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Prepare for fall bird hunts now

Preparation now is the key to a great experience on opening day

Upland game birds and waterfowl are popular among beginning and veteran hunters alike.

Duck hunters hunting in Utah.

Getting prepared now is key to having a fun and successful duck hunt this fall.

Photo by Stacey Jones, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

In Utah, it's fairly easy to find a place to hunt birds. And, in most cases, you only need a hunting license, not a specific permit, to hunt them.

Whether you're a veteran bird hunter — or someone who'll be going afield for the first time — getting ready now can save you lots of scrambling on opening day.

The two biologists who manage Utah's upland game and waterfowl programs, Jason Robinson and Blair Stringham, provide the following tips to get you prepared for this fall:

Shooting, walking, calling

It's important to brush up on your shooting skills. Shooting trap or skeet now will help you swing smoothly on moving targets once the season starts.

In addition to shooting, get some exercise. "You need to make sure you're fit enough to walk long distances looking for birds," says Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR.

If you're going to hunt ducks or geese, and you want to use a call, Stringham says it's time to get your call out and start practicing.

Gear and dogs

You'll also want your gear, and any dogs you might bring with you, ready to go before the seasons open. Work with your bird dogs to refresh their behavior in the field. Also, make sure your gun is clean and functioning and that you have the shells you'll need.

If you're going to target waterfowl, clean your decoys, and replace any weights that need to be replaced. And make sure your boat is running smoothly.

"With these tasks out of the way," Stringham says, "you'll be hunting on opening day, instead of sorting out your gear."

Deciding what and where to hunt

If you're just getting started, learning which birds and areas are most accessible to you might help you decide which birds you want to hunt:

  • Some of the best places to hunt ducks and geese in Utah can be found in the maps online.
  • Information that will help you identify ducks, geese, swans and snipe in Utah is available under the "Waterfowl identification" heading.
  • Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited also provide excellent information to help you identify waterfowl.

  • To learn where upland game birds live in Utah, see pages 31–38 of the 2013-2014 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Hunting Guidebook.
  • If you want to hunt upland game birds, Robinson, upland game coordinator for the DWR, says it's important to learn what different upland game birds look like, both on the ground and as they flush into the air. "Because birds in motion are hard to tell apart," he says, "hunters need to be cautious about which species they're shooting at."
  • Illustrations that will help you identify upland game birds in Utah are available on pages 42–49 of the 2013-2014 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Hunting Guidebook.

  • More information about hunting upland game birds and waterfowl in Utah, including access to hunting rules and season dates in the guidebooks, is available online.

Waterfowl hunting event

If you're new to waterfowl hunting, you might want to attend the annual Youth Fair hosted by the Utah Waterfowl Association.

At the fair, youth and adults can learn more about waterfowl hunting, including how to place decoys, identify birds and call ducks.

The fair will be held Sept. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area west of Farmington. For more information, call Troy Thompson at 801-698-6467 or Jeff Adams at 801-391-9858.

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