Utah's waterfowl season will end in nine or 10 days, depending on the enthusiasm and financial liquidity of hunters following the holidays.
Hunting for geese and swans will officially close at dusk on Jan. 1 for those hunters who purchase a 1989 hunting license. For those without new licenses, the season ends at sunset Dec. 31.For either group, hunting will not be easy the remaining days of the season. There are still geese and swans resting on Utah waters but not as many as earlier this month. Also, many of the birds still in Utah have been educated. That is, having survived the season thus far, they are familiar with favorite hunting area and tend to stay away, and are also more wary of decoys and hunting blinds than new, incoming birds might be.
According to early reports, goose hunting has been spotty this year. The number of geese counted has been higher than in past years but hunting has been more difficult, even for the more experienced hunters.
The loss of habitat and popular feeding areas due to flooding from the Great Salt Lake caused geese to change flight and eating habits. Instead of staying and feeding around the fringes of the lake, where most of the hunting takes place, the birds stayed out in deeper waters during the day and flew inland in the early morning and late afternoon to feed.
Those hunters studying the new flights and able to move hunting locations had some good success. Many of those on private hunting clubs, where range was limited and most of the feeding areas were completely wiped out, had to settle for a few stragglers and the new, incoming flights.
Hunters still holding swan permits will find there are not many birds left. Most of the birds moved out of the state earlier in the month.
Because of low duck counts and poor production this past spring, Utah's duck hunt was shortened this year and closed back on Dec. 5.
*** $20,000 BIGHORN: Utah's high bidder for the single desert bighorn sheep permit got a late start but returned home with a trophy.
James Nyce of Landsdale, Pa., placed a minimum bid of $20,000 back in October and by virtue of the fact his was the only bid, he got the permit.
Hunting in the Potash unit west of Moab, he shot a ram that scored about 151 points under big-game trophy scoring.
In Idaho, there was slightly more pressure on the bidder - $44,000 more. Robert Senter of Plainstow, N.H., purchased that state's tag for $64,000 at an auction.
On the seventh day he spotted sheep at about 10,000 feet. The hunter watched them most of the day, hoping they would come down. But as darkness neared, Senter climbed and then slid down 300 yards of near-vertical shale and rock to get a shot. He ended up getting a 170-plus-point ram.
In both cases, money from the permits goes to help manage and improve the species.
*** BIG-GAME TRANSPLANTS: Several Utah big game animals, and a few transplants from Wyoming, will be given new homes this winter. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources plans to move in Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and transplant more moose and antelope.
According to Grant Jense, big game coordinator for the DWR, Utah will get 60 sheep in early January from Wyoming. The sheep will be moved to Sheep Creek Canyon near Flaming Gorge, the North Slope of the Uintas and the Deep Creek Range. This will be the second introduction of sheep in the Deep Creek area.
Earlier transplants put Rocky Mountain sheep on Bear Top Mountain near Dutch John, mountains near Brigham City and on the Nebo range.
The DWR also plans to capture about 30 head of moose in the Weber and Echo Canyon areas and move them to other parts of the state. Exact locations have not been finalized.
Also, the DWR plans to trap and move as many as 300 antelope off Parker Mountain in early January. The antelope will be moved to the Southwest Desert and Panguitch Valley. The Parker Mountain antelope herd has been one of the most productive in the state. Over 2,000 antelope have been trapped of the range and moved to other parts of the state.