Duck numbers will be down slightly from last years waterfowl season
Hunters will also find marsh conditions that range from good to poor, depending on the area they hunt.
"Most of the ducks that migrate through Utah each fall come from the western Canadian prairies, and the number of ponds on the prairies this past spring were near record lows," explained Tom Aldrich, waterfowl coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "This means production was poor and there will be fewer young ducks in this fall's flight.
"The good news is, the number of adult ducks that arrived on the breeding grounds this spring were near long term averages, so there should be a good population of adult ducks migrating through Utah this fall," Aldrich stated.
"These birds have been through hunting seasons before, however, so they'll be more difficult for hunters to take."
Canada goose hunters should also find good numbers of geese in the state this season. "Most of the geese taken in Utah are raised locally, and the number of breeding pairs and production of goslings in Utah this spring was similar to last year," Aldrich advised.
Tundra swan hunters should also find the birds in numbers similar to, or slightly higher, than last year. "Tundra swans breed in Alaska, where habitat conditions are much more stable than farther south," Aldrich explained.
Aldrich also says that marsh conditions on state waterfowl management areas vary, with the best conditions found at the Farmington Bay, Howard Slough and Ogden Bay wildlife management areas.
"We have secure water sources at all three of these areas and marsh conditions at all of them are good," he stated. "They should be in great shape for this year's hunt."
Farther north, hunters can expect fair to good conditions at the Harold Crane wildlife management area. At the public shooting grounds and Salt Creek wildlife management areas in Box Elder County, rain received in September has helped the marsh but Aldrich says conditions overall are marginal. "And the Locomotive Springs management area is dry," warns Aldrich.
The Clear Lake management area west of Fillmore is also fairly dry, but winter storms should improve conditions there later in the season. The September storms filled the Deseret Lake wildlife management area in Emery County with water and wildlife managers are optimistic that it will remain that way through the season.
Aldrich says that the federal Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge west of Brigham City is mostly dry, with marsh conditions similar to last season.
The drier conditions will concentrate hunters on areas that have easy access, but Aldrich has advice for getting away from the crowds. "Hunt on weekdays or learn how to hunt shallow, mud flat areas in coffin box blinds," Aldrich suggests. "Either of these ways will help the hunter get away from the crowds and provide them with some quiet hunting."
Aldrich also has some additional advice, tips and reminders for hunters heading to Utah's marshes this season.
Canvasback and pintail changes. There are two major changes to Utah's daily duck bag limit this season. Canvasbacks may not be taken at all and pintails may only be taken from Oct. 5 through Nov. 7, and Dec. 25 until the duck season ends on Jan. 18. From Nov. 8 through Dec. 24, pintails may not be taken in Utah.
Preparation. "Brush up on calling skills, spend some extra time with the retriever and hit the skeet and trap range a few times," Aldrich advises. "In addition to shooting skills, practice estimating distances while at the shooting range."
HIP registration. Hunters must register in the migratory bird harvest information program (HIP) before hunting migratory birds each year. "Registration is easy and takes about five minutes to complete," Aldrich explains. Utah hunters can register on the Internet at www.uthip.com or by calling 1-877-8824-744.
Swan reporting requirements. Those who obtained a 2002 Utah swan permit are reminded that they must report their hunting effort and success, even if they don't hunt or take a swan this season.
"Those who don't report this information won't be allowed to apply for a swan permit next year," warns Aldrich.
He also reminds hunters that a lawsuit seeking to stop Utah's tundra swan hunt is in federal court and a ruling could come at any time, even during the swan season.
"There's a chance the swan season could be stopped before it starts, or could be halted after it's begun," he advises. "Hunters need to be aware of this and need to be watching for news about the ruling."
Questions regarding the upcoming waterfowl season may be directed to the nearest DWR office.