APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Utah Mule Deer
Utah's 2019 mule deer application overview
Utah has a rich history of mule deer hunting and every fall a smattering of truly impressive bucks taken in the Beehive State pop up in our social media feeds. If you are not applying to hunt mule deer in Utah already, you probably should be. We will cover everything you need to know in the following article.
Utah gives hunters a couple of opportunities to apply for mule deer: limited entry and general season. All permits are allocated through the state draw system. Unfortunately, the days when hunters could stop into the local sporting goods store and buy a permit over-the-counter (OTC) are gone, but Utah still offers really good deer hunting. The limited entry units are good—a few are great—and the general season hunts are still decent for the points it takes to draw. Overall, Utah’s deer herds are still in relatively good shape. This year is shaping up to be a good water year, which is much needed following one of the driest in decades. We are optimistic that 2019 will be a great year and we encourage anyone interested in mule deer to plan on applying in Utah.
Note: The application deadline for all Utah species is March 7, 2019 at 11 p.m. MST. Applicants who want to purchase bonus points only have until March 21, 2019 at 11 p.m. MST. You may apply online here.
Why Utah for deer
- Utah has great trophy potential. Utah has both limited entry and general season deer hunting opportunities and hunters can apply for both. The limited entry units are specifically managed for higher buck:doe ratios and older bucks. The general season hunts are more of an opportunity type of hunt, but every year trophy bucks are harvested from almost every unit.
- Utah offers archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts. The timing of the archery and muzzleloader hunts are conducive to scouting and hunting early season while the rifle hunt is typically in late October. On an early snow year, the rifle hunt can be very good.
- Utah’s mule deer population is strong. It boasts populations that are as good currently as they have been in almost three decades.
- The bulk of the state is public land. Hunters have millions of acres to hunt on their own without any silly wilderness restrictions. Utah is one of the most friendly do-it-yourself (DIY) states in the West to hunt.
- General season deer permits remain comparatively easy to draw. Most hunts are available with just a few points.
New for 2019
Changes to the Hunter Mentoring Program
- Season dates change slightly every year, but, typically, only by a day. Review dates before applying.
- There is a new early any legal weapon general season hunt on the Panguitch Lake unit, Oct. 9 to 13, 2019.
- There are new archery and muzzleloader management deer hunts on the Paunsaugunt. Archery dates are Aug. 26 to Sept. 13. Muzzleloader dates are Sept. 30 to Oct 4.
- There are new units now open for the extended archery season. Those units are: South Wasatch Front, Herriman South Valley, Utah Lake and Sanpete Valley. Dates vary for each. See the regulations for details.
View important information and an overview of the Utah rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points/preference points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Utah Deer Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.
Important dates and information
- The deadline to apply is March 7, 2019 at 11 p.m. MST.
- The bonus point/preference point only purchase and application withdrawal deadline is March 21, 2019 at 11 p.m. MST.
- You may apply online or by calling or visiting any Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) office.
- Results will be emailed or available online on or shortly before May 30, 2019.
- Hunters must have a valid hunting or combination hunting/fishing license to apply.
- Hunting licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. If you time it correctly, you can apply two consecutive years on one license. You do not need an active hunting license to hunt—just to apply.
- Applicants must be 12 years old by Dec. 31, 2019 to apply and hunt in Utah.
- Hunters born after Dec 31, 1965 must have taken an approved hunter’s education course.
- Withdrawing or correcting an application is allowed before the application deadline. Corrections are made by withdrawing an application and submitting a new one. Be aware: you will be charged the $10 application fee again to make adjustments and reapply.
- Nonresidents may apply and build bonus points for all available species.
- Residents may only apply for one limited entry species: elk, antelope or deer. They may also apply for one once-in-a-lifetime species: moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison. They can also apply for general season deer and the dedicated hunter program if they are not already enrolled.
- If you are unsuccessful in the limited entry deer draw, you will be given a bonus point.
- If you are unsuccessful in the general season or dedicated hunter draw, you will be given a preference point.
- The hunting license and application fees are nonrefundable.
