The opening of the Utah duck hunt Saturday at noon, brought back old memories to duck hunts past and some pleasant memories.
The opening was, as predicted, good by long-term standards. Measured on short-term results, it was excellent.There were more ducks around, and duck hunters, but in many cases not enough shotgun shells. Hunters who measured the number of shells they took by success from the hunts past five year likely ran out.
The first three hunters to leave the Ogden Bay Bird Refuge on Saturday, did so because they were out of shells.
The hunt was to have opened at noon. True to some hunter's fast clocks, however, first shooting at Ogden started eight minutes early. Which, as refuge manger Val Bachman said, "is pretty good. One year we were writing citations at 10:30 (a.m.)."
Early forecasts told of high numbers of ducks on Utah's marshes, especially those areas along the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Hunters found that to be the case when shooting started Saturday.
On one corner of the Ogden refuge, the skies were dark with birds when shooting started.
As Bachman said, "I haven't seen this many ducks in year."
He noted that two weeks ago he counted 124,000 birds on the refuge, "which is the best mid-September count I've had since I've been here."
Nor have hunters seen to many birds for years. There were hunters with full limits (four ducks) leaving the parking areas within half-hour of when shooting started.
Reed Lundgreen of Murray, had his limit of ducks down within five minutes of the opening. He said he's been hunting for 40 years and called this hunt "one of the most exciting."
Jeff Bringhurst of Midvale, said he's been hunting for nine years, "and this is the best I've seen."
Rudolph Gamble of Ogden, said this was the most birds he's seen in five years.
One reason for the improved hunting is that Utah's marshes are starting to re-vegetate after having been destroyed by flooding from the Great Salt Laker. Several hunters commented on the changes in marsh conditions in just one year.
Gerald Summers of Syracuse, said he can't believe the new growth. "I'm shocked at how green everything is. Last year everything was brown and dead."
Within 10 minutes of the opening, Clyde Haycock of Layton, and his two sons, Brett and Blake, had 12 ducks between them.
There were not as many big ducks, but said that when hunting opened "smaller ducks were flying all over the place."
Along with more ducks being counted, there were also more hunters. Bachman said that pressure was double over one year ago at Ogden Bay. Increased pressure was also reported on areas on the northern end of the lake - Public Shooting Grounds and Salt Creek.
Hunting pressure was up only about 30 percent on Howard's Slough. Hunters there said that when shooting started the sky was black with birds.
There were very few geese shot on the opening. Most of the geese got up from resting areas on the marches and flew out into open water about 10:30 a.m.
Traditionally, the best goose hunting is on the second day when hunters are able to hunt during the morning hours.
The duck hunt will continue until Dec. 3. The goose hunting will continue until Jan. 6.