Utah's annual waterfowl hunt gets under way on Saturday, Oct. 2, and officials from the Division of Wildlife Resources say that hunters shouldn't let the first two weeks of the duck hunt fool them because plenty of ducks will eventually wing their way through Utah's marshes this season.
Despite good water conditions, the number of ducks that nested on marshes near the Great Salt Lake last spring was down 30 percent from 2009. That wasn't the case in areas north of Utah, however. The number of ducks nesting in these areas was down only slightly — about 3 percent — from 2009, which was a good nesting year.
Tom Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR, said most of the ducks that Utah hunters take at the start of the season are locally produced birds.
"You might see fewer ducks on the opener than you saw last year," he said. "But once the fall migration starts, get ready — good numbers of ducks will fly into Utah this season.
"Consider taking someone with you who has never hunted ducks or geese before. Introducing someone to the sport will make your hunting experience that much better."
The whereabouts of nesting Canada goose last spring was the opposite of where the ducks appeared to be. In southern Alberta and states that surround Utah, about the same number of geese nested. But in Utah, the number of nesting geese was up 25 percent from spring 2009. And the total number of goslings produced in Utah was up 15 percent.
"Plenty of Canada geese will be in Utah this season," Aldrich said.
Aldrich said thousands of tundra swans will also migrate through Utah again this season. But lower water conditions on the Great Salt Lake might cause the birds to leave the state sooner.
As ducks, geese and swans arrive in Utah this fall, the water conditions they find will vary. The state waterfowl management areas that are fed by rivers — Farmington Bay, Ogden Bay, Howard's Slough and Harold Crane — will have plenty of water. WMAs that are fed entirely by springs — such as Clear Lake and Locomotive Springs — will be drier.
Conditions at the WMAs will be updated a few days before the hunt begins. Updated conditions are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/waterfowl-opener-conditions.
Also, when hunters visit the WMAs this season, they might notice how good the marsh looks. Work to remove invasive phragmites plants from the marshes has been underway for several years.
"We've removed thousands of acres of phragmites," Aldrich said. "Removing the phragmites has opened new areas for ducks and for hunters."