- A drawn permit may be returned back to the UDWR prior to the season starting and they will reinstate your points and give you one for that year’s application. If you surrender it 30 days prior to the hunt start date they will refund the cost of the permit also.
- If you draw a limited entry deer permit, you may not apply again for two years.
- Waiting periods are not applicable for general season deer.
Amount to remit
Utah deer fees for 2019
|Item||Resident fees||Nonresident fees|
|365-day hunting license||$11 youth (13 and under)|
$16 youth (14 to 17)
$34 adult (18 to 64)
$25 adult (65 and older)
|$25 youth (14 to 17)|
$65 adult (18 and older)
|365-day hunt/fish combo license||$20 youth (14 to 17)|
$38 adult (18 to 64)
$29 adult (65 and older)
|$29 youth (17 and under)|
$85 adult (18 and under)
|Application fee/per application||$10||$10|
|Premium limited entry||$168||$568|
|Multi-season limited entry||$145||$845|
|Multi-season premium limited entry||$305||$1,025|
|Dedicated hunter||$120 youth (12 to 17)|
|$814 (12 to 17)|
The Utah draw system
Understanding the draw
It’s important to understand how the draw system works. Doing so will help you with your application strategy. First, every applicant must buy a hunting or combination license to apply. That license is valid 365 days from the date of purchase. If you time your application correctly, you can apply for two years on the same license. For example, you could buy the license close to the deadline on one year, apply for hunts; then apply the next year as soon as the draw opens. You do not need a valid hunting license to hunt. The permit you draw becomes the only valid permit that you need.
Utah allocates 10% of their permits to nonresident applicants.
What can I apply for?
Utah allows residents to apply for one premium/limited entry species, one once-in-a-lifetime species and a general season deer permit. If an applicant is not already enrolled in the dedicated hunter program they can also apply for it. If you draw into the dedicated hunter program you are enrolled in it for three years and cannot apply for general season deer during that time frame.
Nonresidents can apply for all species they are interested in. They can apply for limited entry deer, elk, antelope, all once-in-a-lifetime species (moose, bighorn sheep, bison, mountain goat) and general season deer. They can also apply for the dedicated hunter program if not already enrolled. Please read more about the dedicated hunter program in the “hunting seasons” below.
Applicants can only draw one once-in-a-lifetime permit or limited entry permit in a year. You cannot draw both and hunt both in the same year. You also cannot draw a limited entry deer and a general season deer permit in the same year. If you draw a limited entry deer permit, your general season deer application will not be considered.
You can apply for points only, we highly encourage applicants to apply for a hunt though. The only reason applicants should not apply for hunts is if they cannot afford the permit should they draw or the time off to hunt. More on that below.
Limited entry/bonus point system
Utah has a bonus point system for limited entry deer. 50% of the permits available for each hunt are given to the applicants with the most points. The other half are randomly drawn with bonus points giving applicants a better chance at drawing. Essentially, the number of bonus points you have is the number of chances you have in the draw. If there are an odd number of permits available, the bulk goes to the random draw. For example, is there were five permits, three are randomly allocated and two go to the highest bonus point applicants.
How do you get points? Applicants will get a bonus point each time they apply for limited entry deer and are successful in the draw. Applicants can also apply for a bonus point only if they do not wish to be considered to draw a hunt.
The random draw process is relatively simple. Each applicant is assigned a randomly generated number for each bonus point they have. The applicants with the lowest generated random number will draw the permits until they are gone.
Example of a hunt permit breakdown
West Desert, Vernon limited entry archery deer
- Total permits: 37
- Resident total permits: 34
- Resident bonus point permits: 17
- Resident random permits: 17
- Nonresident total permits: 3
- Nonresident bonus point permits: 1
- Nonresident random permits: 2
Limited entry deer hunt choices
Applicants can select two hunt choices when applying for limited entry deer hunts. Every applicant’s first choice is considered before moving to anyone's second choice. It is extremely rare for a limited entry permit to be drawn as a second choice. If you draw a permit as your first or second choice, your accumulated points will be purged.
