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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Utah Mule Deer

Large mule deer buck

Utah's mule deer application overview

Jump to: New for 2017 State Information Mule Deer Breakdown Draw System Hidden Gem Units Points Breakdown

If you love mule deer, then Utah should be a state you should consider applying for. Year after year the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) is continuing to improve mule deer herds through careful management by. The next few years, will be a great time to have a mule deer tag in your pocket in Utah.

Mule deer hunting in Utah is as good as it’s been in a long time for general season units and limited entry units. This article will cover everything that you need to know to apply in 2017 for general season, limited entry and dedicated hunter.

Note: The application deadline for all mule deer hunts is March 2. You can apply online here.



Why Utah for deer

  • You only need a few words to describe mule deer in Utah, big bucks!
  • The great thing about Utah is both limited entry and general season units produce giant deer every year.
  • Opportunity! You can apply for a limited entry hunt as well as general season deer. Be aware that you can only draw one deer tag per year.
  • Utah is a great state for the do-it-yourself (DIY) or guided hunter. This state holds a plethora of public land and many of the best deer hunting opportunities occur on open accessible federal and state managed lands.
  • Optimum season dates! Early season archery dates followed by a muzzleloader hunt during the last part of September and a rifle hunt that goes until October 29. Each weapon choice has the potential for a fantastic hunt!


New for 2017

  • Huge change for general season preference points.
    • Utah approved changes to the preference point system for the general season buck deer hunts. Starting in 2017, if you draw a general season buck deer permit you will lose your points at all choice levels. This has the potential to greatly affect how some people may apply for general season deer hunts. This is the first change to the preference points system in Utah since 2009.
    • This new change eliminates people from stockpiling points and still drawing tags.
    • All hunters’ first choices are considered before anyone’s second, third, fourth and fifth choices.
  • Shed hunting closure statewide until April 1. Read more here.
  • New management buck deer hunts
    • New archery and muzzleloader management buck deer permits on the Henry Mountains unit.
  • New limited entry deer hunts on general season units
    • Three new limited entry muzzleloader deer hunts have been approved on general season units and all units have great buck:doe ratios. Maps will be updated next week on INSIDER. The new limited entry hunts are:
      • Mt Dutton
      • Ogden
      • Plateau, Fishlake
  • Youth hunters can apply for limited entry and once-in-a-lifetime hunts at an earlier age. The youth must turn 12 years old by Dec. 31, 2017.
  • Updated application page website.
    • Changes to make the process easier to use.


State information

View important information and an overview of the Utah rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Utah Deer Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.

Utah State Profile Mule Deer Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Deadline to apply is March 2, 2017 at 11 p.m. MST.
  • Bonus point and preference point applications will be accepted from March 2 to March 16, 2017 at 11 p.m. MST.
  • You can apply online or by calling or visiting a UDWR office.
  • Hunters must have a valid hunting or combination hunting-and-fishing license to apply for tags. Hunting licenses are valid for 365 days from date of purchase.
  • The permit fee is only charged if drawn, but a $10.00 application fee will be charged for each species.
  • Withdrawing or correcting an application is allowed before the application deadline. Corrections must be made online. Be aware: you will be charged the $10 application fee again to make adjustments.
  • Results will be emailed or available online on or before May 31, 2017.
  • If you are unsuccessful in the draw, then you will be awarded a bonus point for a limited entry application. If you are unsuccessful in a general season or dedicated hunter draw, then you will also be awarded a preference point.
  • Nonresidents are allocated 10% of tags in each unit as long as at least 10 tags are available.
  • Nonresidents may apply for and build points for all available species, but for deer you can only draw one permit: either limited entry or general season.
  • Residents may apply for one limited entry species: elk, deer, or pronghorn as well as only one once-in-a-lifetime species (sheep, moose, goat, bison). You may also apply for general season deer and dedicated hunter if you want to enroll in that program. Remember that you can only possess one deer tag per year: either limited entry, general season or dedicated hunter.
  • An individual who draws a mule deer permit may surrender it back to the UDWR prior to the start of the season. If surrendered prior to opening day, you will receive your bonus/preference points back.
  • If you draw a Limited Entry deer permit, you may not apply again for two years. Waiting periods do not apply to general season deer permits.


The Utah draw system
 

Ron Kolpin with his giant mule deer taken with Wade Lemon Hunting
Ron Kolpin's 2016 Utah mule deer taken with Wade Lemon hunting — A goHUNT Business Member

Understanding the draw

You must have a valid 365 day hunting license to apply for any big game hunt. That can be purchased online as a regular hunting license or as a combo license, which includes a fishing license.

