By Chris Jennings, Ducks Unlimited Magazine web editor
After a strong start to the 2013-2014 waterfowl season, hunting success in Utah has tapered off in recent days, but that could all change this weekend as a winter storm system arrives.
"We had a tough water year, and we are just now able to get water on some of our exterior impoundments within the refuge," says Bob Barrett, refuge manager at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near Brigham City. "Despite the lack of food due to the drought, our duck numbers have been good."
Avery pro-staffer Chad Yamane reports that his hunting success has been variable so far this year. "Early in the season, we had a good local population of ducks, and the hunting was pretty good," Yamane says. "The last week or so, the conditions haven't been favorable for duck hunting, as we've had 60-degree days. We have a lot of ducks, swans and geese in the area, but without cold weather, they can raft up."
Yamane and several other Avery pro staff members hunted the shallow waters of the Great Salt Lake east of Antelope Island earlier this week. Using a traditional Great Salt Lake decoy spread – a mix of black silhouettes and duck floaters – they bagged limits of northern shovelers and green-winged teal on Tuesday, but the action slowed dramatically on Wednesday.
"With the lack of water, several of the flats that we hunted successfully last season are dry, and the ducks that we do have aren't moving much," Yamane says.
Barrett reports that while the duck hunting action has slowed, swans have been arriving in force. "Our swan numbers have doubled in the last 10 days, from 17,000 to nearly 35,000 birds. That's a good sign," he says. "We will typically have good hunting until everything freezes in mid- to late December. It's only going to get better."
This weekend's forecast is calling for a drastic change in the weather from the bluebird days Utah hunters faced this past week. "That's all we really need," Yamane says. "As the temperatures drop, birds will have to spend more time feeding, and that will get them moving. We have the duck numbers; we are just waiting for the weather conditions to change."