Both residents and nonresidents can apply on a group application. Up to four can apply together on a group application for limited entry and general season deer. Group applicants are not allowed for management deer hunts. A group application is treated as a single application. Group applicants will have their points totaled, averaged and rounded down to the whole number. If that application is successfully drawn, all members of the group will draw a permit, provided there are enough permits in the quota. Applying as a group does have the potential to negatively impact odds. For example, if a group application successfully draws, but the permit quota is less than the number of applicants in the group, their application will be rejected. If nonresidents and residents apply together and there are not enough nonresident tags for that hunt, the application will be rejected. It’s critical that group applicants review tag quotas to ensure there are enough permits.
General season and dedicated hunter deer
The general season deer and dedicated hunter program work on a preference point system. Within this system, all the permits for each hunt or spots within the dedicated hunter program are given to the applicants with the most points. The only exception is that UDWR allocates 20% of the general season deer permits to youth hunters. Note: Youth who are 17 years old and under can draw an any legal weapon deer permit and hunt all three seasons: archery, muzzleloader and rifle.
How do I get a preference point?
Applicants that apply for a general season deer and/or the dedicated hunter deer program will receive a preference point if they are unsuccessful in the draw. Applicants can apply for a preference point only for general season deer and/or the dedicated hunter program if they do not want to be considered to draw a permit.
General season hunt choices
You can select up to five hunt choices on your general season deer application. Be aware that if you draw any of your five choices your preference points will be purged.
Unlocking Utah’s deer system
Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:
- Buck deer (multi-season premium limited entry, premium limited entry, multi-season limited entry, limited entry, CWMU and management buck deer)
- Bull elk (multi-season limited entry, limited entry and CWMU)
- Buck antelope (limited entry and CWMU)
- Once-in-a-lifetime species (sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
- General buck deer (lifetime license holders)
- General buck deer (dedicated hunters)
- General buck deer (youth)
- General buck deer
- Youth any bull elk
The order in which the draw happens is important to consider because Utah does not allow you to draw a limited entry and a once-in-a-lifetime tag in the same year. For example, if you apply for a limited entry buck deer permit and draw it, your once-in-a-lifetime species application(s) will be pulled. You’ll still receive a bonus point for those, but they won’t be considered in the draw.
Dedicated hunter program
The dedicated hunter program is a unique opportunity that allows a hunter to hunt all seasons (archery, muzzleloader, rifle) and harvest two bucks in a three year period. If drawn, you will be enrolled in the program for three years. You may obtain a permit and hunt all three years, but you can only harvest two bucks in a three year period. You can only hunt the unit you drew. In exchange for having a guaranteed permit and the opportunity to hunt all three seasons, a hunter must complete 32 service hours on UDWR approved conservation projects or you can purchase all or a portion of your hours at a cost of $20/per hour.
If you can afford cost and time to hunt multiple seasons, the dedicated hunter program is an excellent way to scout, hunt and harvest a big buck on a general season unit.
Utah's 2019 mule deer breakdown
Current mule deer herd condition
Last year was a tough year for many of Utah’s mule deer herds. The winter of 2017/2018 was one of the driest in three decades. That, coupled with wildfire in some areas, resulted in a lower than average fawn crop and adult survival rate. Over the space of the last 30 years, the statewide population peaked in 2015 and has slightly declined over the past three years. Utah has an estimated 363,650 mule deer; the objective is 440,100.
Trophy potential was definitely down in 2018. There were and always will be trophy bucks available, but, on average, the antler growth was way down. The good news is that the winter of 2018/2019 is shaping up to be very good. Feed should be very good in the spring and summer months and, hopefully, fawn production and antler growth will follow suit. It’s worth noting that Utah has been very proactive in their habitat restoration work. To date, federal and state agencies have partnered to complete over 1.5 million acres worth of habitat work. On good moisture years like this those projects can really pop and the benefits to mule deer are huge.
