Mule deer across the West have been struggling for several years and 2021 was no different. Drought is the number one factor in why deer are on the decline. Habitat conditions have been poor and feed has been minimal, which leads to does that don’t fare very well through the winter, ultimately leading to poor fawn survival. Extreme drought has been affecting the central and southern part of the state for over three years now and that is where we are seeing these tag changes implemented.
The current management plan calls for 405,000 deer statewide and there are currently an estimated 305,700 deer this year. General season permits will be cut the most, down to 73,075, which is nearly 1000 less than last year. Antlerless deer permits are what impact the population the most so there will be 300 cut from the pool statewide. Management buck deer, and premium limited-entry deer will stay the same as last year at 45 and 184 respectively. Limited-entry deer permits were cut by 50. The DWR is confident that these cuts will help maintain the deer herd with hopes for a wetter year and improved conditions going into 2023.
Elk on the other hand are affected less by drought but some units were cut and others were increased. Specifically in the northern part of the state where the drought hasn’t been as bad. Limited-entry bull elk permits will increase by 80 total in 2022, while antlerless elk permits were cut by about 300. General spike and general any bull elk permits stayed the same at 15,000 and 17,500 respectively. The reason for the increased tag allocations for elk have mainly been to address private landowners complaining about depredation issues where elk populations are above their objectives.
Antelope tags were mixed with a quarter of the doe tags being cut and about 75 buck tags added to the pool. Bighorn and desert bighorn sheep were cut by 10 a piece as was mountain goat tags by 16. Bison tags were increased by 9 permits for the Book Cliffs which has seen a solid bison population for several years now. Cross your fingers for rain as much of the state needs it and good luck in the draws.