Utah has two separate categories for issuing deer permits throughout the state limited-entry and general season. Both are on a draw basis but use separate point systems and draws to issue them, but you may not have more than one mule deer buck permit in a given year. If you draw a limited-entry buck deer permit, you cannot be awarded a general buck deer permit. The limited-entry hunts are managed for higher buck to doe ratios, and within those, they are broken down into premium limited-entry and limited-entry. Both Paunsaugunt and Henry Mountains are managed under premium limited-entry and are managed for a 40-55 to 100 buck to doe ratio. Obviously, these two units have the best trophy potential, but the last couple years, the Fillmore, Oak Creek has been producing some of the best bucks in the state and is managed as a limited-entry unit. The limited-entry units are managed for a 23-35 to 100 buck to doe ratio. All of these limited-entry units have the ability to produce trophy bucks, but bucks of trophy caliber are going to be harder to find.
Last year was a difficult one for trophy class bucks in all units, but especially those southern units like the Paunsagunt, Henry Mountain and San Juan. This was more of an indication of drought-related problems, and with continued moisture, they should rebound nicely this year. Most of the other regular limited-entry deer units are good hunts with high buck numbers but for only 160- 17011 class bucks. There will always be a few great bucks in these other units, but on average, they are slightly better general season hunts with drastically lower hunter pressure. There are few differences between units, which we will describe in the unit descriptions so you can decide which unit fits you best.
Utah has other hunts that qualify as limited-entry in order to help disperse hunter applications and weed more hunters out of the limited-entry deer point system. They have a few management hunts that are conducted on the Paunsaugunt. Archery, muzzleloader, and rifle hunts allow the permit holder to harvest an antlered deer with no more than 3 points (not including eyeguards) on one side. These can be very enjoyable hunts with plenty of game and opportunity at some mature bucks. The other is a cactus buck hunt, which allows the permit holder to harvest an antlered deer that has at least 50% of his antlers covered in velvet during the season. This hunt was instituted to address a growing number of cactus bucks on the landscape within the Paunsaugunt unit. This was a good hunt in the beginning when there were ample cactus bucks on the landscape, but now the number of bucks has been brought down to the point that there are not many cactus bucks at all and it's like looking for a needle in a haystack to find one that actually has a decent rack.
The other limited-entry hunts take place on general season units. These are HAMS (Handgun, Archery, Muzzleloader, and Shotgun) hunts that take place after the general season hunt dates in November. The muzzleloader hunts capture the early part of the rut and allow hunters to capitalize on older age class bucks being more vulnerable. Because these hunts happen on general units, there is not a high number of mature bucks, so it can still be tough to find a trophy. We do not list comments for all of these hunts as there are too many to list for the quality of them. The HAMS hunts, while still allowing the use of a muzzleloader in the guidelines, have different restrictions, which you can refer to on page 36. Out of the three hunts listed, the Book Cliffs/Floy Canyon, and Kaiparowits have the best trophy potential. Both have lower population densities and will be very difficult hunts, but they have a few 18011+ bucks.
Utah is a good state to apply for limited-entry deer, so long as you are already applying for other species and don't mind waiting 14+ years to be in the mix for entry level unit bonus permits or the chance at a random permit. With some of the best genetics in the West, it is worth throwing your name in the hat for an additional $15.
Utah offers late limited-entry muzzleloader hunts on all general season units. Utah started this program in 2015 on a limited number of general season units, and since then, they have added and subtracted to this list of units. This program has been successful in the fact that it has created additional limited-entry hunt options for applicants to use their points on and clear a few more applicants out of the limited-entry pool. Due to the later dates, these hunts can be effective in finding more mature bucks moving into closer proximity to does, but they can be hit and miss for rut activity. Some great bucks have been taken on these hunts, but for the most part, that is the exception and not the rule. An important note to remember if you are applying for these hunts is that these units are managed for lower buck to doe ratios than Utah's limited-entry hunts, and as such, it can be difficult to find bucks in excess of 18011• It would be wise to look at our top general season units if you want a little better chance at finding an older age class buck. Pay attention to the current three-year average of buck to doe ratios listed in the table as this will give you an idea of units that could have a better chance of finding an older age class buck as well.
