If you’ve been counting down the days until waterfowl season opens, your wait is nearly over. You could be hunting ducks in Utah’s northern zone marshes this Saturday, Oct. 1! (That’s also the same day as the youth waterfowl hunt in the southern zone.) Keep reading for details on licensing requirements, avian influenza, WMA conditions and more.
Make sure you have a license, HIP number and duck stamp
Nearly all of Utah’s waterfowl hunts are open to anyone with a valid Utah hunting license. (The only exception is swan hunting, which requires a separate permit from the hunt drawing that ended July 20.) In addition to a hunting license, you will also likely need the following before you can hunt:
A free Harvest Information Program number, which is required in order to hunt any waterfowl in Utah. (Having a HIP number is mandatory for hunters of all ages).
A federal duck stamp, if you are 16 or older. You can purchase a duck stamp from your local post office, various license agents or by calling 1-800-782-6724. Duck stamps are not available at DWR offices.
Tips to protect against avian influenza
Avian influenza is still infecting and killing birds — both wild and domestic — throughout Utah. The most common wild birds impacted by the virus are typically waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and scavengers (which include birds like hawks, owls, ravens and vultures). There are usually few symptoms in waterfowl and shorebirds, but the virus can kill raptors and scavengers quickly. Avian flu has been confirmed in several counties in Utah.
If you are planning to hunt waterfowl this fall, here are some tips to keep yourself and your hunting dog safe:
Do not harvest, handle or eat any animal that appears sick.
Field dress game animals in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
Avoid direct contact with the intestines.
Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning birds. Wash your hands with soap and water, and thoroughly clean all knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with the birds. Disinfect using a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
Keep your game birds cool, clean and dry.
Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game or handling animals.
All game meat should be thoroughly cooked before eating (well-done or 165° F).
Dogs are susceptible to avian flu, but don’t often show clinical signs. Though the risk of infection is low, visit the DWR website to identify the locations with active cases of avian flu in wild birds and avoid those areas when using retrievers. Consult your local veterinarian if your dog exhibits any respiratory symptoms.
If you have domestic poultry, keep them separated from the wild bird carcasses you have harvested, and do not handle poultry after handling wild birds.
For more information about the current avian flu outbreak in wild birds, visit the DWR website. You can also view all the latest cases of avian flu in wild animals on the DWR website.
Check current WMA conditions
The DWR owns and manages more than 20 waterfowl management areas, which are now open to hunters for scouting. Due to extreme drought conditions this year, the Great Salt Lake’s water levels are low, and accessing the WMAs will be difficult in some areas. The Willard Spur WMA is currently mostly dry, but it should slowly fill throughout the fall. Clear Lake WMA is also really dry and won’t have much water until later in the hunting season. See detailed reports on WMA conditions for the waterfowl hunt opener, especially if you plan to launch an airboat.
Important: The WMAs will likely be crowded because more people will want to hunt in areas with water. Please be courteous and respectful of others who are hunting nearby.
Know Utah’s waterfowl hunting laws and rules
And finally, if you are planning to hunt ducks, geese or swans this fall, remember to check the Utah Waterfowl Guidebook for the specific zone boundaries, season dates and bag limits.