Snowpack in Utah
Every portion of the state is over 100% of normal snowpack and some of the best habitat the state offers through central and southern Utah is over 120% and as high as 168% in southwestern Utah. Provided there are not prolonged freezing temperatures, the populations and antler growth should see a nice bump in 2019.
Compare 2019 to 2018, and you'll quickly see how the 2017/2018 winter has been the driest one since 1977, which has been referred to as “the year of no snow.”
General mule deer seasons in Utah
|General archery deer||Aug. 17 - Sept. 13|
|General muzzleloader deer||Sept. 25 - Oct. 3|
|Early general any legal weapon deer||Oct. 9 to 13|
|General any legal weapon deer||Oct. 19 - 27|
|Extended archery||Sept. 16 - Dec. 15|
Limited entry mule deer seasons in Utah
|Limited entry archery deer||Aug. 17 to Sept. 13|
|Limited entry archery management deer||Aug. 24 to Sept. 13 (Henry's)|
Aug. 26 to Sept. 13 (Pauns)
|Limited entry muzzleloader deer||Sept. 25 to Oct. 3|
|Limited entry muzzleloader management deer||Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 (Henry's)|
Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 (Pauns)
|Limited entry late muzzleloader deer||Oct. 30 to Nov. 7|
|Limited entry any legal weapon deer||Oct. 9 to 27|
|Limited entry any legal weapon management deer||Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 (Henry's)|
Nov. 1 to 5 (Pauns)
How to uncover hidden gem mule deer units
The best units in the state are well documented. Those are the premium limited entry units: Antelope Island, Henry Mountains and the Paunsaugunt. Antelope Island has only one resident permit. The Henrys is still a great unit and, once again, this should be a great year. In terms of quality, the Paunsaugunt had perhaps its best year ever in 2017, followed up by a really tough year in 2018. Time will tell if 2019 lives up to the potential. Early indications suggest it should be a good year. It’s not likely to beat 2017, but should be better than last year by far.
Management and cactus buck
The Paunsaugunt and Henrys both have archery, muzzleloader, and any legal weapon management buck hunts. These hunts are designed to offer an easier chance to draw and reduce buck to doe ratios while still maintaining a high trophy quality. A management buck is a buck that has three points or less on at least one antler, not including the eye guard. This year, the Paunsaugunt will also have a cactus buck hunt. A cactus buck is defined as a buck that has velvet covering at least 50% of its antlers during the season dates. The Paunsaugunt has a quite a few of these bucks—some of which have grown an impressive and often strange looking set of antlers. The management and cactus hunts may be a hidden gem if you have wanted to hunt these famed areas, but may not ever have the points to draw the regular permits.
Other limited entry units/hunts
There are several other limited entry deer units and opportunities. The Book Cliff units (north and south) offer a fun hunt, but rarely are 185”+ bucks harvested. If you have time to scout and hunt the Book Cliffs and other units like it (West Desert/Vernon, San Juan/Elk Ridge, South Slope/Diamond Mountain) those can be fun hunts for a nice buck. The Fillmore/Oak Creek has a smaller population of deer, but, in terms of trophy quality, it’s likely the next best thing to the premium hunts and might be the best hidden gem among the other limited entry hunts.
Late muzzleloader of general season units
We often get asked if the limited entry late season muzzleloader hunts that occur on general season units are worth it. Remember: they are limited entry hunts and you will lose your bonus points if you draw them. The quality of these hunts can be hit or miss and occur a couple days after the general season rifle hunt has ended. They are also a bit too early to offer a good rut hunt. They can be a hidden gem—provided hunters have ample time to scout or a hot lead on a trophy caliber buck. Otherwise, most hunters are harvesting average bucks similar to the bucks harvested on every other general season hunt.
The Utah general season hunts are where most applicants can find a hidden gem. For residents, almost every archery and muzzleloader hunt can be drawn with one point and many can be drawn or at least have great odds with no points. Even the rifle hunts are available every few years or less.
We always tell nonresidents that the odds of drawing a limited entry elk, deer, antelope or a once-in-a-lifetime tag are slim so use the general season deer hunt as the motivation to keep applying and hunt general season deer every few years.
