Dove Hunt looks promising

Dove hunts look promising this year in spite of less than optimal surveys taken in May, indicating numbers could be down. Division of Wildlife Resources biologists say cool, wet weather in late May probably made doves reluctant to fly and call, and more doves may be in Utah than surveys indicated. As the hunts begin Sept. 1, hunters may legally harvest three species of doves in Utah.

Dean Mitchell, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, reports that white-winged doves, a migratory game bird species historically found mostly south of Utah, are becoming more common throughout the state each year. Utah dove hunters may legally harvest white-winged doves, as well as mourning doves, with bag and possession limits in the aggregate. For example, the bag limit for doves is 10 birds in any combination of white-winged and mourning doves. The possession limit remains two bag limits, or any combination of 20 white-winged and mourning doves.

The exotic Eurasian collared-dove is also being observed in greater numbers and in new Utah areas each year. These doves seem to prefer urban areas over agricultural habitats. Hunters can also take Eurasian collared-doves during the annual dove season. If taken during dove season, these birds will not count as part of the aggregate dove bag and possession limits. Hunters who harvest Eurasian collared-doves while dove hunting should leave them unplucked during transport, so they can be identified from mourning and white-winged doves.

A description of all three doves is found on page 23 of the 2005 - 2006 Utah Upland Game Hunting Guide. Hunters are encouraged to review this dove identification information before going afield.

Habitat conditions for doves throughout Utah are in much better shape now than they were in 2004. Consistent spring and summer rain showers throughout much of the state stimulated growth in grain (wheat and barley) fields, as well as annual sunflowers- all preferred foods for doves.

Despite good numbers of birds in Utah right now, many could head south before the season opener, as August cloudbursts annually push doves on their southward migration. In addition, regardless of what the weather is doing, some mourning doves begin leaving Utah during the first two weeks of August every year. These birds begin their annual southward migration based on the photoperiod, or length of the day. As daylight diminishes in the fall, doves are stimulated to move to their wintering areas in Mexico and Central America. The DWR is prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) from opening dove seasons earlier than Sept. 1 each year.

Northern Utah dove hunters should give Utah's southern counties a try if bird numbers are fewer than favorable. Millard, Beaver, Iron and Washington counties in southwestern Utah, and Emery and San Juan counties in the southeast, commonly retain birds until later in the year. Some of Utah's most prosperous dove hunting occurs in the southern parts of the state.

The 2005 dove season will remain open through Sept. 30. Dove and band-tailed pigeon hunters are reminded that they must register in the federal Migratory Game Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) prior to going afield for these migratory birds. Registration requirements and the process for obtaining a HIP number are described on page 5 of the 2005 - 2006 Upland Game Hunting Guide. HIP numbers may also be obtained through the DWR upland game Web page at http://www.uthip.com
Dove Hunting Tips and Reminders

Dove hunters will find greater success if they keep in mind the daily activity routine of doves. Birds normally feed early in the morning and again late in the day. Doves are almost exclusively seed-eaters and prefer areas with wheat/stubble, barley, corn, oats and all kinds of weedy patches. Annual sunflowers often harbor many doves and provide birds with an excellent source of food and cover.

After feeding, doves pick up grit along roadways and then fly to water. The middle part of the day is spent loafing and roosting in trees. Doves especially like to roost in dead trees.

Although not required by law, it's a good idea to wear hunter orange during the first week of the dove hunt. Ball caps and vests in hunter orange help tremendously in reducing the chance of a firearms accident while afield with many other hunters.

Respecting private property will go a long way in maintaining future access privileges for hunters. Small things, like picking up and packing out spent shotgun hulls and other trash when exiting the shooting field, closing gates and avoiding livestock areas, are common etiquettes that demonstrate to landowners that hunters are responsible.

Before hunting private land, hunters must obtain written permission from the landowner. A Landowner/Hunter Permission Card can be found online at http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/law/permissioncard.html . This card is useful for securing the required written permission to hunt on private lands.

