The 2015 population estimate for mule deer in Utah is 352,900 deer; 83% of the long term management objective of 425,400 deer. Since the large decline during winter 1992– 1993, the deer herd has shown an increasing trend. The population had good growth during the mid-late 1990s, but then declined during the severe drought years from 2000 to 2003 when fawn production was reduced. The harsh winters in northern Utah in 2007-2008 and in southern Utah in 2009-2010 lowered adult and fawn survival and also caused population declines. Despite of those weather events, the deer population in Utah has grown at an average rate of 1.6%, over the past 20 years and is now at a level not seen since 1992.
2012 – 2014 provided great fawn crops with most units seeing 70% + survival rates. 2011 was devastating to the fawns with the late snows Utah had. Some areas registered less than 10% fawn survival. The state average during 2011 was about 40% fawn survivor rate. This means that Utah hunters will be seeing a lot more bucks this year. They may be young bucks but the action should be as good as its been for years. With the continued population growth and the incredible fawn survival rates the last couple of years, there will be a lot of deer in most units to see and hunt. Should be one to remember for a long time.
I will list my top units to deer hunt in Utah during 2015. I will break these down according to Unit types (Premium, Limited, and General Season). I will list these below starting with what I feel is the best unit. I will include buck/doe ratio and this years fawn survival rate. I will then give you the potential buck score for that unit.
- 1-Henry Mountains – 56:100 Ratio, 78% Fawn Survival, 170+ Potential score!
- 2-Paunsaugunt – 44:100 Ratio, 72% Fawn Survival, 170+ Potential score!
- San Juan/Elk Ridge – 26:100 Ratio, 90% Fawn Survival, 170+ Potential score!
- Book Cliffs – 38:100 Ratio, 89% Fawn Survival, 160+ Potential score!
- West Desert Vernon – 25:100 Ratio, 80% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- South Slope Diamond Mountain – 36:100 Ratio, 77% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- North Slope Summit – 24:100 Ratio, 80% Fawn Survival, 150+ score! (Early Season this year!!!)
- Fillmore, Oak Creek – 23:100 Ratio, 74% Fawn Survival, 150+ score!
- La Sal, Dolores Triangle – 26:100 Ratio, 78% Fawn Survival, 150+ score (Late Season!!!)
Regular Season Top-10:
- Unit 25B – Plateau, Thousand Lake – 27:100 Ratio, 77% Fawn Survival, 160+ Potential score!
- Unit 14A San Juan, Abajo Mountains – 19:100 Ratio, 80% Fawn Survival, 160+ Potential score!
- Unit 30 Pine Valley – 23:100 Ratio, 77% Fawn Survival, 160+ Potential score!
- Unit 23 Monroe – 25:100 Ratio, 70% Fawn Survival, 160+ Potential score!
- Unit 29 Zion – 26:100 Ratio, 75% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- Units 4/5/6 Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan South, Rich – 30:100 Ratio, 68% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- Units 25C/26 Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits – 20:100 Ratio, 75% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- Unit 21B Fillmore, Pahvant – 26:100 Ratio, 80% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- Unit 20 Southwest Desert – 30:100 Ratio, 77% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
- Unit 11 Nine Mile – 24:100 Ratio, 80% Fawn Survival, 150+ Potential score!
Two units I left out of the top 10 this year compared to the 2013-2014 article are Units 8 (North Slope), and 19A (West Desert, West). There’s the addition of the early season ‘North Slope Summit’ unit in the Limited Entry draw for 2015. This alone will put enough pressure on unit 8 early on to make the regular season hunt a lot more difficult. The mature bucks that are in that unit during the early hunt will certainly be gone for the regular hunt. 19A fell to #11 due to the success of units 20 and 11 last season. Along with the jump in buck/doe ratio for those two units as well. I had no choice but to slide 19A out of the top 10. But it is still one of my favorite units.
In my opinion, Utah is one of the best Mule Deer states in the country, hands down. With this statement I am making a lot of people upset or maybe even confused. Utah has all the same challenges to their Mule Deer herd as all the other states do and then some! Population, loss of winter range, and the increase in predators are huge concerns for Utah’s deer herd. What makes Utah tops on my list is the way they manage their deer. They do a tremendous job. In fact, most all other states watch Utah closely to see the choices they make in managing. Utah is a leader when it comes to managing their deer herds. Colorado is blessed with huge amounts of hard to access land. Wyoming is blessed with a low human population. Idaho is blessed with a low human population and huge amounts of land. Montana is blessed with all of these things too, but their management really needs to catch up to everybody else.
Enjoy the 2015 season! Don’t hesitate to drop me a line to discuss the unit you have been drawn for and we can do what we can to put you on the buck of your dreams.