State Park Events scheduled this weekend
Several State Parks are offering great activities for those who plan on visiting this weekend. Provided are a few highlights for events scheduled Oct. 15.
Antelope Island State Park- Junior Ranger Program: Learn basic orienteering skills, then use them on a scavenger hunt with park staff at 2 p.m. Meet at the visitor center and bring sunscreen, sturdy shoes, and drinking water. While this program is aimed at children ages six to 12, all ages are welcome. At dusk, hike the moderate half-mile trail to the top of Buffalo Point and view the stars with the park naturalist. Participants should meet at the Buffalo Point parking lot and bring water and a flashlight. For more information, call (801) 773-2941.
Great Salt Lake State Marina - Head-of-the-Great Salt Lake Race from 9 to 11 a.m. High school teams compete for the Kennecott Utah Copper traveling trophy for the best high school rowing team in Utah. To reach the marina, take the Saltair exit off I-80 westbound, travel along frontage road westbound past Saltair to the marina entrance. For more information, contact Katie Fortenberry at (801) 455-7594.
Snow Canyon State Park - Moonlit Hike: Explore the nighttime sights and sounds of
the canyon during a two-mile round-trip moonlit hike beginning at 8:30 p.m. Space is limited and
registration is required. For more information, call (435) 628-2255.
Rifle Hunters should see More Young Bucks This Fall
Rifle hunters should see more young buck deer this fall, but bagging one of those bucks could be a challenge this year. Utah's 2005 general rifle buck deer hunt opens Oct. 22 with approximately 60,000 hunters are expected afield for Utah's most popular hunt.
Craig McLaughlin, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, reports, "The number of deer in Utah is continuing a slow but steady climb." Based on surveys conducted after Utah's 2004 rifle hunt ended, DWR biologists estimate 289,000 deer were in Utah at the start of last winter. That's 21,000 more animals than the 268,000 deer estimated in the state after the 2003 hunt ended.
Smaller bucks will be more common this year however. McLaughlin noted, "Heavy snow fell throughout much of the state right before the rifle hunt last year. The snow drove deer out of the higher elevations and right to the hunters. Those hunting in central and northeastern Utah took a lot of mature bucks." Many of those mature bucks will be replaced by younger bucks this year. After four years of decline, the number of fawns per 100 does rebounded in 2003 and 2004. "During surveys this past March and April, biologists found an average of 70 fawns per 100 does across the state, so I think hunters will see good numbers of young bucks this fall."
Actually seeing those bucks could be a challenge. McLaughlin says the rain that fell this
spring and early summer left plenty of watering holes for the deer and lots of vegetation. "Unless
snow falls between now and the start of the hunt, the deer will be scattered and they'll be at a
variety of elevations. Those factors will make it more challenging for hunters to find them," he
commented. "Also, all of the vegetation that's in the backcountry this year will make it more difficult to spot deer."
To increase success, McLaughlin encourages hunters to scout their hunting area before the season opens. He suggested, "Scouting before the opener will pay off because you'll learn the travel routes deer are taking in the area you'll be hunting. Also, if there have been any changes in areas that are open to hunting, you'll know about those changes in advance."
He added, "If the weather turns cold, look for deer on sunny, south-facing slopes. Unusually warm weather will keep deer in shaded areas with heavy cover." As of Oct. 5, more than 2,000 Northern Region permits were still available for the hunt. Permits may be purchased at the DWR's Web site ( http://www.wildlife.utah.gov ), at DWR offices and from more than 200 hunting license agents in the state.
"Last year, permits for the Northern Region sold out on the Wednesday before the hunt," commented Judi Tutorow, wildlife licensing coordinator for the DWR. "They're selling at a faster pace this year. I would encourage hunters to buy their permit as soon as possible."
Hunters who purchase a permit at the Web site are reminded that it will take about a week for their permit to arrive in the mail. They need to buy their permit far enough in advance that it will arrive before they leave for their hunt.
