By Drew Allred
On opening day of the rifle deer hunt – Utah’s most popular hunt – unusual reports of huge male bucks, rarely seen in the daylight this time of year – are being observed all over western Washington County. Aside from the unusual animal behavior, three incidents of poaching and one hazardous gunshot violation were also reported in the wilderness areas west of St. George.
‘Really weird deer behavior’
Something weird is going on in the the Washington County wilderness and the deer can sense it, Division of Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Mark Ekins said. Ekins has been monitoring the mountains and hills west of Interstate 15, and has witnessed some remarkably strange behavior this last week; behavior that will delight hunters.
Ekins has seen two unusual behaviors: deer have migrated en masse, much earlier than usual, to the low elevations; and bucks in particular are showing aroused mating behavior almost a month earlier than they usually do. This mating behavior, is called “rutting.” Older bucks typically hide during the day, and only come out at night this time of year. But, because they are rutting early, they have been seen in the daylight, Ekins said.
“When they do that, they kind of let their guard down,” Ekins said. “When they’re chasing tail, if you will, they are more vulnerable to being taken by a hunters.”
It is very unusual to see so many deer rutting this time of year especially in the lower elevations west of St. George, Ekins said.
Deer in Washington County typically migrate in mass numbers to the lower elevations a month later than they did this year, when the gambel oak leaves, one of their main food sources, fall to the ground at higher elevations. This migration occurred almost a month earlier than usual this year and Elkins isn’t quite sure why. More....