hunting there as soon as I draw the right tag. If of course it's one thats still available.

jaybe's picture

That's too bad. I have long

That's too bad. I have long heard that Utah has been a great state to hunt mule deer. This doesn't sound good when they actually have to lower the number of permits. I see that it won't happen until 2012, but one has to wonder what the hunter success ratio will be this year with those 13,000 permits being sold, and there  being a lower number of deer available at the same time.

The other article said that everyone (even the Fish and Wildlife people) agrees that there is nothing being done to improve the deer herd. The only factor mentioned as to why the herd is down was that 3,000 get killed by cars annually. It sounds to me like there needs to be a little more science applied to the situation than that!

Good Luck to the hunters of Utah.