Don’t let the first two weeks of the duck hunt fool you -- plenty of ducks will 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. And 2009 was a good nesting year.
This year’s waterfowl hunt starts Oct. 2. Tom Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says most of the ducks 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,” Aldrich says. “But once the fall migration starts, get ready: good numbers of ducks will fly into Utah this season.”
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 says.
Aldrich says 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. You can see the updated conditions at www.wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/waterfowl-opener-conditions.
When you visit the WMAs this season, you might notice how nice 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 says.
“Removing the phragmites has opened new areas for ducks and for hunters. The marshes really look nice this fall.”
Phragmites removal work went well enough last spring that DWR biologists probably won’t have to burn phragmites this fall.
“It’s still a good idea to stay updated, though,” Aldrich says.
You can stay updated by visiting www.wildlife.utah.gov/burn throughout the season. You can also receive Twitter updates by signing up for them
Before you head into the marsh this fall, Aldrich has some reminders:
- Learn the rules -- including the bag limits, season dates and shooting times -- by reading the 2010 - 2011 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook.
The free guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks and from DWR offices and hunting license agents across Utah.