APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Utah Mule Deer
Utah's 2020 mule deer application overview
Jump to: NEW FOR 2020 State Information Mule Deer Breakdown Draw System Hidden Gem Units Points Breakdown
Note: The application deadline for all Utah species is March 5, 2020 at 11 p.m. MST. Applicants who want to purchase bonus points only have until March 19, 2020 at 11 p.m. MST. You may apply online here.
New for 2020
- Utah has changed their draw system slightly. Previously, if there were an odd number of permits for a hunt, then the bulk of those permits was allocated through the random draw. Now, the bulk will be given to those in the maximum point pool. For example, if there are seven permits, four will go to maximum point holders and three will be randomly allocated. If there is only one permit, it will still be randomly allocated.
- Starting in 2020, if you want to surrender your big game permit you MUST do so at least 30 days before the start of the season; otherwise your points will be purged. If you return it at least 30 days before you’ll get all of your previously accrued bonus or preference points for that species/permit back, but you will not earn a point for the current year.
- Season dates change every year, so please check them carefully before applying for hunts.
- Handgun-archery-muzzleloader-shotgun-only hunts (HAMS hunts): Starting in 2020, there will be three new limited entry buck deer hunts that occur from Nov. 6 to 27 and that allow the hunter to use only a handgun, archery equipment, a muzzleloader and/or a shotgun. Those will occur on the Book Cliffs, Floy Canyon, Kaiparowits and Morgan-South Rich.
- In 2020, there will be three new extended archery deer areas: Southwest Desert Cedar Valley, Pine Valley New Harmony and Nine Mile Green River Valley.
- Every general season deer unit will now also have late limited entry deer hunts.
- The Cache Laketown Extended Archery deer area has been discontinued.
- There will no longer be management buck permit quotas allocated to youth and to individuals who are 65 and older.
- Starting in 2020, if you draw a limited entry buck deer permit, your waiting period will be five years before you can apply again for a limited entry buck.
- If you purchase a general season buck deer permit that’s available after the big game drawing, you will lose any preference points you’ve accrued for general season buck deer.
To view important information and an overview of Utah’s rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Utah Mule Deer Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Important dates and information
- The deadline to apply is March 5, 2020 at 11 p.m. MST.
- Apply online here.
- The bonus point/preference point only purchase and application withdrawal deadline is March 19, 2020 at 11 p.m. MST.
- If you need help looking up your bonus points, go here.
- Results will be emailed or available online on or shortly before May 29, 2020.
- Hunters must have a valid hunting or combination hunting/fishing license to apply.
- Hunting licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. If you time it correctly you can apply two consecutive years on one license. You do not need an active hunting license to hunt, just to apply.
- Applicants must be 12 years old by Dec. 31, 2020 to apply and hunt in Utah.
- Hunters born after Dec. 31, 1965, must have taken an approved hunter’s education course.
- Withdrawing or correcting an application is allowed before the application deadline. Corrections are made by withdrawing an application and submitting a new one. Be aware: you will be charged the $10 application fee again to make adjustments and reapply.
- The limited entry deer uses a bonus point system.
- The general season deer uses a preference point system.
- Nonresidents may apply and build bonus points for all available species.
- Residents may only apply for one limited entry species: elk, antelope or deer. They may also apply for one once-in-a-lifetime species: moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison. They can also apply for general season deer and the dedicated hunter program if they are not already enrolled.
- If you draw a limited entry deer permit, you may not apply again for five years.
- Waiting periods are not applicable for general season deer.
Fees and permit costs
Utah deer fees for 2020
|Item||Resident fees||Nonresident fees|
|365-day hunting license||$11 youth (13 and under)|
$16 youth (14 to 17)
$34 adult (18 to 64)
$25 adult (65 and older)
|$25 youth (14 to 17)|
$65 adult (18 and older)
|365-day hunt/fish combo license||$20 youth (14 to 17)|
$38 adult (18 to 64)
$29 adult (65 and older)
|$29 youth (17 and under)|
$85 adult (18 and under)
|Application fee/per application||$10||$10|
|Premium limited entry||$168||$568|
|Multi-season limited entry||$145||$845|
|Multi-season premium limited entry||$305||$1,025|
|Dedicated hunter||$120 youth (12 to 17)|
|$814 (12 to 17)|
The Utah draw system
Utah issues 10% of their draw permits to nonresidents.
