By ELISA BALL
Homecoming activities may be second choice for avid hunters this weekend. Utah’s mountain regions will be full of camouflaged pants, orange vests and loaded rifles for the annual rifle deer hunt which begins Saturday, Oct. 18 and runs through Oct. 26.
Wildlife officials are predicting a great hunt this year. On the average, 24 percent of rifle hunters have a successful hunt. Due to high rates of winter wildlife survival, success rates may reach as high as 35 percent in some areas throughout the state, said Mark Hadley with the Division of Wildlife Resources Information Education programs.
“We’ll never see the days of the thundering herds that were once found in the state, because of habitat loss and other competing uses, but we are nearing our management objectives, and because of several years of milder winter, and good spring and summer conditions we are looking at a very good year,” said Bruce Giunta, regional wildlife manager for the DWR.
Hunters must purchase a regional permit and a Wildlife Habitat Authorization to legally hunt. There are 246 participating license agents statewide where hunters can purchase permits. Resident fees are $25 for a license and $5.25 for a Wildlife Habitat Authorization. Nonresident fees are $198 for a license and $5.25 for a Wildlife Habitat Authorization. The required, Wildlife Habitat Authorization is a new policy which started in 1996 which funds habitat recoveries, protection and public access to wildlife. Twenty-five cents goes to the states search and rescue programs.
Deer tags for the southeastern,southern, and northeastern regions of the state have been sold out but the central and northern regions are still available. Vernon Deer unit, Book Cliffs unit, and the Henry Mountains unit will be closed for wildlife protection and recovery purposes.
Lenny Rees, hunter education program coordinator for the DWR passes on the following tips for an enjoyable and safe hunting experience. After obtaining the proper hunting permits, hunters should know the area they plan to hunt. A survival kit is a good idea with a small first aid kit, three ways to build a fire, quick energy snack foods, a cord or rope, compass, flashlight, knife and a small pad of paper and pencil to leave information about yourself and the direction you are traveling.
Rees advises hunters to be familiar with their firearm. Know the loading and unloading procedures as well as where the safety is and how to use it. Never carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle. Proper safety clothing, which is 400 square inches of hunter orange on your back, chest and head is essential and never hunt alone.
When transporting game, hunters are urged to keep carcasses covered. This helps protect the meat from flies, dust and heat, and avoids offending the non-hunting public.
“A true sportsman should be satisfied with the hunting experience, without feeling the need to ‘show off’ by flaunting the kill,” said Mike Milburn, lieutenant in the DWR southeastern region.