The opening of the Utah duck hunt last Saturday was the best in five years, and consensus is it will remain good for several week to come.
According to weekend figures, both success and hunters afield were up substantially - hunting pressure by 27 percent and overall success by 24 percent.And, according to Tom Aldrich, waterfowl program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, "hunters should find hunting will remain good for several weeks. I don't see anything coming that would push the ducks out."
Last year there were about 19,500 duck hunters. This year Aldrich expects around 24,000 will hunt.
Success on the opener, though, wasn't due to an increase in duck numbers in the flyway, but because of improved marsh conditions. When hunting opened Saturday at noon, field officers figure there were between two and three times as many birds as there were a year ago.
Some of the best hunting was reported at Ogden Bay Bird Refuge. According to figures, hunters jumped from 399 last year to 683 this year, and success climbed from .95 birds per hunter to 2.2 birds per hunter.
In many cases Saturday, shells ran out before ducks. The first three hunters to leave Ogden Bay were going out to buy more shells.
About a dozen hunters left the marsh after bagging their limits within a hour of the start. Three Salt Lake hunters had their limits within 10 minutes of opening.
At Public Shooting Grounds, which produced the best hunting last year, hunting pressure jumped from 670 to 814, and success from 1.12 birds to 1.15 birds per hunter.
At Harold Crane Refuge, pressure jumped from 111 hunters to 216, and success from .66 to 1.99 birds per hunter.
At Farmington Bay, which was at one time completely flooded, pressure jumped from 114 hunters to 235, and success from 1.14 birds to 1.53.
The most plentiful duck was the greenwing teal, followed by the mallard, pintail, widgeon and shoveler.
Hunting was also considered good for geese. Best hunting was on Public where 20 geese were checked. In other areas, reports showed there were 16 checked at Cutler Reservoir in Cache County, three from Harold Crane, seven from Layton/Kaysville, three from Ogden Bay, six from Farmington and one from Salt Creek.
Aldrich also noted that the botulism problem has not complete subsided. He said waterfowl managers are still seeing sick birds.
Last week, it was reported that 6,000 birds died on the Bear River Bird Refuge.
As cold weather moves in, he expected the problem would start declining.