What can I apply for?
Utah allows residents to apply for one premium/limited entry species, one once-in-a-lifetime species and a general season deer permit. If an applicant is not already enrolled in the dedicated hunter program they can also apply for it. If you draw into the dedicated hunter program you are enrolled in it for three years and cannot apply for general season deer during that time frame.
Nonresidents can apply for all species they are interested in. They can apply for limited entry deer, elk, antelope, all once-in-a-lifetime species (moose, bighorn sheep, bison, mountain goat) and general season deer. They can also apply for the dedicated hunter program if not already enrolled. Please read more about the dedicated hunter program in the “hunting seasons” below.
Applicants can only draw one once-in-a-lifetime permit or limited entry permit in a year. You cannot draw both and hunt both in the same year. You also cannot draw a limited entry deer and a general season deer permit in the same year. If you draw a limited entry deer permit, your general season deer application will not be considered.
You can apply for points only, we highly encourage applicants to apply for a hunt though. The only reason applicants should not apply for hunts is if they cannot afford the permit should they draw or the time off to hunt. More on that below.
All limited entry deer hunts are allocated through a modified bonus point system. Half of the permits for each hunt are given to applicants that apply with the most bonus points. The other half are allocated through a random draw with weight given to the number of points you have. Essentially, the more points you have, the more chances you get in the drawing. If there is an odd number of permits, then the bulk of the permits go to high point holders. If there is one permit only, it will be randomly drawn. You obtain a point for each year you are unsuccessful in the draw or applicants can apply for points only.
**Only apply for a point only if you cannot afford the permit or the time off to hunt should you draw. With a portion of the permits being randomly drawn, you always have some chance.
Limited entry deer hunt choices
Applicants can select two hunt choices when applying for limited entry deer hunts. Every applicant’s first choice is considered before moving to anyone's second choice. It is extremely rare for a limited entry permit to be drawn as a second choice. If you draw a permit as your first or second choice, your accumulated points will be purged.
Up to four can apply together on a group application for limited entry and general season deer. Group applicants are not allowed for management deer hunts. A group application is treated as a single application. Group applicants will have their points totaled, averaged and rounded down to the whole number.
You will obtain a point for each year you are unsuccessful in the draw or applicants can pay for points only. You can select up to five hunt choices on your general season deer application. Be aware that if you draw any of your five choices your preference points will be purged. If you purchase a leftover general season deer hunt, your preference points will be purged.
Dedicated hunter program
The dedicated hunter program is a unique opportunity that allows a hunter to hunt all seasons (archery, muzzleloader, rifle) and harvest two bucks in a three year period. 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 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) approved conservation projects or you can purchase all or a portion of your hours at a cost of $20/per hour.
If you can afford the cost and time to hunt multiple seasons, the dedicated hunter program is an excellent way to scout, hunt and harvest a big buck on a general season unit.
Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:
- Buck deer (multi-season premium limited entry, premium limited entry, multi-season limited entry, limited entry, Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit (CWMU) and management buck deer)
- Bull elk (multi-season limited entry, limited entry, and CWMU)
- Buck antelope (limited entry and CWMU)
- Once-in-a-lifetime species (bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
- General buck deer (lifetime license holders)
- General buck deer (dedicated hunters)
- General buck deer (youth)
- General buck deer
- Youth any bull elk
Utah does not allow applicants to draw multiple limited entry tags in the same draw/year. You also cannot draw a limited entry and a once-in-a-lifetime (moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison) permit in the same year.
Utah's 2020 mule deer breakdown
Over the past several years, Utah has continued to create new opportunities to work more hunters through the draw system and to give hunters additional opportunities. Within the limited entry section of deer hunts Utah currently offers: premium limited entry, limited entry, management and cactus buck, HAMS and late muzzleloader limited entry on general season units. Applicants can apply for one of the previous limited entry hunts, but not all of those.
Snowpack in Utah
The entire state is currently over 100% of normal snowpack. It’s shaping up to be a very good water year and the antler growth should reflect that. If spring snow/rain are good through the months of March, April and May, antler growth could be exceptional in 2020.
