Utah Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

The success or failure of the Utah's mule deer herd is contingent on two things: how hard the winter was, and how dry the rest of the year was.

The winter of 2011-2012 was mild in Utah, and that helped deer enter the spring in pretty good condition. Also, the 2011 fawn crop was a fairly large one, and the mild winter was a big factor in most of them surviving to spring 2012. But the winter was also relatively snow free. So, without decent snowpack to melt in the spring, the ground was less moist than it otherwise would be. This situation was exacerbated by little precipitation during the spring and continued well into the summer.

"Statewide, the population is for all intents and purposes stable [at 273,000 mule deer], with some annual fluctuations based on weather-related events," says Anis Aoude, Big Game Coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "Drought conditions this summer may affect [2012] deer fawn numbers, particularly in the southern part of the state, but it's too soon to tell for sure. It has been a dry summer and forage quality is going down fast. Unless we get some moisture soon we may have low fawn survival."

Aoude told OL this in mid July. By mid August, the state hadn't received much more rainfall. Adult deer should make it into the hunting season OK, but losing a high percentage of fawns to the drought this summer could depress hunting for the next few years.

The mule deer rut in Utah usually peaks in mid-November.

The Western Regional Report
_A very dry summer in the Southwest shriveled up forage and made it hard for does to successfully drop and raise fawns. However, new deer browse is starting to appear in the burned-over areas from 2011's wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico.

Things are trending up for deer in the Northern Rockies, after horrendous winters starting in 2007-2008. A mild and generally snowless 2011-2012 winter helped Idaho mule deer and whitetail numbers begin to rebound--though it might take another year or two for that growth to be reflected in the harvest. Wyoming suffered from a decade-long drought, but the last two years have seen a return of the rains, and deer habitat is turning around. Montana's deer have been hit hard by harsh winters and a major EHD outbreak last year, which took out thousands of trophy whitetails, especially along the Milk River corridor._

Top Trophy Zones
AZ: Units 3C, 12A, 13A, 13B, and 24A.
CA: Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity counties.
CO: Units 25 and 26.
ID: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, and Kootenai counties.
MT: Fergus, Madison, Missoula, and Ravalli counties.
NM: Units 32 and 33 for mule deer; units 21, 22, 23, 24, and 27 for Coues.
OR: Clackamas, Grant, and Jackson counties.
WA: Chelan, Ferry, Lewis, Spokane, and Stevens counties.
WY: Bighorn, Crook, Lincoln, and Sheridan counties.