Utah's New Mule Deer Regulations Draw Fire

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Utah recently passed the most sweeping changes in the states mule deer regulations in over two decades and will go into effect in 2012. While the changes are significant, not everyone is happy with how the regulations were developed or who they benefit. The Salt Lake Tribune is running an in-depth article on the regulations, the Utah Wildlife Board, and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

The changes, which go into effect in 2012, will reduce the number of deer-hunting permits by at least 13,000 annually and dramatically increase the cost of a general-season hunting tag in Utah. Critics charge that opportunity for the average hunter is being lost at the expense of the well-heeled, who are more interested in trophy animals and believe these new laws are the best way to produce more. And everyone, beginning with the DWR’s top big-game biologist, agrees the changes do nothing to address the plight of the state’s dwindling deer herds.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

Well, I can certainly agree,

Well, I can certainly agree, it would give a horrible impression to the everyday sportsman if they saw a special interest group handing over a $340,000 check to a decision maker on the day of a vote.  Couldn't have been thinking to clearly when he did that.

I have hunted Utah for mule deer, and I saw lots of hunters and little deer.  Of course, being an out of stater, and not knowing the area, I knew full well that I would be in a shooting gallery because I picked a relatively accessible National Forest.

The big part that concerns me is the increase in tags.  It's already pathetic how costly most big game hunting has become in the west, and this will even solidify that opinion. 

This will drive away big $$$$ from Utah in terms of non-resident spending.  Maybe groups like this want it that way, but I can't see it having a positive effect overall. 

The tag reduction isn't a bad idea, but Jim said it equates to 13%????? Geez, that's pretty drastic in anyone's book.

hawkeye270's picture

I have heard that Utah's mule

I have heard that Utah's mule deer herd has been struggling for some time but the link you posted helps give a lot of the details. The tough part of this equation though is the fact that a lot of the habitat is not up to par nutritionally. That is not a good thing in any way and it is a very hard thing to manage for. Habitat manipulation is always expensive. It is very hard to put into place and it takes a lot of resources to implement. You also never know if you are going to get the desired results from your expensive manipulation. Supplemental feeding is not a very good option for wild ungulate herds. Mule deer are the species out west where we see the highest prevalence rates of Chronic Wasting Disease. When you put a supplemental feeding program in place, you are bringing a ton of animals into very close proximity. You are thus increasing the liklihood that disease spread will rise quickly. They have a tough problem on their hands but if they want to build their herds up... cutting the number of tags is an obvious starting point.

That group SFW definitely did not choose a good time to hand over their check either. Dummies!

jim boyd's picture

I am at a loss as to

I am at a loss as to understand why - all parties would agree that reducing the numbers of permits by 13,000 annually - would not have a positive effect on the "plight of the state's dwindling deer herds"...

Hmmm, I am no biologist - but the math is escaping me here...

I did some research - and it looks like in recent years - hunters were capped at 97,000.

Reduced by 13,000, that is a reduction of over 13%... sure that will have a positive impact - short term on deer herd numbers.

However, in doing this research, I located this document:


This is a great overview of Utah's plight and it does not paint a pretty picture.

It points out a declining herd for the last 30 years and really points to a lack of nutrition as the primary culprit.

Having said that, I think this may be the key point, limiting the hunters is treating the symptom and not the problem!

In 2007, the herd was estimated at 302,000 deer and their desired herd was 426,000 - so you can see they fell well short of that goal.

A revised plan aims to get the 2012 herd to 350,000 animals.

I see several options - and they are spelled out clearly in the document linked to above - but reducing hunters has to be part of the equation.

Increasing food sources (including supplemental feeding) and reducing predator impact would have to play key roles, for sure.  

Part of the complaints were that the well heeled would benefit... reducing hunter numbers and raising permit fees are NOT NECESSARILY joined at the waist.

Now, reducing permits DOES impact those that want to hunt every year.

Another option might also be reducing the length of the seasons.... if the season is a week - cut it down to 3 days, perhaps.

Putting into effect some serious antler restrictions could benefit the herd... make a statewide 3x3 of 4x4 rule.

Eliminate rifle hunting in all or some areas.

Big picture and a huge dilemma for Utah, though - and one that needs to be addressed sooner than later, in my humble opinion...