How to uncover hidden gem mule deer units
Premium limited entry
These are units/hunts that are managed for higher buck:doe ratios and a higher quality hunt. The Henry Mountains, Paunsaugunt and Antelope Island hunts are under this category. There are archery, muzzleloader, rifle and multi-season hunts available for these units.
Management and cactus limited entry
The Henry Mountains and Paunsaugunt units have archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts for management (bucks with three points or less on at least one antler) and cactus (bucks with velvet covering at least 50% of its antlers during the season dates).
Limited entry units are managed for a lower buck:doe ratio than the premium units. These units offer good hunts, but quality is not typically on par with the premium units. There are archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts for these units and odds of drawing these hunts are better than the premium units.
New hunts for 2020, the HAMS hunts will occur on the Book Cliffs, Floy Canyon, Kaiparowits, Morgan-South Rich and run from Nov. 6 to 27th. The dates are ideal for a rutting mule deer hunt, but weapons are restricted to handguns, archery, muzzleloader and shotgun.
Late muzzleloader on general season units
These hunts occur on the general season units from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5th and permit holders must use a muzzleloader. These are limited entry hunts that occur on general season units and, if you draw one, all of your bonus points will be utilized. It’s worth noting that these hunts will begin two days after the rifle general season hunts end and end prior to the prime dates of the rut.
General season deer hunts
As previously stated, general season deer hunts work on a preference point system that is seperate from the limited entry hunts. Most limited entry archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts can be drawn with relatively few points. The quality of general season units is quite good. If you have time to scout and get to know a unit well the opportunity to harvest a 160”+ plus buck is good. Almost every general season unit will produce a few bucks every year that are 180”+. Study the trophy potentials, buck:doe ratios, harvest success and unit profiles to determine what units might offer a better chance at a great buck. Consider habitat conditions, recent burns, more remote and less pressured terrain and hunting pressure. There are some very good options.
Dedicated hunter deer hunts
The dedicated hunter program is a unique opportunity that allows a hunter to hunt all seasons (archery, muzzleloader, rifle) and harvest two bucks in a three year period. Dedicated hunter units are the same as the general season units. You can apply for both general season and dedicated hunter hunts, but be aware that there are special requirements to participate in the dedicated hunter program. The dedicated hunter license is a very good opportunity to hunt and harvest a mature buck on a general season unit if you have time to scout and hunt with all three weapons.
Utah mule deer populations
|Unit||Population 2018||Population trending||Buck:doe ratio 2018|
|Box Elder||16,000||Up||16:100 (down)|
|Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael||25,700||Up||17:100 (up)|
|Central Mtns, Nebo||14,600||Up||16:100 (up)|
|Chalk Creek||14,700||Up||30:100 (up)|
|East Canyon||16,600||Up||34:100 (up)|
|Fillmore||8,800||No change||18:100 (down)|
|Henry Mtns||1,600||Down||44:100 (up)|
|La Sal||7,400||Up||17:100 (up)|
|Morgan-South Rich||13,000||Down||36:100 (up)|
|Mt Dutton||3,050||Up||16:100 (down)|
|Nine Mile||7,400||Up||26:100 (down)|
|North Slope||8,600||Up||20:100 (up)|
|Oquirrh-Stansbury||13,600||Up||19:100 (no change)|
|Panguitch Lake||11,700||Down||16:100 (down)|
|Pine Valley||19,800||Up||24:100 (no change)|
|San Juan||12,500||Down||18:100 (down)|
|South Slope, Diamond Mtn||11,900||Up||34:100 (no change)|
|South Slope, Yellowstone||9,800||Up||22:100 (up)|
|Southwest Desert||3,000||Up||21:100 (down)|
|Wasatch Mtns Avintaquin||3,900||Up||NA|
|Wasatch Mtns Current Creek||14,300||Up||NA|
|Wasatch Mtns West||23,000||Down||16:100 (no change)|
|West Desert||11,200||Up||13:100 (no change)|
|Zion||19,900||Up||23:100 (no change)|
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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.
