Although the Mule Deer numbers in Utah are low, about 55% of goal, there are some true monsters roaming them hills. If you take the time to plan your hunt and do some home work, you will be among some of these monsters this hunting season.
Recently Utah has been in the top 3 on the number of bucks making the record books. It still comes up behind states such as Wyoming, and Colorado. Colorado has and will continue to provide the highest number of trophies entering the trophy books, but looking at the type of habitat and the quantity of this habitat that will not come as a surprise to any of us. Wyoming having such a small human population and a huge quantity of prime habitat that holds around 450,000 Mule Deer will also continue to produce monsters in the years to come. I mention this because Utah is very different from these other states in many ways. With nearly 3 million people living in Utah and about 250,000 Mule Deer, you can see why management has had to tighten up on the number of tags, smaller hunting units, etc. Utah has one of the highest amounts of public land compared to other states. This opens up a lot of opportunities to hunt a lot of different areas.
Now, let’s look at this state and break it down so you will have a better understanding and hopefully a better knowledge as to where to hunt in 2013 and 2014. The common knowledge about this great Mule Deer state is where the highly publicized trophy units are. These trophy units include unit 15 (Henry Mountains), and unit 27 (The Paunsaugunt). Both of these units hold a buck doe ratio of at least 50:100. Both units have an average age of bucks taken each year around the 5+ year mark. Both units offer a very realistic chance of taking 180 to 200 class buck, and both units have about a 90% hunter success rate as well. But, it takes an average of 13-15 years to draw a tag, and I’m sure that will only increase in the coming years. So, are there any other units in the state that offer a chance at a 180+ class buck? The answer is an absolute YES!
There are a few other “Limited Entry” units that are being tightly controlled for trophy quality such as the Henry’s and Paunsaugunt units. But they are not at the same quality level and will not provide as many trophy opportunities. But, then again, there are very few areas anywhere in the West that offer the same opportunities as these two units do. I will label these two units as A+ units. These are the only A+ units in Utah. There is one other A+ unit but I personally am not a fan of this even being a unit. This is Antelope Island. An island in the Great Salt Lake that recently produced a couple of monster Mule Deer. But, this is another post for another day.
Now, for the A units. These units hold strong buck/doe ratio’s (around the 35 bucks per 100 does), hold good bucks that can score in the 175+ area, and provide better draw odds then do the A+ units. These units include unit 14B (San Juan, Elk Ridge), unit 10 (Book Cliffs), and unit 19B (West Desert, Vernon). These units are still considered a difficult draw unit and will still take some years to get drawn but closer to the 7-10 year area rather than the 13-15 like the A+ units. I listed these the same as I would rank them as far as giving you the best opportunity for a trophy buck. The San Juan, Elk Ridge unit is coming closer to being able to compete with the A+ units as far as quality opportunities. It’s not there yet, but I think this is the unit of the future and will only get better and better.
These last units I will be listing are all considered “General Season” units. But, I will only list those units I feel give you the best opportunity for a trophy buck. These units are managed by the state of Utah to have 15-25 bucks per 100 does. You also have the chance of drawing one of these units 3 out of 5 years. I will list them as I would rank them. The first unit is 25B (Plateau, Thousand Lake), unit 14A (San Juan, Abajo Mtns), unit 29 (Zion), unit 30 (Pine Valley), unit 23 (Monroe), unit 8 (North Slope), unit 25C/26 (Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits), unit 21B (Fillmore, Pahvant), unit 4/5/6 (Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich), and unit 19A (West Desert, West) round up my top 10 units.
I love unit 25B! Although it is a smaller unit that really covers one small mountain range, it has giant Mule Deer! Much of this mountain range has farm land, mainly alfalfa, on its Western slopes. Mule Deer love alfalfa and will not go far from it. These Western slopes will provide a lot of animals and a lot of bucks. Be careful with privet land as there is a lot of it in the valleys. Also, there are some privet hunting ranches on the North edge of this unit. If you can find these and hunt the Southern edges you will have success. San Juan and Zion will also provide you with some GIANT deer. Recently both of these units have supplied amazing animals and will continue to do so. I was going to include unit 17A in my list but it was beat out by the West Desert (Which is my secret trophy spot). Unit 17A has tremendous bucks, but to get to where they are at requires a mule of a hunter. I highly recommend 17A if you have the stamina and guts that it takes to hunt sheep, and goats. Because this is the terrain we are talking about with 17A. 13,000+ foot peaks that fall to valleys far below in all directions. If you have what it takes to hunt this unit then you will not be disappointed. This unit sits at the edge of some of Utah’s highest human populations, but because of its terrain and difficulty level, most of the hunters that hunt this unit hunt around the base of the mountains and do not attempt to go any higher than their 4 wheelers can take them, and that’s not very high. So the huge boys can survive and they do.
If you are lucky enough to hunt Utah during the 2013 season, make it a point to go where others do not. If you do this you will increase your odds on a pig of a buck. The trophy’s are out there and Utah holds a lot of them. There are a good number of professional hunters that hunt public land, here in Utah, and put them on video’s and TV shows. They make a lot of money doing it. This just goes to show you that there are huge deer in Utah, and if you do your home work you will find them.
I hope this has helped some of you with your Utah hunt for 2013 and 2014. I believe Utah manages their big game animals better then any other state. All the Western states are struggling with their Mule Deer, and this includes Utah. But Utah has some very unique challenges that no other state has, and they continue to do amazing things to keep this traditional monster Mule Deer state as one of the top locations to go for this amazing animal. Please do your part in helping with the conservation of the Mule Deer. If we all do what we can to help we will have these incredible opportunities for generations to come.