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On Patrol: Small Force Watches Over Deer Hunt

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Each hunter in Utah is permitted one buck per hunting season.

Saturday saw the opening of rifle deer hunting season in Utah. The hunt has been a tradition for many families who take to the woods during the nine-day season with the goal of bringing home a prize buck.

Chris Schulze is a part of a force of conservation officers who have the responsibility to make sure hunting laws are obeyed. He is one of about two dozen who monitor the hunt for the entire state, in every county and corner of Utah. Often times, individual officers will patrol an area of many miles every day. Schulze, a second generation wildlife officer, is no exception.

The entire Cache Valley is under his jurisdiction. Riding along into a remote part of the foothills where much of the hunt takes places gives one an impression of just how difficult patrolling a hunt can be.

Monitoring such a large area is daunting to say the least. In addition to checking hunting licenses and proper tagging of deer, he also has to respond to reports of poaching. According to Schulze, he relies on reports called in by civilians in order to combat poaching.

“So, we have a poaching hotline, essentially. We call it UTiP. It’s a toll-free number people can call to report wildlife violations. I can see other people’s calls even if it’s not in my district,” Schulze said. “Obviously some of the details are pretty scant. It has the person’s name and contact information there so we call them and tell them who we are… [ask them] what’s going on this morning, and basically get the real info.”

As we drove through rural Cache County, checking up on hunting hot spots, we received a call through UTiP from a man who claimed to have seen other hunters using rifles in an area set aside for bow hunting. Tips like this allow the officers to ensure the safety of not only the wildlife, but of the sportsmen as well, Schulze said.

“He’s archery hunting and has encountered people that are using rifles. They’re in hunter orange… He’s concerned about safety and stuff like that,” he said.

The call was too far away for Schulze to respond, so another officer followed up on the report. Wildlife officers also check in areas that see high traffic in hunters. Schultz says he makes regular rounds to checkpoints to talk with other sportsman.

“This is another one of our walk-in access pieces. So, that’s why I wanted to come here just to see who all, if anyone, was parked here at this spot,” he said. “It’s usually about like this. It’s not super busy but there’s usually a handful of vehicles here and they could be on either side of us.”

The rifle hunt season for Utah ends on Sunday, Oct. 26.