Utah's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Units found within county|
|Kane||9||Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, Paunsaugunt,|
Panguitch Lake, Zion
|Garfield||6||Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael, Paunsaugunt, Henry Mtns, Beaver, Mt Dutton,|
Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, Panguitch Lake
|Washington||4||Pine Valley, Zion|
|Summit||3||Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich, Kamas,|
North Slope, Wasatch Mtns, East
|Box Elder||3||Box Elder|
Utah's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Units found within county|
|Garfield||3||Paunsaugant, Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits,|
Henry Mtns, Mt Dutton, Panguitch Lake, Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael
|Carbon||2||Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael, Nine Mile|
Wasatch Mtns, Avintaquin/Currant Creek
|Washington||2||Pine Valley, Zion|
|Iron||1||Southwest Desert, Beaver, Panguitch Lake,|
Zion, Pine Valley
Hit list units for trophy Utah mule deer in 2020
Top hit list hunt units to consider
|Buck:doe ratio||Harvest success|
|Antelope Island||190"+||NA||Rifle: 100%|
|Henry Mtns||190"+||44:100||Archery: 70%|
|Fillmore Oak Creek||180"+||49:100||Archery: 71%|
|San Juan, Elk Ridge||180"+||44:100||Archery: 82%|
|La Sal, Delores Triangle||180"+||28:100||Archery: 100%|
|West Desert, Vernon||170"+||29:100||Archery: 60%|
|Book Cliffs, North||170"+||42:100||Archery: 74%|
|Book Cliffs, South||170"+||35:100||Muzzleloader: 81%|
|South Slope/Diamond Mtn||170"+||34:100||Archery: 87%|
Managing points and expectations
The bonus point race
LIMITED ENTRY DEER BONUS POINTS
2020 maximum bonus points for Limited Entry deer: 26
UTAH LIMITED ENTRY DEER POINTS GOING INTO THE 2020 DRAW
GENERAL SEASON DEER PREFERENCE POINTS
2020 maximum preference points for general season deer: 20
UTAH GENERAL SEASON DEER POINTS GOING INTO THE 2020 DRAW
DEDICATED HUNTER DEER PREFERENCE POINTS
2020 maximum preference points for dedicated hunter general season deer: 8
I have 0 deer points. What can I expect?
Utah allocates half of their permits for each hunt through the random draw so, although the odds are low, as long as there is one permit available you have a chance. Within that, applicants can adopt a couple of different strategies. One strategy would be to apply for the best hunts available and, should you draw, then have the opportunity to experience a once-in-a-lifetime type of hunt. The other strategy would be to review the odds and find the best odds for hunts that still meet your trophy objectives.
There is one hunt — the rifle hunt for the North Slope, Summit — that had 46% odds with zero points for residents and 14% for nonresidents. It’s worth noting that this hunt occurs on a general season unit and is sandwiched between the general muzzleloader and rifle seasons.
Residents have many options with no points; there were 11 archery hunts with 90% or greater odds. Many other archery hunts have odds of 70% or better. The muzzleloader hunts have slightly lower odds, but there are many hunts that have good odds. Rifle hunts are much the same: if you simply want to go on a hunt there are areas that have great odds with no points. The better units — most of them located in the central to southern portion of the state — will likely require one or two points. Use Filtering 2.0, draw odds and buck:ratio tools to find the hunt that suits you best.
Nonresidents also have options if they just want to hunt. Besides the more well-known central and southern units, many of the archery hunts in the state are available. Rifle hunts are similar; the best units will take some points, but, if you want to hunt, you can. Consider your objectives, review the odds, unit profiles and apply accordingly.
The dedicated hunter program is a good option for a resident or nonresident if they have the time and means to complete the 32 service hours or can purchase those hours at a rate of $20 per hour. Be aware that if you enter into this program then you are locked into the same unit for three years. You can draw some of the units with zero points, but a lot of the units may take one or two points.
What can I do with 3 or 4 deer points?
