OK -- after much deliberation, I am going to go ahead and provide my prediction. This prediction will NOT be my pessimistic conspiracy theory prediction that the hunts will just get closed down. It will be a reasonable prediction. Here it goes.....
I think the DWR has learned some things from fisheries management, and has realized that they missed out on an opportunity to SAVE some of our deer population by allow MORE harvest by hunters. Look at fisheries like Minersville. What happens when we have poor water years? We know that large numbers of fish will die due to high temps, low water, stress, etc. So fisheries managers implement regulation changes to allow more harvest. They increase harvest in an effort to lower the population to a point that MORE fish will survive the extreme weather event than would have survived if they continued to protect the fish. Sure, it sounds backwards: harvest more to save more. But it works.
Consider what we've done in the past number of years with deer: with an extended drought and deer herds on decline, we've continued to limit tags in an effort to "save" deer, or ie: stockpile. Great idea, right? Wrong. We've "saved" all these deer only to have the Great Winter of 2023 hit. Reports and numbers are coming in left and right, specifically for Northern Utah (Idaho, Wyoming, etc.) with extremely high mortality rates on deer. This winter is killing them. And we've missed the boat in trying to save them by NOT handing out more deer tags in 2022, 2021, 2020. We should have done exactly what fisheries managers do when bad predictors show up, like extended droughts, and liberalize the limits encouraging MORE harvest in an effort to reduce mass die-offs. Provide opportunity for the reduced population to survive the extreme event. It works -- we've seen this work at Minersville numerous times. We should have done this with our deer herds, but we didn't. Our deer herds are dying from the effects of a bad winter -- and we should have allowed hunters to harvest some of those deer in the previous years leading to this!
So, the prediction on deer tag numbers from me is this:
A. The DWR will propose a SIGNIFICANT DECREASE in tags for northern Utah units.
B. The DWR will propose a SIGNIFICANT INCREASE in tags for southern Utah units.
The increase would include struggling units, like Boulder. Quit trying to stockpile the remaining deer only to have more of them die due to extreme weather. Harvest more in an effort to help more survive the winter.
That's what I think.