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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2015: Utah mule deer

 

2015 Utah Application Strategy - mule deer
Photo credit: High Top Outfitters

Overview

If you want to hunt mule deer, Utah is a state that you cannot overlook. In 2014, Utah produced one of the largest bucks that has come out of the state in a few decades. Not only are there amazing deer being harvested in the state, but it also offers some great hunting opportunities. Here is what you need to know about this year’s draw. Apply online here for 2015.

Why Utah for mule deer in 2015
 

Large Utah mule deer buck
Photo credit: Wade Lemon Hunting

Utah has the best of both worlds when it comes to mule deer hunting, giant deer and good hunter opportunity. The hunters that just want to hunt deer can typically draw a permit every other year for one of the general units. Those that want to play the points game can apply for some of the best mule deer hunting that the west has to offer. A neat fact about Utah, some of the largest bucks taken the last few years have come from its general units.

Utah’s mule deer Boone and Crockett entries: Typical

County

Entries

Units within county

Kane 31 25C/26 Plateau-Boulder/Kaiparowits, 27 Paunsaugunt,
28 Panguitch Lake, 29 Zion
Garfield 17 12/16B/16C Central Mtns-Manti/San Rafael, 15 Henry Mtns,
22 Beaver24 Mt Dutton,
25C/26 Plateau-Boulder/Kaiparowits, 28 Panguitch Lake
Summit 14 4/5/6 Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich,
7 Kamas8 North Slope,
17B/17C Wasatch Mtns-Avintaquin/Currant Creek
Morgan 12 3 Ogden, 4/5/6 Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich
San Juan 11 13A La Sal-La Sal Mtns, 14A San Juan-Abajo Mtns,
14B San Juan-Elk Ridge

Utah’s mule deer Boone and Crockett entries: Nontypical

County

Entries

Units within county

Utah 10 12/16B/16C Central Mtns-Manti/San Rafael,
16A Central Mtns/Nebo17A Wasatch Mtns/West,
18 Oquirrh-Stansbury19C West Desert/Tintic
Iron 9 20 Southwest Desert, 22 Beaver, 28 Panguitch Lake,
29 Zion, 30 Pine Valley
Cache 8 2 Cache, 3 Ogden
Morgan 7 3 Ogden, 4/5/6 Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich
Kane 6 25C/26 Plateau-Boulder/Kaiparowits, 27 Paunsaugunt,
28 Panguitch Lake, 29 Zion
San Juan 6 13A La Sal-La Sal Mtns, 14A San Juan-Abajo Mtns,
14B San Juan-Elk Ridge

 

General herd conditions:

Though the deer herds have been somewhat stagnant in the past, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has been trying to improve deer herds through improving habitat. The state is also transplanting deer from high-population areas to low, for better balance and regulating hunting pressure in different parts of the state to give the deer herds a boost. Over the past few years you can start to see that it is paying off with the populations and the increased age class of deer that are being harvested across the state.
 

Two large velvet mule deer
Photo credit: High Top Outfitters

What’s new in 2015?

  • New limited-entry buck deer hunt on the North Slope.
  • Late-season muzzleloader deer hunts with dates that occur at the start of the rut and have excellent trophy potential.
  • Multi-season limited-entry deer hunts allow hunters to hunt during all the seasons offered in those areas.
  • An extended archery area has been made in West Cache for deer. 
  • For the first time, limited-entry deer archery hunters who don’t harvest during the limited-entry season will be allowed to hunt extended archery areas.
  • Permit numbers for big game hunts will be set during the Utah Wildlife Board’s April 2015 meeting.
  • The mentoring program introduced in 2014 is a great way to get kids into hunting.
  • The trial hunting program (also introduced in 2014) allows anyone over the age of 12 to try out hunting for a few years before taking a hunter education course, though they must be accompanied by a licensed hunter over 21 years old.

The draw system: An overview

  • Tag or license: License plus individual permits.
  • Point System: Bonus points for nonresidents and residents. Preference points for general-season deer permits.
  • Youth: 20% of Utah’s buck deer permits are allocated to youth 17 and under in the big game draw.
  • Draw type: Regular draw with a nine-step process.
  • Resident perk: Only residents can apply for the coveted Utah sportsman permits. 

Compared to other states in the West, Utah has a fairly simple draw. Remember that each species has different maps and boundaries. Otherwise, it is straightforward and easy to apply. You will need an active hunting license in order to apply for the draw, see pricing and deadlines below.