There were no limited entry deer hunts that had 100% odds at the three or four point level except for the North Slope, Summit hunt, which is likely not worth those points. At the five to seven point level, the late muzzleloader hunt on Nine Mile had 100% odds. Moving to the eight point level, Mt Dutton Late muzzleloader and a handful of those late hunts that occur on general season units were available. Those can be tough hunts so it’s important to do some research before you apply. At the 10 point level, there were some intriguing archery hunts, including the Book Cliffs, La Sal, Dolores Triangle and West Desert, Vernon. Several of the late muzzleloader hunts that occur on the general season units had 100% odds with 10 points. One of the most interesting hunts that had 100% odds at that level is the November rifle management deer hunt on the Paunsaugunt. That hunt limits you to a 3 point buck or less on at least one side, but it’s a neat opportunity to hunt a world renowned unit.
Nonresidents, if you want to draw a permit look toward the late muzzleloader hunts on general season units. Once again, be aware of those hunts; local knowledge or a guide would help immensely. It’s important that your expectations are within the realm of what those hunts typically produce, which most often is an average buck. The best hunts still have very low odds. The November rifle management deer hunt on the Paunsaugunt did have 29% odds with 10 points.
Residents could have drawn any general season archery, muzzleloader or rifle permit with three points except for the Plateau/Thousand Lakes rifle tag. If you are within this range, do the research, pick a hunt and go hunting. Building more points is probably not worth it. Draw a tag, go hunting and get back into the system. Use the draw odds, trophy potential, buck:doe ratios, public land percentage and harvest success filters and find a hunt that works for you.
Something to consider if you have built up six or more points is that you can apply with someone who has no points and they will average your points. This would give you the opportunity to take someone new or a hunter with no points hunting.
With four points, every archery, muzzleloader and rifle permit could have been drawn, except for the two Pine Valley rifle hunts that required five points and the Plateau, Thousand Lakes, which required nine points. If you are within this range, do the research, pick a hunt and go hunting. Also, if you have built up a pile of points, consider that you can apply as a group and possibly bring a new hunter along with you.
What can I expect with 10 or 11 deer points?
At the 11 point level, the archery Book Cliffs, La Sal, Dolores Triangle and West Desert, Vernon are all good options. Almost all of the late muzzleloader hunts on general season units are available. The management buck hunts on the Paunsaugunt are also worth review at the 11 or 12 point range.
With 12 or 13 points, take a look at the South Slope, Diamond Mtn and management archery buck hunts. The Book Cliffs and West Desert, Vernon and Paunsaugunt management muzzleloader hunts also had 100% odds with 13 points. The late muzzleloader hunt on the Plateau, Thousand Lakes is also an intriguing option.
The archery hunts on the Book Cliffs, South Slope, Diamond Mtn, and West Desert Vernon are available as are the West Desert, Vernon and South Slope, Diamond Mtn muzzleloader permits. Rifle hunters should review the Book Cliffs hunts and the South Slope, Diamond Mtn, and West Desert, Vernon.
What can I expect with 16 or 20 deer points?
The archery hunts on the Fillmore, Oak Creek and Paunsaugunt are great options at the 17 or 18 point level. Henry's archery hunt required 19 points. Muzzleloader Fillmore, Oak Creek, Paunsaugunt and San Juan, Elk Ridge all fall within this range. For rifle hunters, you should look into the Fillmore, Oak Creek, La Sal, Dolores Triangle and Paunsaugunt. There are also good multi-season hunts within this range for residents, including West Desert, Vernon and San Juan, Elk Ridge.
The archery hunts on the Book Cliffs, South Slope, Diamond Mtn, and West Desert, Vernon are available as are the West Desert, Vernon and South Slope, Diamond Mtn muzzleloader permits. Rifle hunters should review the Book Cliffs hunts and the South Slope, Diamond Mtn, and West Desert, Vernon.
What can I expect with 20 plus deer points?
Almost every hunt can be drawn with 20 or more points. The most notable hunts are the Henry’s muzzleloader and rifle hunt that requires 22 points. The multi-season hunt for the Henry’s took 24 points; the Paunsaugunt required 22 pts. The Antelope Island permit is randomly allocated and odds are likely less than 2% through the maximum point level.
The Paunsaugunt archery required 23 points while the muzzleloader hunt took 25 points. Fillmore, Oak Creek rifle required 24 points and Henry's rifle required 25 points. Other notable rifle hunts that are worth some research if you fall within this range are the Paunsaugunt and San Juan, Elk Ridge.