The quality on general season units is quite good. If you have to time to scout and get to know a unit well the opportunity to harvest a 160”+ plus buck is good. Almost every general season unit will produce a few bucks every year that are 180”+. Study the trophy potentials, buck:doe ratios, harvest success and Unit Profiles to determine what units might offer a better chance at a great buck. Consider habitat conditions, recent burns, more remote and less pressured terrain and hunting pressure. There are some very good options.
Extended archery deer opportunities
The extended archery deer hunts offer an additional chance to hunt. You do not need to apply for an additional permit to hunt during the extended archery seasons. As long as you obtain an archery deer or elk permit in 2019 and you complete the required extended archery ethics course you may also hunt any of Utah’s extended archery areas. Limited entry and general season deer archery hunters who don’t harvest during the regular season dates and units will also be allowed to hunt extended archery areas. Every year, a handful of trophy caliber bucks are harvested on the extended archery hunts. See the state rules and regulations for unit details and season dates.
Extended archery units
|Herriman South Valley||--|
|South Wasatch Front||--|
B&C entry trends for Utah mule deer
Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.
Utah's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Units found within county|
|Kane||9||Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, Paunsaugunt,|
Panguitch Lake, Zion
|Garfield||6||Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael, Paunsaugunt, Henry Mtns, Beaver, Mt Dutton,|
Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits, Panguitch Lake
|Washington||4||Pine Valley, Zion|
|Summit||3||Chalk Creek/East Canyon/Morgan-South Rich, Kamas,|
North Slope, Wasatch Mtns, East
|Box Elder||3||Box Elder|
Utah's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Units found within county|
|Garfield||3||Paunsaugant, Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits,|
Henry Mtns, Mt Dutton, Panguitch Lake, Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael
|Washington||2||Pine Valley, Zion|
|Carbon||2||Central Mtns, Manti/San Rafael, Nine Mile|
Wasatch Mtns, Avintaquin/Currant Creek
|Washington||2||Pine Valley, Zion|
|Iron||1||Southwest Desert, Beaver, Panguitch Lake,|
Zion, Pine Valley
Hit list units for trophy Utah mule deer in 2019
Top hit list hunt units to consider
|Antelope Island||190"+||Rifle: 100%|
|Henry Mtns||190"+||Archery: 92%|
|Fillmore, Oak Creek||180"+||Archery: 50%|
|San Juan, Elk Ridge||180"+||Archery: 90%|
|La Sal, Dolores Triangle||180"+||Archery: 0%|
|Pine Valley||170"+||Late muzzleloader: 71%|
|Southwest Desert||170"+||Late muzzleloader: 50%|
|West Desert, Vernon||170"+||Archery: 37%|
|Book Cliffs, North||170"+||Archery: 81%|
|Book Cliffs, South||170"+||Archery: 86%|
|South Slope/Diamond Mtn||170"+||Archery: 80%|
|Plateau/Thousand Lakes||170"+||Late muzzleloader: 60%|
|Zion||170"+||Late muzzleloader: 67%|
Managing points and expectations
The bonus point race
Limited Entry Deer Bonus Points
2019 maximum bonus points for Limited Entry deer: 25
General Season Deer Preference Points
2019 maximum preference points for general season deer: 19
Dedicated Hunter Deer Preference Points
2019 maximum preference points for dedicated hunter: 7
I have 0 deer points. What can I expect?
The first thing to remember is that just because you don’t have any bonus points it does not mean that you cannot draw. Utah allocates half of their permits for each hunt through the random draw so, although the odds are very poor, as long as there is one permit available you have a chance.
In saying that, applicants have a couple of strategies. One, go all out and only apply for the best of the best. If you draw one of those hunts, it’s going to be a world-class experience. Two, be realistic and examine the odds and, even though the odds for almost every limited entry hunt are not that much better, a few are slightly better. More practical or a bit of a dreamer, which one are you?
There is one hunt that can be drawn with zero points for residents—the North Slope rifle tag. Odds for that same hunt for nonresidents were 57%.