Most of Utah's deer hunting comes from the general deer units. These units are managed for lower overall buck to doe ratios (15-17:100 and 18-20:100). Every year, some of the biggest bucks in the state are harvested from general season units. Much of this success can be attributed to the high number of hunters in the field and the law of averages kicking in. All general units have an archery, muzzleloader, and late October rifle season, but there are nine units that also have a five-day early October rifle season. Permit distribution for most of these general units is 20% archery, 20% muzzleloader, and 60% rifle. Of the nine units with two rifle seasons, 20% of the 60% of rifle permits go to the early October season.
Most units will not take many preference points to draw. If you have accumulated too many points, consider splitting them on a group application with a buddy. You will enter the draw with an average of everyone's points in the party. Keep in mind, you can apply for your limited-entry deer choice and apply for a general season deer hunt every year. Think of the two deer draws as completely separate species. If you draw a limited-entry deer permit, your general deer application will be invalid, but you will still receive a preference point. We have provided a table that includes our top picks for general season deer as well as the draw odds and harvest statistics for every unit and season. Our top picks are based on buck to doe ratios, harvest statistics, amount of public land, and boots-on-the-ground knowledge. We feel these units provide hunters the best chance at a successful hunt for a mature buck.
Utah has a Dedicated Hunter program for general season deer units. You must apply and draw into the program. If you are drawn into the program, you may hunt all seasons (archery, muzzleloader, and all available rifle) and harvest two bucks in a three-year period. The permit is guaranteed for all three years, but only two bucks may be harvested. You can apply and build points for both Dedicated Hunter and general season deer. If you draw into the program, you will be enrolled for a three-year period in the unit you drew. As a Dedicated Hunter, you must take an online conservation and ethics course, complete 32 service hours on a Division-approved conservation project, and pay a permit fee of $11047. You can buy out all or a portion of your 32 service hours at a rate of $20 per hour. If you have the time to hunt, this a great opportunity to harvest a good buck because you can hunt all three seasons and the same unit for multiple years.
If you drew an archery deer or elk permit in any unit or are enrolled in the Dedicated Hunter program, you may also hunt the extended archery season in the extended archery areas. There will be a total of 12 deer areas and 3 elk areas. Most of these extended areas all have private land issues, with some being entirely private land. The elk areas are all located along the Wasatch Front and North and Northeast Utah and run August 20-December 15. The deer areas are starting to be scattered all throughout the state, with the bulk of them located in North and Northeast Utah and run September 17-0ctober 15 or November 30th• The extended season is better later when bucks are rutting and migrate into middle and lower elevations. There can be high hunting pressure and success rates are low, but it can extend your season if you were previously unsuccessful in filling your permit. For a full list of units, boundary descriptions, and season dates, go to www.wildlife.utah.gov/extendedarchery or view units on the UDNR Hunt Planner at https://dwrapps.utah.gov/huntboundary/hbstart.
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Those applying for a buck deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, or bison tag will need to apply between January 27 and March 3. Those applying for bonus and/or preference points can apply between March 4 and 17.
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|Non-Resident Hunting License||$72|
|Youth (17 and younger) Non-Resident Hunting License||$29|
|Application Fee per Species||$15|
|Desert Bighorn Sheep||$2,200|
|Rocky Bighorn Sheep||$2,200|
|Rocky Mountain Goat||$2,200|
|Multi-Season Limited-Entry Elk||$1,805|
|Premium Limited-Entry Buck Deer||$768|
|Multi-Season Premium Limited-Entry Buck Deer||$1,330|
|Limited-Entry and Limited-Entry Management Buck Deer||$650|
|Multi-Season Limited-Entry Buck Deer||$1,100|
|Dedicated Hunter Deer Program||$1,047|
Utah Deer Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine