OGDEN -- The general rifle buck deer season kicked off with a slow start on Saturday, and hunters in the Top of Utah may have a harder time this year finding deer.
The number of bucks grew each year from at least 2008 to 2010, according to head counts biologists take at the end of the fall hunts. But this past year, a noticeable number of fawns died during the long winter in some areas of Box Elder, Weber and Morgan counties.
"Last winter, there were a couple of areas (in Utah) where the snow fell a bit early and it got cold, so the snow crusted over and (deer had) difficulty getting to food sources," said Mark Hadley, spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Phil Douglass, DWR director for the northern region, said the long winter would have also been difficult and fatal for any fawns without a proper coat.
Despite the loss of fawns, the region has healthy buck-to-doe ratios and a good number of mature bucks. But Saturday was still a slow start, Douglass said.
By Saturday night, hunters had only checked about 10 to 12 bucks per DWR station in Northern Utah, he said.
On top of the loss of fawn, Douglass attributes the count in part to the fair weather, which keeps the deer in the higher elevations, as well as the trees that are still full of leaves, which block hunters' view.
Douglass expects the number of visible deer to pick up after the weekend, when campers have moved off of the mountains and the temperatures drop.
Colder temperatures should help hunters, in particular a cold front that is expected to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday. Cold temperatures bring the deer to lower elevations, and the wind blows more leaves off of trees, Douglass said.
Deer who have grown their winter coats do not move around as much unless the temperature drops to 40 degrees or less. Colder weather also forces deer to eat more. That need moves them around and puts them where hunters can see them.
The DWR advises that the deer will be widely distributed because of dense vegetation and plentiful amounts of water as a result of the long, wet spring.
Randy Wood, wildlife manager for the northern region, also advises hunters they must get written permission before hunting on private property.
The general rifle hunt runs until Oct. 30.