Band Tailed Pigeon Hunts start soon

Utah's 2005 band-tailed pigeon hunt begins Sept 1 and hunters should plan on spending time in the coniferous forests of southern Utah for this native upland game bird. Bandtails are most common in woodlands, from the Pine Valley Mountains in the west to the La Sal and Blue mountains in the east.

In 2005, bag and possession limits for bandtails are five and 10 respectively, with the season closing Sept. 30. Band-tailed pigeons are the only pigeons in Utah with yellow legs and feet. Feral pigeons, also known as rock pigeons, have red legs and feet.

Hunters are encouraged to conduct pre-season scouting for bandtails. Locate areas where birds are feeding and note their movements from feeding areas to mid-day roosting or loafing areas. Pigeons prefer foods that include pine buds, acorns, berries, seeds and some pine needles. Flight paths can be intercepted by hunters in the field.

In addition to the HIP registration, pigeon hunters are required to obtain a free permit prior to hunting bandtails. Hunters may obtain band-tailed pigeon permits through one of the following methods:

Online at: http://secure.utah.gov/hflo/hflo

Drop by any DWR office and pick up a free permit

Telephone any DWR office and provide information for the permit and have the permit mailed to them

Pigeon hunters who take birds are encouraged to clip and save a wing from each bird. Wings can be placed in a zip-lock bag and stored in a freezer. A sample of bandtail hunters will be contacted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provided with envelopes in which to mail wings. Wings from pigeons help biologists determine sex and age structures as well as reproductive successes in the Four-corners population of band-tailed pigeons.

Upland game hunters are encouraged to keep track of their harvest and days afield using the "Upland Game Hunter's Harvest Record" provided on page 26 of the 2005 - 2006 Upland Game Hunting Guide.

A random sample of hunters will be surveyed at the end of upland game seasons to determine statewide harvest levels for each upland game species. Accurate harvest information is imperative to the survey and the harvest record provides a convenient means to track and report this information.
Mountain Goat in Garage Surprises Family

A young Rocky Mountain goat choose an interesting place to stop as he journeyed from Mount Timpanogos to lower elevations. He ended up in John and Carol Probst's garage in Midway.

Carol returned home to find her dogs excited about the furry, white visitor inside their garage and commandeering the top of their pickup truck. The Probst family quickly closed the garage and contacted the Division of Wildlife Resources.

DWR wildlife biologists arrived and got within a few feet of the 1-year-old billy goat. Using a blow gun, they administered a tranquilizer dart. The goat quickly became wobbly, and wildlife biologist Craig Clyde gently pulled the goat down into the bed of the truck. After placing an ear tag on the goat and checking his heart rate and general health, a reversal drug was administered. The goat was quickly back on his feet inside a DWR horse trailer and on his way back to Mount Timpanogos.

"Though mountain goats migrate to lower elevations during the winter months, they are typically found at about 10,000 feet in elevation during the warmer months, along the tops of mountainous slopes," Clyde said. "Male goats tend to wander more than females, and this one may have been headed to a new mountain range. We have record of one goat traveling more than 100 miles from the Uintas to the south end of Utah County."

Utah has a growing Rocky Mountain goat population. Goats are found in various areas in the state, including Little Cottonwood Canyon, Mount Timpanogos and the Uinta Mountains in the northern part of the state, and the Tushar Mountain range east of Beaver in southwestern Utah.
Safe Off Highway Vehicle Riding urged during Hunts

Utah State Parks and Recreation Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Education Specialist Eric Stucki is urging hunters to ride safely this season. Hunters should be properly trained and prepared to ensure a safe hunt. Riders should also remember to protect the fragile environment and ride in a responsible manner.

In particular, Stucki is encouraging hunters to become familiar with OHV laws and rules prior to heading out into the hills in search of game. He cautions parents to never leave children unattended or unobserved on OHVs, whether on the trail or in the campground. Campground OHV riding is dangerous, annoying to campers, and can cause serious resource damage. All young riders should be certified to ride, supervised and fitted with proper safety gear at all times.

