As the Oct. 5 start to Utah's waterfowl hunt approaches, Blair Stringham says all duck species, with the exception of scaup, are doing as well or better than they were at this time last year. And so are Canada geese and tundra swans.
"Water conditions were really good last spring in western Alberta, Alaska and Montana, which is where most of the ducks that migrate through Utah come from," says Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Even though Utah was extremely dry this past spring, enough water was available for ducks to nest and raise their young. Tons of cinnamon teal were raised locally. Plenty of gadwalls, mallards and redheads were raised locally too."
Water conditions will improve as the season progresses. Right now, though, almost all of Utah's public hunting areas have at least some areas that are dry. Stringham provides the following highlights:
Stringham says hunting could be especially good at Desert Lake, a WMA southeast of Elmo in east-central Utah.
"Eastern Utah has received tons of rain lately," he says. "Before the rain, the ponds at Desert Lake were completely dry, with vegetation growing on the bottom of them. Now that the ponds have water in them, the flooded vegetation should attract birds like a magnet."
You can learn more about water conditions at the state WMAs online.
Before the Oct. 5 opener, specific water-condition information for each of the WMAs should be available.
Notice: The three federal refuges in Utah — Bear River, Fish Springs and Ouray — are closed to hunting until the federal government shutdown is resolved.
If your hunting plans include trips to the Farmington Bay WMA or the Ogden Bay WMA, Stringham provides important information about work at both areas this fall:
Unit 1 at the Farmington Bay WMA west of Farmington might not have much water in it when the season opens Oct. 5.
Stringham says work is being done to rebuild some islands on the unit. A new dike is also being built on the southeast side of the unit. The dike will allow biologists to flood the area with water, creating a brand new hunting area at the WMA.
"To do the work," Stringham says, "personnel had to shut off the supply of water that was coming into the unit. We're hoping to complete the work, and refill the unit with water, before the general hunt opens on Oct. 5. But the unit still might not be completely full."
Even bigger changes await those visiting the Ogden Bay WMA west of Hooper. Work that will help the WMA handle flood waters more effectively will start at the beginning of October.
"We encourage hunters to visit our waterfowl Facebook page to stay updated about changes at the WMA," Stringham says. "Conditions will change throughout the season."
The Facebook page is available at www.facebook.com/UtahWMAs.
In 2011, the Weber River rose high enough that WMA personnel decided to breach a dike at the WMA to help alleviate flooding farther up the river. Stringham says the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently provided the DWR with funding for new water control structures and other modifications that will allow flood waters to be handled more efficiently in the future.
"Once the work is done," he says, "waterfowl and hunters will benefit too. We'll be able to control water better and spread the water better across the entire marsh."
To learn more about hunting waterfowl in Utah, see the 2013–2014 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook.
If you have questions about hunting waterfowl in Utah, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.
Links to more Utah waterfowl hunting information