in the La Sal and Abajo Mountains of southeastern Utah. in the Paunsagaunt Plateau area of southern Utah. along the Skyline Drive mountaintop road of central Utah. in all the national forests and throughout the state's vast mountainous areas. Nature Takes Its Toll on Utah's Deer Herd Nature wreaked havoc on Utah mule deer after several years of drought and a bitter winter withrecord snow in 1992-1993. It became apparent that Utah's deer herd could no longer allow anunlimited hunt. For the first time ever, buck permits were capped in 1994. Since 1994, 97,000general season buck permits in five hunting regions have been sold each year. This becomes a difficult process to monitor, though, as permits are sold over-the-counter. In someyears, permits exceeded 97,000. By moving to a draw in 2000, sales of permits have been heldreal close to the 97,000 cap. Severe drought in Utah has continued to take its toll on deer hunting in Utah. The number ofpermits was capped at 95,000 in 2005. And the first statewide deer management plan wasapproved that same year. Plans for each unit are updated every few years. One of the biggest obstacles working against deer hunting in Utah is the maturation of theremaining plant community. Many of the most critical deer ranges are in the late stages of their lifecycle. They are dominated by mature pinion-juniper, other conifers and older shrubs likesagebrush. With pivotal winter deer ranges covered by older shrubs, there has been little regrowthof younger plants. Annual grasses such as cheatgrass are taking over a lot of traditional mule deerhabitat. Some of the other factors affecting mule deer numbers in Utah and throughout the west are bothnatural and man-made. The primary predators for mule deer in Utah are cougars, coyotes and,yes, even black bears. As anyone who enjoys the outdoors has probably noticed, the number ofoff- highway vehicles (OHVs) has exploded. Whether those who promote these machines like toadmit or not, they caused extensive damage to mule deer habitat. From 1998 to 2006, OHV usetripled in Utah. And it's gone up 100-fold in the last 30 years! Uncontrolled use of OHVs not only damages mule deer range, it also causes undue stress on thedeer during critical periods of their life cycle - especially in winter when energy conservation canbe the difference between life and death. While the use of OHVs on public land is a legitimate right, their uncontrolled and improper use notonly damages wildlife habitat, it can kill wildlife. For this reason, there has been an increaseddemand for more areas to be designated as walk-in and horseback only areas. Remote areas withfewer hunters and no OHV traffic. Biologically, limiting areas to foot and horse travel can limithunter pressure, reduce harvest and increase buck to doe ratios.