ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- More than 70,000 hunters were expected in Utah's mountains and forests for the start of buck season Saturday as the weather turns abruptly to rain and snow.
The deer hunt has been shortened in some areas of Utah -- to three days instead of five -- because of a shortage of bucks compared to does. The Utah Division of Wildlife tries to maintain a population of at least 15 bucks for every 100 females.
The number of mule deer in Utah is holding steady at just over 300,000.
Anis Aoude, DWR's big game coordinator, said southwestern Utah has fewer deer overall after last winter's deep snows took a toll on fawns. Northern Utah fared better for deer. The so-called El Nino weather pattern -- a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean -- favored the Southwest last winter for storms.
The regions of Utah where the hunt has been shortened vary across the state depending on local conditions.
"The number of mule deer in Utah is holding steady at just over 300,000," Aoude said.
That includes nearly 50,000 bucks statewide, by the agency's calculation.
Finding them is another matter.
"Most of the years we've hunted, I've got my deer -- but you never know," Dave Moss Sr. of Santa Clara told The Spectrum of St. George. "The deer are where you find them."
Moss plans to assemble his family at a cabin near Enterprise -- a daughter-in-law holds one hunting permit, he said.
A series of storms forecast for the weekend could spoil things -- although snow at the highest elevations could aid tracking if hunters can travel dirt roads that are expected to be slick.
The National Weather Service said two to three feet of snow could fall in the mountains of northern and central Utah over the weekend. By early next week, snow could fall in mountain valleys.
The coldest temperatures were expected to arrive Sunday night with winds of about 30 mph gusting to as much as 50 mph, the weather service said. It advised hunters to be prepared for snow-covered roads and drifts.
Some rain could coat the snow, making conditions more hazardous, the weather service warned.
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