Utah's general deer hunt is set to open October 22, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reminds hunters of an often overlooked opportunity.
"We have two primitive hunt areas near Moab which can provide an excellent opportunity to harvest a nice buck," reports Moab district officer Joe Nicholson.
The Matheson Wetland Preserve and Castle Valley Primitive Hunt Area are perfect examples of local communities and the DWR working together to maintain hunter opportunity while addressing community concerns over potential hazards that can arise when hunting near developed areas.
As communities grow, encroaching on mule deer habitat, conflict can arise when hunters legally pursue deer near homes in developed areas. By limiting hunters to primitive hunting equipment (archery, muzzleloaders, shotguns), we can address residents' concerns over the use of high-powered rifles near homes while preserving hunter's opportunities to recreate and the divisions ability to use hunting as a management tool in these areas.
These areas provide hunters with an opportunity to harvest a better than average buck in locations that experience lower hunting pressure if hunters are willing to limit their effective range by trading their rifle for a bow, muzzleloader or shotgun firing slugs or buckshot.
The Matheson preserve was created in partnership between the DWR and The Nature Conservancy. The acquisition of this property, located along the Colorado River on the northwest boundary of Moab, effectively protected a critical area of wetland habitat for a diverse array of wildlife species.
The south end of the preserve is closed to hunting, but the north end provides a unique opportunity for hunters to pursue waterfowl, upland game and deer.
"The mule deer in this area are primarily part of a resident herd that stays in the vicinity of the river and adjacent private lands," reports Nicholson.
The Castle Valley Primitive Hunt Area was created in partnership between the wildlife division and the town of Castle Valley. This area is located between the southeast boundary of Castle Valley and Round Mountain.
"Deer hunting in this area is greatly weather dependent because this is winter range for deer on the La Sal Mountains," reports Nicholson.
Conditions were optimum during the 2004 season because of heavy snows that drove deer out of the high country into this area, but without similar conditions hunters may have to search higher.
Nicholson reminds hunters that special precaution should be exercised when hunting in these areas.
"It is particularly important for hunters to pay careful attention to Utah's rules and laws when hunting near urban or suburban development because their actions are more visible to the public," advised Nicholson.
Hunting near developed areas can be a contentious issue, but if hunters follow the rules and respect adjacent landowners property rights, it is a unique opportunity that can be preserved. Hunters should remember that the following rules and laws still apply when hunting in primitive hunt areas:
Only archery, muzzleloaders and shotguns firing slugs or buckshot are permitted in the Matheson Wetlands Preserve and Castle Valley Primitive Hunt Area.
It is unlawful to discharge a firearm from a vehicle, from or across a road, or within 600 feet of any house or dwelling without written permission from the owner.
Written permission is required to enter posted or cultivated private lands.
Four hundred square inches of hunter orange is required, covering the chest, back and head.
Hunters in the Moab area are also reminded that Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected in mule deer on the La Sal Mountains.
"The success of our monitoring efforts rely heavily upon cooperation from hunters who allow us to test harvested deer and elk for the presence of this disease," reports Nicholson. "I would encourage all hunters in this area to have their deer tested, both for their peace of mind and to provide DWR with additional data to track the prevalence of the disease on the La Sal Mountains."