Central Region Forecast offered
Central Region archery and muzzleloader hunters have reported seeing decent numbers of bucks throughout the region this fall. Hunters are seeing a lot of younger bucks, but some very nice mature bucks have been taken too. Scott Root, Central Region conservation outreach manager shares the general season rifle deer forecast.
Root reports, "Although the region's three-year buck-to-doe ratio is slightly under the 15 bucks per 100 does objective, favorable habitat conditions should improve the ratio next year. Last spring, initial post-winter deer counts indicated excellent fawn production on the mountainous eastern half of the region, which has benefitted the region's deer herd." With another favorable winter, this could put the eastern portions of the region right back to the buck-to-doe ratio objective.
Root says the deer are in excellent health and that antler growth has been very good
because of plentiful food and water sources. He noted, "As predicted, deer are scattered because
of the plentiful water and food found throughout most of the region. Scouting is crucial
when deer are not tied to a single water source. Hunters need to look for well-used game trails and invest time on pre-hunting scouting trips to learn the habits of the deer this year."
Root says the western portion of the Central Region, located west of I-15, is mostly desert terrain. "Though water is more abundant this year in the desert, this portion of the region has fewer deer, and I'd strongly recommend pre-hunt scouting trips." Most hunters concentrate on the Tintic, Deep Creek, Oquirrh and Stansbury mountain ranges, but pockets of deer can be found throughout the western portion of the region. "Higher mountain elevations in the desert that have components of deer habitat generally attract deer and are a good place to hunt," he suggested.
Roots adds that the deer herd in the western portion of the region is rebuilding. "The current buck to doe ratio is below the management objective, but fawn production is the best it has been in this area for about four years," he commented.
Hunters are reminded that a good portion of the western part of the region is part of the Vernon limited entry deer unit, and general deer season hunters need to stay out of these boundaries (a boundary description is available in the 2005 Utah Big Game Proclamation). For more information about hunting in central Utah, call the Central Region office at (801) 491-5678. Region by Region Outlook for Deer Hunt offered
Hunters venturing to regions outside of the Central Region have plenty of opportunities awaiting for the general season rifle deer hunt. Provided is a region-by-region look at deer hunting prospects in Utah's four regions outside of the Central Region.
Northern Region- Northern Region rifle deer permits have sold at a much faster pace this year. On Oct. 5, about 2,000 permits were still available. Wendy Christensen, Northern Region support services coordinator commented, "Last year, we had over 5,000 permits left the week prior to the deer hunt opener." Last year's exceptional harvest of mature bucks may have fueled hunter anticipation this year. "Last season was the best season I've seen in 12 years," noted Scott McFarlane, Northern Region wildlife biologist.
Heavy snowfall, especially in Cache and Rich counties last winter, may affect hunter
success this year, however. "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.
Deer herd classification surveys conducted this past spring found that 90 percent of the
fawns born on five of the seven deer units in spring 2004 made it through this past winter. The
Cache and Ogden units had just fewer than 70 percent fawn survival. Northern Region habitat
and wildlife managers are hopeful that extensive habitat restoration projects initiated within the
past three years will make a difference in reducing 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 suggested.
Weather conditions just prior and during the rifle hunt will affect deer movement and concentrations. Phil Douglass, Northern Region conservation outreach manager, added, "With good forage and water supplies, deer may not be as concentrated as they have been in past years."
Deer hunters are reminded to 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,"
according to DWR Sergeant Rick Olson. "It's important that hunters know where the CWMUs are." To help hunters know where these boundaries are, the DWR has posted maps in the Big Game section of the DWR Web site ( http://www.wildlife.utah.gov ).
Douglass also reminds hunters to review safe hunting practices. "Even if you have already completed hunter education, it's a good idea to take a refresher course. With the course now available on the Internet, you can reacquaint yourself with safe hunting practices and principles in the comfort and convenience of home." Hunter education course options are available at http://wildlife.utah.gov/huntereducation/options.html. For more information about hunting in northern Utah, call the Northern Region 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 rifle hunters do find should be fat and healthy. Boyde Blackwell, Northeastern Region wildlife manager, predicted, "I expect buck numbers to be down on the Currant Creek unit this year over previous years. 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 says 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 2006.
