This fall's deer hunt could be one of the best Utah's hunters have seen in years. If you want to participate, you need to submit your application soon.
Applications to hunt deer, and other big game animals in Utah, are due online no later than 11 p.m. on March 5.
Applications are being accepted for every big game hunt except the general-season bull elk hunt. General-season elk permits will be available, on a first-come, first-served basis, starting July 14.
After the hunts were over last fall, biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources visited areas in Utah where deer congregate in the winter. What they found is promising news for the state's deer hunters.
On general-season units that are comprised mostly of public land, biologists saw an average of 21 bucks for every 100 does. Twenty years ago, the average buck-to-doe ratio was eight bucks per 100 does.
"If hunting deer is something you enjoy," says Justin Shannon, big game coordinator for the DWR, "you have plenty of reasons to be excited about this fall's hunt."
Shannon says the higher buck-to-doe ratio is good news for hunters — it means more bucks, and older bucks, will be available this fall.
In addition to bucks comprising a higher percentage of the total population, the total number of deer in Utah is also increasing.
Over the past five years, biologists have placed radio collars on hundreds of deer across Utah. Placing the collars allows biologists to track the deer and know when one of them dies. Based on data gathered through the survey, biologists estimate 84 percent of the doe deer in Utah, and 82 percent of the fawns, made it through 2014.
"Those are great survival rates," Shannon says. "There's no question that mule deer populations are growing in Utah."
Before you apply for a general deer hunting permit for this fall's hunt, visit our 2015 deer hunt preview page for help deciding which of Utah's 30 deer hunting units to apply for.
Don't wait until the last day
If you haven't applied for a permit yet, Judi Tutorow, wildlife licensing coordinator for the DWR, encourages you to apply before the last day of the application period.
Tutorow says the amount of patience you have is the critical factor in deciding when to apply.
"If you apply before March 5," she says, "you should be able to get your application in fast."
If you wait until March 5, however, you could face some challenges.
"Thousands of hunters wait until the last day to apply," Tutorow says. "Receiving that much traffic — in such a short period of time — slows our website and the entire application process down."
If you decide to wait until March 5 to apply, make sure you start applying before 11 p.m. If you start applying before 11 p.m. — and you don't log off the system before you've completed your application — the system will allow you to finish your application.
"If you log off before 11 p.m., and then you try to get back into the system," she says, "you'll be out of luck. After 11 p.m., a bonus point and a preference point are the only things you can apply for."
Get a free guidebook
Everything you need to know to apply for a permit is available in the 2015 Utah Big Game Application Guidebook.
You can get the free guidebook from our website, at Division of Wildlife Resources offices and from more than 300 hunting and fishing license agents across Utah.
Hunt all three deer seasons
Would you like to hunt all three general deer hunting seasons (archery, muzzleloader and rifle) on the unit you draw a permit for?
You can if you join the Dedicated Hunter program.
To give yourself a chance to join the Dedicated Hunter program, you must do two things: Complete an online orientation course that teaches you more about the program, and apply for and draw a 2015 general deer hunting permit.
Learn more about the Dedicated Hunter Program and how to join it.
Applying for a point
If you're not going to hunt in 2015, you can still apply for a bonus point or a preference point. Earning a point increases the chance that you'll draw a permit the next time you apply.
Applications for a point are being accepted now. Your application for a point must be received online no later than 11 p.m. on March 19.
Please remember that you must have a hunting license or a combination license to apply for a point or a hunting permit.
Lifetime license holders
If you have a lifetime hunting license in Utah, you can select the general deer hunting unit you'd like to hunt by doing two things: Completing the online lifetime license questionnaire and selecting the unit you want to hunt.
Access to the questionnaire will be available in the 2015 big game online application. You need to omplete the questionnaire and select your unit by March 5.
If you don't complete the application by March 5, and the DWR doesn't have a hunt choice on file for you, trying to obtain a general deer permit, that wasn't taken in the draw, will be your only option.
All of the general season deer permits might be taken in the draw, though, so there might not be any permits left to obtain.
If you have questions about applying for a 2015 Utah big game hunting permit, call the Utah Hunt Application office at 1-800-221-0659 or the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office.