Utah deer hunting begins this weekend, as it is every October for as long as anyone can remember.
This is still a big issue for many. Just ask the 74,025 who got hunting permits this year. As we speak, they are rushing to the hills on their RZRs and rangers and a few more horses.
But it goes a long way when a quarter million hunters go abroad and close schools across the state to hunt.
The school has been canceled because “no one can go if they don’t go”, no less than Jerry Christensen.
Jerry is 80 years old and has been hunting every Utah deer since he was born in Heber City in 1941. His deer hunting history goes back much further than his memory.
But they can remember the first deer they shot, even if it wasn’t technically legal enough to shoot them.
He was 12 years old, on the mountain in the early morning hours, his father and uncles suggested what to do: men waited in a high place with a deer brush.
“Me and my little brother and a few other young children, they throw us out in the thick brush they see, and we push the deer towards the guys,” Jerry says yesterday. “I remember I was driving there, but I had my gun. My father gave me the Marlin Lever-Action .22. Heck of a rifle. I still got it.
“Anyway, I heard this sound behind me, and a deer was running down the trail, even a very good sized buck. I shot him, and he fell like a ton of bricks. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, killed him so fast, and .22. From? ‘ But I did not kill him.
For Jerry, a lifelong hunter, stories are fast and easy, to whom the adjective “avid” may be an understatement. He had a whole room in his house on the east side of Heber, and the animal’s head did not get up.
It included the largest deer he had ever collected — wearing a field that weighed 240 pounds (“it was out of the box”) – and one with a wide rack. Trophy deer are on both sides of the Warthag Jerry shooting in Africa.
When Jerry was a kid, he says, “everyone went out on deer hunting.” “If you don’t, then something is wrong with you.
“We had a two-ton truck that pulled the sheep. We loaded that truck with the hunters — you couldn’t get them all out there, and it was a big truck. We put grass bundles on the outside to sit on. It was cool to go all out, but it was a family trip and it was a big trip. I was so pumped before the deer hunt started, I couldn’t tolerate it, it was like waiting for Christmas.
In his case, like many others, this is a way of getting food for the winter.
“People love to hunt deer because they like to eat them. My mother can make deer I used in the winter to take her to school for sandwiches, and it was delicious.
Time has changed, of course. Schools are no longer closed to hunting. Football games have not been moved to Thursday night. Backward women no longer throw deer widow parties. An army of more than 200,000 — an all-time high of 246,685 hunters in 1998 — would not go to the hills.
In 1994, everything changed, with the declining deer population and the Department of Wildlife Resources implementing a permit system to limit the number of deer hunters.
The number will fluctuate from year to year, but the average number of clearances in the last 27 years is 90,000 and the deer harvest averaged 29,000. Compare that to the high water year of 1961, when 202,305 hunters hit less than 132,278 deer.
Due mainly to drought, the number of allowances this year, 74,025, is the lowest so far. The good news is that Jerry’s younger years are still a long way from the Halcyon days when the estimated deer population of 314,850 was significantly more than 240,000.
An experienced hunter looks at three main reasons why there aren’t as many deer in the past. The development of a land is a habitat of fewer deer. Two other lions and video games.
Mountain lions, he comments, “kill 50 deer a year, and we have a lot of lions. What they do is eat deer. I say kill all the cuckooed lions.”
As for video games, “The biggest problem with today’s kids is that they stick their faces in these games and do nothing else. I put them on the cement and make them into pieces (not games kids), and ‘it ends there (interpretive).’
Also, the deer seem to be getting smarter. Jerry cited an article he read in the newspaper about him standing at the intersection of Haber City’s main street, waiting for the light to turn green to cross the road.
“It was down from Maverick Service Center,” he says. “With all these houses we’re building, deer are adapting. We’re getting residential deer.”
That was something he could not say in the day.