Note: Since the license is good for 365 days from the date of purchase you could potentially buy one license every other year by timing your application.

Applicants can select two hunt choices when applying for Limited Entry deer tags. The state considers all applicants’ first hunt choices before considering any applicant’s second choice. Due to the amount of applicants for each tag, it's very rare that a second choice is ever considered. For every year you apply for a bonus point only or are unsuccessful in the draw, you will receive one bonus point for that species. Remember that residents can apply for only one limited entry species (deer, elk, or antelope) and one once-in-a-lifetime species (bison, bighorn sheep, moose, or mountain goat). So if you plan on drawing a limited entry elk tag in 2017, it would be wise to avoid applying for limited deer this year. Nonresidents can apply for all species that they are interested in.

Half of all the permits for any given hunt are guaranteed for the applicants with the most bonus points. The other half of the permits are allocated through random draw. If an odd number of permits are available, then the larger amount goes to random draw.

Here’s why that matters

If you are applying for a hunt where there is only one permit available (resident or nonresident), then that permit is going in the random draw. Granted, statically, your odds of drawing that tag increase with more points, but there is no guarantee you will ever draw that permit.

Example: Henry Mountains Muzzleloader

Screenshot of draw odds showing random drawn mule deer tag

For the random permit draw process, each applicant is assigned a randomly generated number for each bonus point they have. The applicant with the lowest generated random number will draw the permit. This means that, essentially, the more bonus points you have, the better your odds, but even the hunter applying the first year has a chance.



Unlocking Utah’s deer system

Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:

  1. Buck deer (multi-season premium limited entry, premium limited entry, multi-season limited entry, limited entry, CWMU and management buck deer)
  2. Bull elk (multi-season limited entry, limited entry and CWMU)
  3. Buck antelope (limited entry and CWMU)
  4. Once-in-a-lifetime species (sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
  5. General buck deer (lifetime license holders)
  6. General buck deer (dedicated hunters)
  7. General buck deer (youth)
  8. General buck deer
  9. Youth any bull elk

The order in which the draw happens is important to consider because Utah does not allow you to draw two limited entry/once-in-a-lifetime tags in the same year. If you draw a limited entry deer, elk, or antelope permit, your application for a once-in-a-lifetime species will not be included in the draw. For more information on applying as a group, visit the Utah State Profile.

General Season buck deer permits are awarded to the applicants with the most preference points. Every year you apply for a general season deer tag and are unsuccessful you receive a preference point. You may also purchase just a preference point. It’s worth it to apply for a hunt or purchase a preference point to ensure you get a chance to hunt. Note: Youth who are 17- years-old and under can draw an any legal weapon deer permit and hunt all three seasons: archery, muzzleloader, and rifle.



Dedicated Hunter Program

The Dedicated Hunter program is designed to give hunters a unique opportunity to hunt all three general deer seasons (archery, muzzleloader, and rifle). If drawn, you will be enrolled in the program for three years. You may obtain a permit and hunt all three years, but you can only harvest two bucks in a three year period. You can only hunt the unit you drew. In exchange for having a guaranteed permit and the opportunity to hunt all three seasons, a hunter must complete 32 service hours on UDWR approved conservation projects. Residents may buy out 24 of their 32 hours at a rate of $20 per hour. Nonresidents may buy out all 32 of their service hours at the same rate.

When you apply to join the Dedicated Hunter program, you'll be charged a nonrefundable $10 application fee. If you are successful in the drawing, you will be charged one of the following fees:

Utah's Dedicated Hunter price breakdown*

Residents
Category Price
Adult $195
Youth (age 12 to 17) $120
Nonresidents
Adult $1,047
Youth $814
Lifetime license holders
Adult $75

* The program fee includes your certificate of registration and your annual deer permit fees for all three years. It also includes a $5 fee for the Predator Control Program.

Because you can hunt all three hunts, being in the Dedicated Hunter program gives you the ability to find a great buck and really focus on harvesting him. Some great bucks are taken every year by dedicated hunters on general season units. You will have to decide if the cost in time and money is worth it. You may apply for the Dedicated Hunter program and a general season deer tag, if you are drawn into the Dedicated Hunter program, then your general season deer application will be removed from the system.


 

Utah's mule deer breakdown
 

Mule deer buck taken with Clear Creek Outfitters
Great buck taken with Clear Creek Outfitters— A goHUNT Business Member

Current mule deer herd condition

2017 will definitely be a year to remember across the west. The past four winters have been amazing for mule deer survival. This winter Utah has had a lot of snow, and every area of Utah has received well over 100% of the normal averages. With warmer weather around the corner, hopefully survival will be high. Keep in mind that shed hunting is closed until April 1, 2017 statewide. Read more here.

