General deer hunt set to commence in Utah
Beginning Saturday at dawn, gun-toting hunters will be on the prowl throughout Summit County and the rest of the state as the general deer hunt commences.
It is one of the state’s most popular and anticipated hunts, drawing several thousand licensed hunters over the course of eight days. The hunt coincides with the Wasatch Front extended archery season, which has allowed the taking of deer and elk since Aug. 20.
In anticipation of opening weekend, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and law enforcement officials are reminding everyone to use extra caution while outdoors because several trails and neighborhoods throughout the county may overlap with huntable areas.
Charlie Sturgis, executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation, advised those who plan on being outdoors to wear bright colors and maybe even leave pets at home. Sturgis said people may see hunters on the ridge and the crest, near Mill Creek, and on the public land on the back of Deer Valley that includes the Wow Trail.
“Every year there are a few mistakes, but it has gotten better with hunter education. It’s still kind of a scary time with bullets flying around,” Sturgis said. “Almost all of our in-town trails from Parley’s Summit back to Deer Valley are essentially non-hunting areas because they are open lands, easements or private lands that do not allow it there. But there are probably pockets out there that are going to get hunted. The biggest thing is to wear bright colors and maybe just try to avoid areas where people will be hunting.”
Residents on alert
Some Basin residents say the boundaries and regulations for the sport are not clearly defined in the county. Erin Ferguson, who lives in Jeremy Ranch, said her whole neighborhood has been on alert since the hunting season began. Two pickup trucks were parked in her neighborhood near an empty lot recently and Ferguson suspected they were using the trail system to access the area behind their homes.
“We are all paranoid right now. I think it would put everyone at ease if Basin Rec put up signage for hunters and residents just to remind everyone where they will be,” Ferguson said. “I also think DWR (Division of Wildlife Resources) needs to educate and remind hunters of the rules instead of just assuming the hunters will do what is correct. I think it would put everyone at ease and keep people from getting fined. They need to educate everyone and I think DWR is just falling short.”
Sharon Cantwell, who lives in Pinebrook and is a member of the nonprofit organization Save People Save Wildlife, said it’s alarming the number of people who are unaware of the hunting regulations in the county.
“I am hearing from a lot of people and many members who didn’t know that it is legal to hunt pretty much anywhere near Park City if you have a permit and you are obeying the laws and the guidelines,” Cantwell said. “Most of this community does not support that, but it is a reality that people need to be educated on like with the difference of what hunting is allowed and what the definition of hunting is.”
Hunting is prohibited within Park City limits and on properties owned by the city outside of the municipal boundary, including Round Valley. All U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management areas are open to hunting if it is conducted within DWR’s defined boundaries. In the county, law enforcement officials follow the state’s criminal code concerning the discharge of weapons. Maps outlining the areas where hunting is permitted are available on DWR’s website.
A hunter’s biggest nightmare is a ticket for trespassing or poaching, according to Scott Root, DWR central region conservation outreach manager. Root stressed the need for people to report any illegal activity they may see.
“Every city has their own shooting ordinance, but by law no one can say ‘no hunting.’ They can say no trespassing or no shooting though,” Root said. “I think it would be beneficial to learn what the shooting ordinances are. Everyone should be familiar with rules and they should call us if they have any questions.”
According to state code, a person may not discharge any kind of dangerous weapon or firearm from, upon or across any highway or within areas such as designated camp or picnic sites, overlooks or golf courses or without the written permission of the property owner. A person also may not discharge a weapon within 600 feet of a “house, dwelling or any other building or any structure in which a domestic animal is kept or fed.”
“But, just because Park City and the Basin is within an extended archery or general hunt area, it doesn’t mean guys will be going through your yard with bows and arrows and guns. We hate to have hunters getting the police called on them every time they are hunting legally,” Root said. “People are tiptoeing around trying to work and make sure the animals are legally taken. But it’s a tough one. Just please don’t confront someone with a firearm if you do have concerns.”
Detective Kacey Bates, with the Sheriff’s Office, said shooting is banned on some properties, such as Trailside Park. In other areas, including the Pinebrook and Jeremy Ranch neighborhoods, the homeowners associations implement bans, as well.
“Hunting laws and regulations can be very complex; nonetheless, it is the hunter’s responsibility as a licensed permit holder to abide by all regulations,” Bates stated in a release. “Hunters are also required to know and continue utilizing firearms safety and maintain an awareness of their surroundings practicing safe hunting procedures at all times. Throughout the hunting season, Summit County citizens should be conscious they may see individuals walking through areas wearing orange clothing and carrying firearms.”
For more information about the general rifle buck deer hunt and archery season, go to http://wildlife.utah.gov/hunting-in-utah/hunting-information.html. Anyone who suspects poaching is encouraged to call 911 or the Division of Wildlife Resources’ poaching hotline at 1-800-662-3337.
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Each of the Park City area’s state legislators have a lot more than just ski resorts and restaurants on their mind – try roads, natural gas and a state university as well.