Residents have a vast number of options even with no points. Only 11 of the 29 archery general hunts had odds that were less than 80%. Most hunts are in the high 90% to draw. The muzzleloader hunts have slightly lower odds, but there are many hunts that have good odds with no points. Rifle hunters may need to build a point or two to obtain a permit in some of the better units, but, again, there are opportunities if you just want to hunt.
Nonresidents also have options if they just want to hunt. Other than the more well known central and southern units, most of the archery hunts in the state are available. Rifle hunts are similar; the best units will take some points, but, if you want to hunt, you can.
Consider your objectives, review the odds, unit profiles and apply accordingly.
The dedicated hunter program is a good option for a nonresident if they have the time and means to complete the 32 service hours or can purchase those hours at a rate of $20 per hour. For a resident, the dedicated hunter program is a great opportunity to hunt all seasons and guarantee permits. Be aware if you enter into this program that you are locked into the same unit for three years. You can draw some of the units with zero points, but a lot of the units may take one or two points.
What can I do with 3 or 4 deer points?
Residents still have odds that are 5% for almost every limited entry hunt. Some of the hunts with better odds are late season muzzleloader hunts that occur on general season units. Those may be worth it if you have ample time to scout, know the units or just want to draw a tag. The best hunts still have very low odds.
Nonresidents, if you want to draw a permit look, toward the late muzzleloader hunts on general season units. If you have reasonable expectations and you have some knowledge of the units, there are some decent hunts within that category. Again, no guarantees but better odds. The best hunts still have very low odds.
Residents can draw any general season permit except for the Plateau/Thousand Lakes rifle tag. If you are within this range, do the research, pick a hunt and go hunting. Building more points is probably not worth it. Draw a tag, go hunting and get back into the system. Use the draw odds, trophy potential, buck:doe ratios, public land percentage and harvest success filters and find a hunt that works for you.
Nonresidents could have drawn an any general season permit with four preference points. With three points, there were only a few hunts that could not have been drawn. If you fall within this range, use the odds and other filters to find a hunt and plan to go hunting sooner rather than later.
What can I expect with 10 or 11 deer points?
Residents can review the Book Cliffs (north and south), La Sal/Dolores Triangle and West Desert/Vernon archery tags. The Book Cliffs muzzleloader is also worth a look. Applicants may also consider the Paunsaugunt management rifle hunt—if that hunt would meet your objectives. All are good options as long as you have realistic expectations.
Nonresidents should review the West Desert/Vernon archery hunt. The next best options are the late muzzleloader hunts on general season units. Beyond that, the bulk of the hunts have odds that are below 5%.
What can I expect with 15 or 16 deer points?
You have a lot of options at this point range. Keep in mind that you have put your time in, so apply for the hunt that you feel will be the best use of your points.
Residents have several options, including every archery hunt other than Henry Mtns. The Paunsaugunt archery permit is one of the best hunts within this range. Book Cliffs, San Juan/Elk Ridge and West Desert/Vernon muzzleloader and rifle hunts are good hunts. All management and late muzzleloader hunts on general season units had 100% odds. One of the other intriguing hunts available is the Book Cliffs multi-season hunt. If you have the time to sacrifice, it would be an enjoyable hunt.
Nonresidents can research the Book Cliffs archery, South Slope/Diamond Mtn and West Desert/Vernon archery hunts. The South Slope/Diamond Mtn and West Desert/Vernon muzzleloader and rifle hunts can also be good. It’s worth noting that all of the regular Paunsaugunt and Henry Mtns archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts have odds that are still less than 1%.
What can I expect with more than 20 points?
For this select few nonresidents, the odds on those top tier units are 1% or less up to the 21 point level; at 24 points, an archery or muzzleloader hunter would be in contention for a Paunsaugunt permit. The rifle hunt on the Paunsaugunt had better odds: 100% with 22 points. It’s worth stating that the Henrys archery and muzzleloader hunt only has one nonresident permit each and the odds with maximum points are still less than .5%. The rifle Henrys draw had 33% odds with 24 points. If you are in this group, it’s worth researching the Paunsaugunt.