Snowpack in Utah

Utah snow water equivalent percent of normal 2017

Snowpack in all areas of Utah are well above average.

The seasons

Mule deer seasons in Utah

Hunt Dates
General archery deer Aug. 19 - Sept. 15
General muzzleloader deer Sept. 27 - Oct. 5
General any legal weapon deer Oct. 21 - 29
Extended archery Sept. 16 - Dec. 15

 



How to uncover hidden gem mule deer units
 

Brandon Evans 2016 Utah general season archery mule deer
Head of INSIDER Research, Brandon Evans with his 2016 Utah general season archery mule deer.

Utah continually produces big bucks; and it is this reason alone why you should continue to apply for Utah. If you're addicted to hunting mule deer and want that chance at a limited entry deer tag, then Utah should be on your list of states to apply.

Note: Utah has lots of general season deer units that can be drawn with minimal points. The difference in trophy potential between a lot of general season units and some of the medium and lower tier limited entry units is slim. Perhaps consider building limited entry deer points while you are on waiting periods for elk or antelope.

To find a good general season unit, use Filtering 2.0 and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the hunting units that have a legitimate chance at bucks that score 170” or better. Currently 15 of the 29 general season deer units have the potential to produce 170"+ bucks. Keep in mind the buck:doe ratios and harvest success. Customize your search and click on a specific unit to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn an area. Our Utah Deer Species Profile is another great way to determine other areas and regions of the state to consider. Also, just because a unit has a higher trophy potential, doesn't mean it will be the right hunt for your style of hunting.

Extended archery deer opportunities
 

Zach Davis with his Utah extended archery mule deer buck
Zach Davis with his 2016 Utah extended archery mule deer buck. You can read his HUNT story here.

Utah has a unique extended archery season for deer. Any hunter who holds an archery deer permit (general, limited entry) in 2017 and hasn't harvested an animal, is allowed to hunt the extended season. You must also complete the required extended archery ethics course and print the certificate and keep it with you while hunting.

Extended archery units

Unit

Trophy
potential
Wasatch Front 170"+
Ogden 160"+
Uintah Basin 150"+
Cache Laketown 140"+
West Cache 140"+

 



B&C entry trends for Utah mule deer

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

Utah's top Boone & Crockett producing
counties since 2010 for typical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Kane 7 Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, Paunsaugunt,
Panguitch Lake, Zion
Garfield 4 Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael, PaunsauguntHenry Mtns, Beaver, Mt Dutton,
Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, Panguitch Lake
Washington 4 Pine ValleyZion
Summit 3 Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich, Kamas,
North SlopeWasatch Mtns, East
Box Elder 3 Box Elder

 

Utah's top Boone & Crockett producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Cache 2 Cache, Ogden
Washington 2 Pine ValleyZion
Carbon 1 Central Mtns, Manti/San RafaelNine Mile
Wasatch Mtns, Avintaquin/Currant Creek
Garfield 1 Paunsaugant, Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits,
Henry Mtns, Mt Dutton, Panguitch Lake, Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael
Iron 1 Southwest Desert, Beaver, Panguitch Lake,
ZionPine Valley


TOTAL NUMBER OF B&C TYPICAL MULE DEER ENTRIES SINCE 2010
TOTAL NUMBER OF B&C NONTYPICAL MULE DEER ENTRIES SINCE 2010


 

Trending buck:doe ratio units
 

Shane Ellis late season Utah muzzleloader buck
Shane Ellis with a great late season Utah muzzleloader buck taken with High Top Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status and health of the herd. A higher buck to doe ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bucks compared to a unit with a lower buck to doe ratio. More bucks equates to more bucks to find and harvest. When selecting a unit or comparing several units, you should take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0.

The interesting discovery is that the top areas with the highest buck:doe ratios are not found in the top trophy producing units. Several of these top buck:doe ratio units are also available to hunt with a general license. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0. These are some serious sleeper areas to consider!

Top Utah units for buck:doe ratios

Unit Buck:Doe
Ratio
Trophy
potential
Limited Quota General Both
Henry Mountains 55:100 180" + X    
Paunsaugunt 44:100 180" + X    
Southwest Desert 29:100 180" +   X  
Chalk Creek/East Canyon/
Morgan-South Rich
27:100 170" +   X  
West Desert, Tintic 26:100 150" +   X  
Plateau, Thousand Lakes 25:100 160" +   X  
San Juan, Elk Ridge 24:100 180" + X    
Zion* 24:100 180" +     X
Kamas 23:100 170" +   X  
Monroe 23:100 160" +   X  

* Zion Muzzleloader is a Limited Entry hunt.