Blackwell says the abundant vegetation and watering holes will also scatter the deer, and he 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. Hunters should also look for escape cover near the areas where they find deer during their preseason scouting. Once the first shots are fired, the bucks will head for those secluded places. Sportsmen who do not scout their areas and learn the patterns the deer are following will likely be less successful than those who spend time in the field prior to the hunts."
In addition to preseason scouting, hunters are encouraged to know the hunt boundaries in
the region. "Check the boundaries and mark them on your map prior to hunting, especially if
you're hunting an area you're not familiar with," suggested Ron Stewart, Northeastern Region
conservation outreach manager.
Stewart also encourages hunters to let someone at home or in their camp know where they're going 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 Northeastern Region office at (435) 781-WILD (9453).
Southeastern Region- Rifle hunters should find more bucks in the Southeastern Region this
year, according to 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. "If the weather returns to a normal pattern, the vegetation
in the region will rebound and the deer herds should continue to grow," he said.
To improve their chances of bagging a buck, Bates encourages rifle hunters to scout before the season begins. Bates suggested, "Spend time observing deer in your prospective hunting area. Get to know where the animals feed, bed down and water. Develop a hunting strategy based on your observations. Try to anticipate changes in animal behavior due to hunter pressure and weather conditions." For more information, call the DWR's Southeastern Region office at (435) 636-0260.
Southern Region- Rifle 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 reports that 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 cooling off, so hunters can expect
to find deer scattered but moving from higher to lower elevations. "Fire danger is extreme in
most places, so hunters need to be careful with fire," he concluded. For more information, call
the DWR's Cedar City office at (435) 865-6100.
Tips to Get Prepared for This Year's Rifle Buck Deer Hunt
Deer hunters are eagerly awaiting the beginning of Utah's general rifle buck deer hunt on Oct. 22. Getting prepared now, by gathering materials and gaining knowledge, are some of the keys to having a safe hunt. And, while taking a deer is usually the highlight of any deer hunt, hunters should remember to enjoy all the experiences a deer hunt provides.
"Enjoy the entire experience of the hunt," suggests Lenny Rees, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Good friends, a good camp, a chance to observe wildlife and the beautiful state we live in are all things deer hunters are fortunate to enjoy during their time afield." Rees provides the following tips for an enjoyable and safe hunting experience this fall:
* obtain your deer hunting permit. As of Oct. 6, Northern Region permits for residents and nonresidents were still available. Permits for the other regions are sold out.
* know the area you're going to hunt. If possible, scout the area before the hunt.
* put a survival kit together. The kit should include:
1) a small first aid kit;
2) three ways to make a fire (matches, cigarette lighter, firestarters, etc.);
3) quick energy snack foods;
4) a cord or rope;
5) a compass;
6) a flashlight;
7) an extra knife and;
8) a small pad of paper and a pencil (for leaving information at your last location, about yourself and the direction you're traveling, should you become lost).
* make sure you have the proper ammunition for your firearm.
* be as familiar as possible with your firearm -- know how to load and unload it, and
where the safety is and how to operate it.
* controlling your muzzle is the most important aspect of firearm safety. Never let the muzzle of your firearm point at anything you do not intend to shoot, including yourself.
* never carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle.
* before shooting, make sure of your target and what's beyond it.
* make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
* carry a shovel, ax, tire chains, jumper cables and a tow chain in your vehicle.
* if you experience mechanical problems with your vehicle or become snowed in, stay with your vehicle -- don't leave it.
Before Leaving On Your Trip:
* let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return.
While In the Field:
* never hunt alone.
* wear proper safety clothing -- 400 square inches of hunter orange on your back, chest
Field Dressing Your Animal:
* use a sharp knife. A sharp knife is safer for field dressing than a dull knife is.
* cut away from you -- never bring a knife blade towards you while cutting.