Applicants may select three hunt choices when applying for limited-entry or general season tags. The state considers all applicants’ first hunt choices before considering any applicant’s second choice. 

Unlike residents, nonresidents can apply and build points for multiple species. Residents must select either deer, elk, or antelope. Nonresidents receive 10% of tags for each hunt choice when at least 10 tags are offered.

A recent innovation for Utah is that you can save your hunting license on your smartphone or tablet. The official app allows you to renew, check expiration and is considered a valid copy to show to a conservation officer.

Application types and deadlines

Nonresident
application

Online
application
dates
(by 11 p.m. MT)

Modify/
Withdraw
dealine date

(by 11 p.m. MT)

Results
available

License
cost*

Hunting license
(18 or older)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $65

Combo hunting
& fishing license
(18 or older)

Must be current
at time
of application
    $85
Youth hunting license
(17 or younger)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $25
Youth combo hunting
& fishing license
(17 or younger)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $29
Deer (general) Jan. 29 – Mar. 5 March 5/
March 19
May 29 $268*

Deer (CWMU or
limited entry)

Jan. 29 – Mar. 5 March 5/
March 19
May 29 $468*
Deer (premium entry) Jan. 29 – Mar. 5 March 5/
March 19
May 29 $568*
Bonus point only Jan. 29 – Mar. 19     $10

*All permit applications include a nonrefundable fee of $10.
You must have a valid hunting license to purchase a bonus point. 

Resident
application

Online
application
dates
(by 11 p.m. MT)

Modify/
Withdraw
dealine date
(by 11 p.m. MT)

Results
available

License
cost*

Hunting license
(18-64 years old)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $34
Combo hunting
& fishing license
(18-64 years old)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $38
Hunting license
(65 years old or
older)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $25
Combo hunting
& fishing license
(65 years old or
older)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $29
Youth hunting license
(13 years old or
younger)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $11
Youth hunting license
(14-17 years old)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $16
Youth combo hunting
& fishing license
(14-17 years old)
Must be current
at time
of application
    $20
Deer (general) Jan. 29 – Mar. 5 March 5/
March 19
May 29 $40*
Deer (CWMU or
limited entry)
Jan. 29 – Mar. 5 March 5/
March 19
May 29 $80*
Deer (premium entry) Jan. 29 – Mar. 5 March 5/
March 19
May 29 $168*
Bonus point only Jan. 29 – Mar. 19     $10

*All permit applications include a nonrefundable fee of $10.
You must have a valid hunting license to purchase a bonus point. 

Note: If there are any limited-entry permits remaining after the big game drawing, they will be available on a first come, first served basis beginning July 14, 2015 at 8 a.m. MT. You can buy permits online and at license agent locations and division offices. You must have a valid hunting license or a combination license to buy one of these permits.
 

Giant Utah muzzleloader buck
Photo credit: Wade Lemon Hunting

Special limitations to consider

If you have drawn a limited-entry buck deer permit, you may not apply again for two years.

The draw: Unlocking Utah’s system

Big game permits are drawn in the following order. Note: if you receive deer, elk, or antelope limited-entry permits, you will not be included in the draw for once-in-a-lifetime species.

First: Buck deer (multi-season premium limited-entry, premium limited-entry, multi-season limited-entry, limited-entry, CWMU and management buck deer). 
Second: Bull elk (multi-season limited-entry, limited-entry and CWMU).
Third: Buck pronghorn (limited- entry and CWMU).
Fourth: Once-in-a-lifetime permits (Rocky Mountain bighorn, desert bighorn, moose, bison and mountain goat).
Fifth: General buck deer (Lifetime License holders). 
Sixth: General buck deer (Dedicated Hunters). 
Seventh: General buck deer (youth).
Eighth: General buck deer.
Last: Youth any bull elk.

HOW MUCH OF THE DRAW IS RESERVED FOR NON MAX POINT HOLDERS?

The point system

The more bonus points you have, the better your chances at drawing a coveted tag. Both residents and nonresidents accrue points. You get one point for each year you apply for a limited-entry hunt. Residents can only accrue points for one species at a time, nonresidents can accrue points for multiple species at once.

The maximum points for 2015 are:

Bonus points: 21
Preference points: 15

If your application is unsuccessful you will automatically get a bonus point for that species. You can also purchase a bonus point only, but cannot apply for a permit and bonus point for the same species. You must have a current hunting license to apply and earn points.