Hit list units for trophy Utah mule deer in 2017

Top hit list hunt units to consider
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Buck:doe
ratio
Henry Mountains 190" + 55:100
Paunsaugunt 190" + 44:100
San Juan, Elk Ridge 180" + 43:100
Zion 180" + 27:100
Pine Valley 180" + 26:100
Southwest Desert 180" + 19:100
La Sal, Dolores Triangle 180" + 45:100
Cache, Crawford Mtn 180" + 23:100
Fillmore, Oak Creek 170"+ 28:100
West Desert, Vernon 170"+ 34:100

 



Managing points and expectations

The bonus point race

Limited Entry Bonus Points

2017 maximum bonus points for Limited Entry deer: 23

Utah Limited Entry deer POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2017 DRAW


General Season Preference Points

2017 maximum preference points for general season deer: 17

UTAH GENERAL SEASON DEER POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2017 DRAW

Dedicated Hunter Preference Points

2017 maximum preference points for dedicated hunter: 6

UTAH DEDICATED HUNTER DEER POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2017 DRAW

Note: For another view of the point breakdowns using tables, visit the Utah mule deer species profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.

Find your draw odds

I have 0 deer points. What can I expect?

Limited Entry

At zero points, you're going to be in for a long wait. The best strategy here is to apply for the best possible hunt and wait your turn or apply for the the hunt with the greatest number of tags. Half of all limited entry deer tags will go in the random draw so with zero points you have chance. For nonresidents, if there is only one permit offered, it will be drawn randomly. A resident and nonresident can draw the limited entry North Slope, Summit rifle tag with zero points.

General

One preference point will allow a resident to draw almost any archery, muzzleloader, or rifle permit. Nonresidents can draw almost any archery, muzzleloader and several rifle units with one preference point. Review the Draw Odds for specifics.

Dedicated Hunter

Caution should be made when applying for a hunt in the dedicated hunter program because you will be locked in for three years. You can draw some of the units with zero points, but a lot of the units may take one or more points.

What can I do with 3 or 4 deer points?

Limited Entry

Residents:

Even with 3 points, your chances of pulling a limited entry tag are pretty slim. A few of the late season muzzleloader units have decent draw odds; Kamas (31% at 3 points) and Nine Mile (40% at 3 points). 

Nonresidents:

You should adopt a similar strategy as with zero points. Your chances of drawing a tag in this point range are better, but not by much. 

General

Residents:

Five preference points will draw a resident any general season permit.

Nonresidents:

Five preference points will draw a nonresident any general season permit minus one — the rifle Plateau/Thousand Lakes.

What can I expect with 10 or 11 deer points?

Limited Entry

Residents:

With 10 points, a resident can pick a number of archery hunts. One of the better options is the Book Cliffs, North, Book Cliffs, South. With 10 or more points, you have 100% draw odds on half of the archery units. While the rifle permit odds are still long, there are multiple muzzleloader hunts that are intriguing like the Book Cliffs, North, Book Cliffs, SouthWest Desert Vernon, and Nine Mile late muzzleloader. Keep in mind that point creep is occurring in a lot of the limited entry units. For example: in 2015 it only took 10 points to have 100% draw odds on Zion late muzzleloader, and in 2016 it jumped three points.

Nonresidents:

It is still going to be a long waiting game if you're a nonresident with 10 to 11 points. The draw odds are slim. Again, apply for the best available permits or a hunt with the greatest number of permits available to increase your odds. You can draw an archery West Desert, Vernon tag with 9 points.

What can I expect with 15 or 16 deer points?

Limited Entry

You have a lot of options at this point range. Keep in mind that you have put your time in, so apply for the hunt that you feel will be the best use of your points.

Residents:

At 15 points you can draw any archery permit except a Henry Mountains tag (1.4% at 15 points, or 100% at 18 points). Once again, you could draw any muzzleloader tag (draw odds for the late muzzleloader Pine Valley tag are 81% at 15 points). You could draw the Any Legal Weapon, Management permit for the Henry Mountains at 15 points. There are a lot of good options if you want to cash in, including the Paunsaugunt archery and muzzleloader. Study the Draw Odds details page very closely if you have 15 plus points.

Nonresidents:

At this point level, you have some interesting options and you should definitey study the Draw Odds details page to explore some choices. Five of the 10 units are now 100% draw odds. Here are some units that you could consider: Book Cliffs North and South archery, muzzleloader and rifle, South Slope/Diamond Mtn rifle. West Desert Vernon rifle is a great option, but this unit could have been drawn at 9 points. To even be considered for the Paunsaugunt permits (archery, muzzleloader, rifle) you will need at least 20 plus points.

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