The Know Before You Go! education classes teach fundamentals of safe and responsible OHV riding. Drivers eight through 16 must possess an OHV education certificate issued through this program before operating on public lands, trails and roads. Drivers 16 and older must have a valid driver license or OHV education certificate. Children under age eight cannot operate an OHV on public land. In addition to preparation and training, Stucki offers the following guidelines for safe OHV riding:

- Always wear a safety-rated and properly fitted helmet, goggles, clothes which cover arms and legs, and over-the-ankle boots.

- Check mechanical controls and safety devices on your machine before you ride to ensure proper operation.

- Do not take alcohol or drugs along for the ride.

- Ride your OHV only in areas designated for their use. The best way to protect your riding privilege is to stay on the trail.

- Be courteous to other riders by offering right-of-way and respect areas that are posted or have special restrictions.

- Do not carry passengers on single-person machines.

- Children and inexperienced riders should always be supervised.

- Never ride alone and always let someone know your itinerary.

- Do not litter, chase wildlife or damage plant life.

- Carry tools and survival gear in the event of changing weather conditions and mechanical failure.

For more information about OHV education, laws, maps, and safety information, call 1-800-OHV-RIDE.

Deer Numbers Up in Southern Utah

Archery hunters should see more buck deer in southern Utah as the general archery buck deer hunt gets started this season. General season archery deer hunters may hunt on any area in Utah that's open to general season deer hunting. Permits may be purchased at the Division of Wildlife Resources' Web site (http://www.wildlife.utah.gov), from more than 190 hunting license agents across the state and at the DWR's six offices. For hunters venturing outside the central region, provided is a region-by-region look at deer hunting prospects in each of the DWR's neighboring four regions:

Northern Region- Despite heavy snowfall in parts of Cache and Rich counties last winter, archery deer hunters can expect to see good numbers of bucks on the Cache unit. "Hunters may see fewer young bucks as a result of the heavy winter but before the snows fell, the three-year buck to doe average on the Cache and Box Elder units was 17 bucks per 100 does, which is among the best in the state," said Justin Dolling, Northern Region wildlife manager.

The future looks promising for the region, too. Deer herd surveys conducted this past spring found that 90 percent of the fawns born on five of the region's seven deer units in spring 2004 made it through this past winter. Just fewer than 70 percent of the fawns born that spring on the Cache and Ogden units survived the winter.

Northern Region habitat and wildlife managers are hopeful that extensive habitat restoration projects initiated within the past three years will help reduce deer loss during tough winters like the Cache unit experienced this past winter. "Above average moisture is really going to kick start the habitat projects that are in place and should provide abundant forage for mule deer populations across the region," Dolling noted.

Because of record precipitation in the Northern Region, especially in the Cache unit, archery deer hunters may find scattered deer during the hunt. Phil Douglass, Northern Region conservation outreach manager, reported, "With good forage and water supplies, deer may not be as concentrated as they have been in past years." Because the deer will probably be scattered, hunters should prepare to do more walking and stalking this year. Douglass added, "In addition to practicing stalking skills, hunters should also hone their spotting skills. The vegetative growth is heavy in some areas, and it may be difficult for hunters to find and spot deer."

Deer archery hunters are reminded that the two most common violations during the archery hunt are shooting after hours and riding in vehicles with unquivered arrows. "The official shooting hours for deer hunters is one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset," Douglass commented. "Road hunting is generally an ineffective hunting method and will be even less effective with the good habitat conditions this year."

Archery deer hunters should respect private property and Cooperative Wildlife Management Units in northern Utah and to heed "No Trespassing" signs. "We run into several problems every year, especially in Summit County, with hunters trespassing onto CWMUs," said DWR Sergeant Rick Olson. "It's important that they (hunters) know where the CWMUs are."

