There is a slight decrease in the number of general buck permits this year. [Photo courtesy Division of Wildlife Resources]

Even though the number of deer in Utah is going up, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a slight decrease in the number of general buck deer permits available for hunts in Utah this fall.

A total of 84,600 general deer permits will be available for 2013. In 2012, a total of 86,500 permits were offered.

Division of Wildlife Resources big game coordinator Anis Aoude said even though the total number of deer in Utah is going up, the number of bucks per 100 does is still below the management objective on some of the state’s hunting units.

Aoude said two factors determine how many buck deer permits can be offered on a unit: The average number of bucks per 100 does on the unit over the past three years and whether that number has increased, decreased or stayed the same during the three-year period.

Biologists found a little of everything on Utah’s 30 general-season units after last fall’s hunts. On some units, the number of bucks per 100 does was above objective and was rising. Other units were stable. And, on some units, the number of bucks per 100 does was declining.

“Based on the data we collected, we recommended 1,900 fewer permits for this fall’s hunts,” Aoude said.

Aoude said the number of bucks taken by hunters last fall was up about 34 percent from 2011. And the total number of deer in Utah, after the hunts were over, was up too.

“Two years ago, after the hunts in 2011, Utah had about 286,000 deer. Despite hunters taking more bucks in 2012, about 318,000 deer were in the state after the hunts were over last fall. That’s encouraging,” he said. “It shows the overall deer population is growing.”

The following are among additional big game changes board members approved at their meeting on May 2: Fewer limited-entry buck deer permits. The number of limited-entry deer permits dropped from 967 in 2012 to 827 for this fall’s hunts.

Protecting buck deer on the north end of the Book Cliffs is the major reason the number of permits was decreased.

Aoude said most of the bucks taken on the Book Cliffs are taken on the north end of the unit. The time of year when the hunt is held, and fairly open terrain that makes it easier for hunters to see deer, has led to more deer being taken on the north end of the unit than on the south end.

“The low number of fawns that are produced on the Book Cliffs makes it harder to replace bucks once they’re taken,” Aoude said.

More cow elk permits. The number of cow elk permits increased from 14,763 in 2012 to 17,817 for this fall’s hunts.

Aoude said Utah’s elk populations are doing well. So well, in fact, that more cow elk permits are needed to try to bring the total number of elk back to the statewide management objective of 70,965 animals.

Buck pronghorn permits increased from 664 in 2012 to 853 for this fall’s hunts. Doe pronghorn permits increased from 537 in 2012 to 962 for this fall.

The productive pronghorn herd on the Parker Mountains in south-central Utah is the major reason for the increase. A tough winter hit the unit two years ago. Snow and cold killed a lot of pronghorns and dropped the herd below its management objective.

“This is a really productive herd, though,” Aoude said. “The animals have already bounced back. More doe pronghorn permits are needed to get the animals back to the management objective of 1,500 pronghorn.”