Your Physical Well-being:
* know your physical limitations and don't exceed them.
* be prepared for weather changes by dressing in layers. Dressing in layers allows you to regulate your body temperature by adding or removing clothes as needed.
* drink plenty of water, regardless of the temperature. "You can become dehydrated, even in cold weather," Rees says.
* hypothermia (the loss of body temperature) can occur in temperatures as warm as 50 degrees. Be aware of hypothermia signs. The first is stumbling or disorientation. "When you notice these signs sit down immediately and build a fire," Rees says. "Make sure to get yourself warm and dry."
* frostbite. If hunting in cold weather, be aware of the development of frostbite. White spots on your skin are the first sign. Check your face, feet and hands regularly. It's much easier to notice the first signs of frostbite on the face if you're hunting with a companion who can alert you.
If You're Lost:
* don't panic. Sit down and build a fire, even if it isn't cold. "A fire is soothing and will
help you to relax and think clearly," Rees says. After calming down, try to get your bearings and
think your way out of the situation. If you think you know the direction you need to travel, use the
pad of paper and pencil from your survival kit and leave a note at your location, indicating who
you are and the direction you're traveling. If you come across others as you're trying to find your
hunting party, don't be embarrassed to stop them and ask for directions and help.
If you're unsure about the direction you should travel, stay at your camp and build a shelter several hours before sundown, if possible. Build a smoky fire (which can be spotted from the air) or build three fires (a distress signal that also can be noticed from the air).
"You can live without food and water for several days," Rees says of those who choose to remain at their camp until they're found.
Alcohol and Gunpowder Don't Mix!
* do not handle a firearm if you've been consuming alcohol.
* do not give alcohol to someone who's cold. Rather than warming the person, alcohol will actually make them colder.
Outdoor Activities await at Oct. 15 Hardware Ranch Elk Festival
Outdoor activities and the possibility of seeing wild elk await those attending the annual Elk Festival at the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area east of Hyrum. The festival is scheduled Oct. 15 and is free of charge. Activities run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"The festival is a family-oriented event with activities targeted to immerse children of all ages in wildlife, habitat and heritage activities," reports Dan Christensen, Hardware Ranch WMA superintendent. "All activities are free, and food is available for purchase."
This year marks the sixth year that the ranch, which is operated by the Division of Wildlife Resources, has held a fall event to celebrate the return of elk to the bench above the WMA's visitor center. Last years' festival drew more than 1,300 visitors and was one of the most successful one-day festivals ever sponsored by the DWR.
Activities on Oct. 15 include horse-drawn wagon rides to see the elk, bird house building, pumpkin painting, frontier story telling, animal track stamping and children's archery. In addition there will be the DWR's fishing simulator and shooting trailer, local animals from the Logan Zoo, an elk bugling and cow elk calling contest, and exploring the visitor center exhibits.
Those riding on the free wagon rides might see some elk in the distance, as elk have traditionally been on the benches above the WMA's meadow during the festival. Prizes for a poster contest held earlier also will be awarded at the festival.
The DWR is also joining with Cache County 4-H to provide young people who attend the festival an opportunity to make a wildlife card to send messages of hope and encouragement to the survivors of hurricane Katrina.
What exactly is a wildlife card? "A note of encouragement carried to hurricane survivors by Utah's wildlife," says Marni Lee, assistant manager of the Hardware Ranch WMA. "This is an added twist to wildlife track stamping," Lee says. "Young people will use life-size rubber feet stamps of Utah's wildlife to create personalized cards for hurricane survivors. They can also add a personalized note of encouragement on the inside of the card. Youth can choose a variety of footprints to carry their message, from moose to muskrats."
More information about Hardware Ranch is available at http://www.hardwareranch.com or by calling (435) 753-6206. The elk festival is the kickoff for the fall and winter elk-viewing season at Hardware Ranch. The WMA's visitor center and sleigh rides are scheduled to open when the elk arrive in the meadow, which is usually around Dec. 15.