Some areas in the region are open for Utah's extended archery season, which runs for nearly three additional months after the general archery season closes. For more information, call the DWR's Ogden office at (801) 476-2740.

Northeastern Region- The number of bucks in the Northeastern Region will be down slightly from last year, but the deer that archery hunters do find should be fat and healthy. "I expect buck numbers to be down on the Currant Creek unit this year over previous years," Boyde Blackwell, Northeastern Region wildlife manager, said of one of the region's most popular areas. "We had a very good buck harvest last year compared to previous years. This has reduced the number of bucks available for this year." Blackwell adds that hunters will notice a lot more vegetation in the region than they've noticed during the last several years of drought. The increased vegetation will mean healthier and fatter deer this year. It will also encourage good deer fawn production in 2007.

Blackwell says the grasses and other vegetation are still green in the mountains, which will allow archery hunters to move around easier. The abundant vegetation and watering holes will also scatter the deer, and Blackwell encourages hunters to do a lot of preseason scouting, "Hunters need to get out into the areas they plan to hunt prior to the season. Water holes will not be scarce this year, so the animals should be spread out. Sportsmen who do not scout their areas and learn the patterns the deer are following will likely be less successful than those who spend the time in the field prior to the hunts."

In addition to preseason scouting, hunters also are encouraged to know the hunt boundaries in the region. Ron Stewart, Northeastern Region conservation outreach manager, recommended, "Check the boundaries and mark them on your map prior to hunting, especially if you're hunting an area you're not familiar with."

Stewart also encourages hunters to let someone at home or in their camp know where they plan to go and when they plan to be back. "If you change your mind, notify the person so they can update their information. Every year division personnel, sheriff departments and search and rescue teams get called in to find someone in cases of emergency or lost hunters. Knowing where to look can save both time and lives." For more information, call the DWR's Vernal office at (435) 781-WILD (9453).

Southeastern Region- Archery hunters will find more bucks in the Southeastern Region this year, says Bill Bates, Southeastern Region wildlife manager."Good fawn production in 2004 and good survival this past winter have strengthened herds across the region. Most units show both short and long-term upward trends as far as the total number of deer in the herds."

While the number of deer is up in the region this year, all of southeastern Utah's deer herds are still under management objective as far as the total number of deer. Bates says deer habitat in southeastern Utah faces a long road to recovery after years of drought, but aggressive habitat restoration work by the DWR and other agencies is beginning to pay off thanks to normal rainfall during the 2005 growing season. He commented, "If the weather returns to a normal pattern, the vegetation in the region will rebound and the deer herds should continue to grow."

Bates says hot temperatures in July drove most of the region's deer to higher elevations. If August continues to be unseasonably warm, deer will be in areas near the timberline and close to water. If the weather cools and monsoonal rains fall, the deer will move to lower elevation areas and will be more scattered. To find success, Bates encourages hunters to do some pre-season scouting and practice with their bow. For more information, call the DWR's Price office at (435) 636-0260.

Southern Region- Archery hunters should see more bucks in the Southern Region this year, thanks to favorable winter conditions and abundant spring moisture across the region.

"The Southern Region has had some very cooperative weather over the past few months, and there's a good crop of yearling mule deer in the region," said Lynn Chamberlain, Southern Region conservation outreach manager. "Combine those deer with a good contingent of two-year-old bucks, and we expect hunters will enjoy a fair hunt in the region this year."

Chamberlain says the buck to doe ratio on the region's general season units has climbed slightly to an average of 15 bucks per 100 does. The total number of deer in the region is still below management objective, but deer numbers also have increased slightly over the last two years.

Chamberlain says the weather in southwestern Utah is still warm, so hunters can expect to find deer near high altitude water sources through most of the archery hunt. "Fire danger is extreme in most places, so archers need to be careful with fire," he said. For more information, call the DWR's Cedar City office at (435) 865-6100.