Dry conditions and lower deer numbers await hunters when Utah's general rifle buck deer hunt begins Oct. 18.
About 70,000 hunters are expected afield for the state's most popular hunt.
Division of Wildlife Resources biologists conduct their annual deer population surveys after the fall hunting seasons. After last year's hunts, DWR biologists estimated there were about 280,000 deer in the state, which was a 10 percent decrease from the 310,000 deer that were estimated after the 2001 hunts.
"The major reason for the decrease is that fewer deer fawns are making it to adulthood. Range conditions have deteriorated because of the drought, and that makes it harder for does to care for their fawns," said Jim Karpowitz, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
In the southeastern region, general season rifle hunters will find hunting conditions similar to last year's.
"Each unit remains well below objective in terms of total population numbers," said Wildlife Biologist Brad Crompton. "They've been that way the past several years."
The number of bucks per 100 does is good, however, with buck to doe ratios stable throughout the region and at or near the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does.
"Hunter success during the archery season was good," reports Bill Bates, a southeastern Utah wildlife manager. "Bucks have been found at higher elevations but may move to lower elevations if inclement weather sets in."
Crompton encourages hunters to do some preseason scouting.
"Locate water sources and evaluate how frequently they're visited. Look for deer where the vegetation remains green and succulent."
Bates advises hunters that a deer taken during the archery season on the LaSal Mountains has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
DWR biologists in the Southeastern Region will be taking lymph node samples from deer harvested in the San Juan, Book Cliffs, Range Creek and Manti units during the rifle hunt.
Hunters who take a deer are encouraged to stop at a check station so DWR biologists can obtain a tissue sample from their animal.
"To obtain a proper sample, it's important that hunters keep their deer in the shade and keep it as cool as possible," said DWR Biologist Leslie McFarlane. "They also need to get it to us within 48 hours of taking the deer."
Bates indicates that in the Southeastern Region, samples will only be taken from deer harvested on these units. Testing will be done free-of-charge to the hunter. Results are normally available in about four weeks and can be accessed through the DWR's Web site (wildlife.utah.gov).
Hunters in the Southeastern Region who kill a deer in one of the units identified above but who are not contacted in the field, may call the DWR at (435) 636-6731 to make arrangements for a sample to be taken.
Before heading out this year, rifle hunters are also encouraged to learn off-highway vehicle regulations by contacting the agency (usually the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management) that manages the land they'll be hunting on.
"It's important that hunters protect their OHV riding privilege by learning which roads and trails are open to OHV use and then keeping their OHVs on those roads and trails," Karpowitz said.
Hunters are also reminded that while there aren't fire restrictions in Utah right now, fire danger is still high and they need to be careful with their fires.