Utah also has a preference point system for general season deer permits. Apply for multiple units. If you do not draw your first choice you will receive a preference, even if you do draw your second through fifth choice.

Utah Henry Mountains archery mule deer

Youth 

There is no youth-specific point system in Utah. Youth have no tags or special seasons, though youth can apply in a youth-only group for deer. 20% of Utah’s general deer permits are allocated to youth in the big game drawing.

Party applications

A maximum of four hunters may apply together in a group application. Residents and nonresidents can apply together, but make sure that nonresident permits are available for each hunt you apply for. If members of a group application have bonus points, their bonus points are averaged and rounded down to the nearest whole number. Find out more about group applications here.

Sportsman permits

Long season dates and almost any unit in the state could be yours with a 2016 Utah sportsman permit. These permits are available to residents only through a raffle-style draw. One permit for deer is usually offered every year. Apply online from October 28 to November 18, 2015. We realize that many hunters are doing it, but this could be your year.

Utah big game draw FAQs

Where and how do I apply?

Utah’s application is entirely online. Call customer service at (800) 221-0659 (24 hours a day/7 days a week) with any questions. You can also apply over the phone by calling any division office. See deadlines and fees in the tables above.

Is Utah good for building points? 

Yes. You can purchase one bonus point per year, unsuccessful applications will also earn one point per year. Compared to other states, it is fairly inexpensive to build points in Utah. All it takes is the cost of the license and $10 for the point.

Can I turn my permit back in should I draw and decide not to hunt?

Yes. You must surrender your permit before the start of the hunting period. If you turn your permit back in, you also get your bonus points back. If you applied as a group, the entire group must surrender their tags 30 days prior to the season opener. Medical conditions and military duties can also qualify you for a refund. See Utah’s permit surrender rules for more details.

The seasons

Utah’s seasons are highly structured. Hunts are weapon-specific with archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons. Deer and elk have the same seasons and dates, you can go into the field with a permit for each in your pocket. Check out season dates in our Utah species profile as well as Utah’s 2015 Big Game Application Guidebook.

Extended archery units for deer are found near urban areas in the northern part of the state. These allow anyone holding an early archery permit to get back out in the field in November and December if you did not harvest in the earlier season. Definitely a great way to increase time in the field.

Hunter opportunity

General information, tips and our insights for hunting mule deer in Utah.

Draw odds and tag availability

If you hunt general-season buck mule deer, it is worth your time to mark more than just your first hunt choice when applying for a permit. If you draw anything after your first choice, then you will earn a preference point and get an opportunity to hunt this year.

Coveted hunts, such as the Henry Mountains and Paunsaugunt, have an extremely low number of tags for the amount of people that apply. These highly desired choices require close to maximum points for the rifle seasons. If you are willing to apply for a primitive weapon season in a top unit, or select a rifle season in an alternative unit, then you’ll greatly improve your odds of drawing.
 

Herd of Utah mule deer
Photo credit: High Top Outfitters

Special features for mule deer in Utah

  • Deer hunters have a great range of opportunity with general season tags. Some of the biggest bucks in Utah have been harvested from the general units.
  • New hunts for 2015 allow for rut action and longer seasons.
  • There are no wolf or grizzly hazard areas in the state.

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 points. What can I expect?

Limited-entry: Half of the permits are not reserved for those with the most preference points so there is always a possibility you will get lucky and draw a permit randomly. For nonresidents, if there is only one permit offered it will be drawn randomly. You can work on building points even if you do not draw this year.

General: A lot of general deer units offer a good chance at drawing a rifle permit. If you are willing to hunt with primitive weapons the odds are even better.

What can I do with 3 or 4 points?

Limited-entry: For residents the are a few limited-entry permits that you will be in the running for on a typical year. For the premium limited-entry units you are still banking on a chance at one of the randomly drawn permits. Nonresidents should remember that if there is only one permit, you have a chance as it is drawn randomly.

General: Both residents and nonresidents that have this many points can typically draw any general deer unit in the state, in just about any season. This shows that building points for a few years can pay off.

What can I expect with 10 or more points?

Limited-entry: Residents should have a lot of unit and season options with a very real chance at drawing one of the max point permits. The primitive weapon seasons will provide even better odds. The better limited-entry units, as well as the highly coveted premium limited-entry units will require a few more years of applying to reach that max point level. Nonresidents (like residents) that are willing to hunt with archery equipment have a better chance at some of the limited-entry units. For the better units, count on the random draw tags. Note: there are many units that only offer one permit, so it will be drawn randomly.

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