The general rifle deer hunt Utah's most frequented hunt is set to start this Saturday, with more than 60,000 hunters expected to participate, according to Mark Hadley of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Hadley urged residents to be aware that if they plan on being in a forested area of the state that there is "a chance there will be deer hunting going on." He said it is a good idea for hikers and bicyclists, especially those who will be out in the Uinta Mountains, to wear hunter orange colors.
"If you're up hunting, you have to wear that kind of clothing while you're up there," Hadley said. "If you're hiking or mountain biking, it might be a good idea even if you're not hunting. There's always the potential [for an accident], but it's really rare."
Hadley added the reason there have not been many incidents surrounding hunting is because of those recreating wearing hunter orange.
Charlie Sturgis of the Mountain Trails Foundation recommends that those wishing to recreate during deer hunting season research what the hunting options in an area are. He also said hikers and bikers should "leave their dogs at home" if they think they may be out in an area where hunting could be taking place.
Phil Douglass, the northern Utah conservation outreach manager for DWR, said hunters should take the same approach to hunting as they do with driving.
"Act defensively and be prepared," Douglass said. "We ask hunters especially to be concerned and aware and be certain of their targets not only to protect people but other wildlife as well.
Douglass added that the DWR urges hunters to respect private property. Written permission from the landowner is required to hunt on private land, which is often indicated by "No Trespassing" signs.
All Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land, however, is open to hunting, Douglass said. He recommends hunters look up maps online, stop by an outdoor recreation store or the County Recorder's Office to see which lands are public and which are private.
Deer hunting numbers have declined dramatically since the 1980s, Douglass said, by almost 50 percent. That decline was due to the Utah Wildlife Board's requirement that the DWR manage the deer population to have between 18 and 25 bucks per 100 does.
"Our mule deer populations throughout the West have been kind of stagnant or in declining mode," Douglass said. "We're not particularly concerned as in years past about growing populations and the problems that come from growing populations."
Douglass said that hunting is a wildlife management tool in states like Wisconsin, which have higher population numbers of deer. In Western states like Utah, however, the deer population has slowed and permits are not as prevalent.
Hunting is a relatively safe activity, Douglass said, as those born after 1965 are required to take a hunter education course. He again urged that hunters be aware of their targets. Utah state law states that it is illegal to shoot a firearm from a vehicle or upon or across a public highway.
"Every year we see a number of mistaken identities for moose and elk that are accidentally shot by hunters thinking they were a deer," Douglass said.
For more information and maps regarding this year's general rifle deer hunt, visit wildlife.utah.gov