Very few hunters know where wood ducks are in Utah. But enough wood ducks are being taken that some hunters are becoming concerned about the health of the population.
To keep a healthy population of wood ducks in Utah, on Aug. 22, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a change to Utah's daily duck bag limit.
Starting this season, you may not take more than two wood ducks a day. And the scaup and canvasback limits have also changed. Your seven-duck bag limit may not include more than three scaup a day. The canvasback limit, on the other hand, has been increased to two canvasbacks a day.
Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the number of scaup in North America has been going up and down for years. This year, the population is down. The canvasback population, on the other hand, has been slowly increasing. "Canvasbacks are doing well enough that hunters can now take two canvasbacks a day," he says.
The limit changes are among several changes the board approved for Utah's upcoming waterfowl hunt. All of the changes will be available in the 2013–2014 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook. The digital version of the free guidebook should be available online by Sept. 9.
Here's a summary of the major waterfowl hunting changes the board approved:
- If you're a Hunter Education graduate, and you'll be 15 years of age or younger on Sept. 21, mark that day on your calendar — Sept. 21 is the day Utah's special Youth Hunting Day will be held.
Originally, the DWR recommended holding the day on Sept. 28. After receiving input at Regional Advisory Council meetings, however, Stringham told board members it would be fine to hold the day a week earlier.
Held two weeks before the general waterfowl hunt opens on Oct. 5, Youth Hunting Day is an opportunity for young hunters to hunt waterfowl without competition from older hunters.
- A new goose hunting zone has been created. The zone should help reduce the number of Canada geese that visit golf courses, parks and other urban areas.
The new zone is called the Urban Goose Zone. It includes Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties in northern Utah. Washington County in southwestern Utah is also included.
The hunt in the new zone starts Oct. 5 and runs until Oct. 17. The hunt then closes until Nov. 2. On Nov. 2, the season reopens and runs until Feb. 2.
Federal law does not allow Canada goose hunts to run longer than 107 days. Stringham says closing the hunt for two weeks in October, and then reopening it and letting it run to Feb. 2, should help reduce the number of Canada geese that are causing problems in urban areas.
"In January," he says, "geese in urban areas start flying into marshes to establish their breeding territory. This movement puts them in the marshes and fields where the hunters are. As the breeding season approaches, geese are also a little less wary. That often makes it easier to attract them into your decoy spread."
- Nonmotorized boat and walk-in hunters will still have a place all to themselves at the Public Shooting Grounds Waterfowl Management Area west of Corrine. But it will be a different spot than it's been in the past.
Over the past few years, Pintail Lake, which sits in the middle of the WMA, has been closed to motorized boats. Starting this fall, you can take a motorized boat onto Pintail Lake. But Wigeon Lake, which sits south of Pintail, will be closed to motorized boats.
Stringham says nonmotorized boat hunters haven't used Pintail much. And that's created changes in how birds distribute themselves on the WMA and the flight paths they take.
"Ducks have been congregating on Pintail Lake," Stringham says. "When someone does finally disturb them, they usually fly directly east, over the WMA's main road and onto Duck Lake, which is closed to hunting."
Opening Pintail Lake to motorized boats should greatly increase the number of hunters who use the lake. The increased pressure should push more birds off Pintail and onto other parts of the marsh. "And that should make hunting better for everyone," Stringham says.
- During the February and March portions of Utah's light goose season, you can use electronic calls to call snow, Ross' and other light geese. Also during the February and March portions of the season, you can hunt light geese without a plug in your shotgun.
Stringham says the light goose population in the western United States and Canada hasn't reached the large numbers it has in the central part of the continent. "But it's growing," he says. "There's a real chance that the number of light geese in the western part of North America will reach a point that they start damaging their breeding and nesting grounds in Canada."