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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — The duck and geese hunting seasons are drawing to a close, but there is still time to continue filling your limit. If you haven’t had much success this year or if you are a beginner, here are a few tips for hunting ducks and geese.
Make sure you have the required equipment
To hunt duck or geese in Utah, you must have a combination license or a small game license, according to Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer Wyatt Bubak. Hunters are required to have a federal duck stamp and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number.
Hunters are allowed to use a shotgun or archery for duck and geese hunting. If a shotgun is used, It is a requirement to use a shotgun that is plugged and can’t hold more than three shells at a time, Bubak said. When hunting waterfowl in Utah, hunters are also required to use non-toxic shot that doesn’t contain any lead.
Because a majority of duck and geese hunting revolves around water, having a pair of waders would also come in handy, Bubak said.
Use a Waterfowl Management Area (WMA)
Bubak said WMAs are managed specifically for waterfowl and are a great place to begin hunting, particularly for ducks. He recommended visiting the DWR website and locating a WMA close to your area.
“They’ll have ducks somewhere on that Waterfowl Management Area every single day of the year, whether it’s zero degrees or 100 degrees,” he said. “They tend to get a lot of pressure because they are public, but most of them are pretty big and if you are willing to walk a little bit, you can get away and hunt by yourself. Sometimes they have tens of thousands (of ducks) and sometimes, they only have a couple hundred, but they will always have ducks on them.”
Go hunt with someone with experience
Bubak also said it’s beneficial for new hunters to network and find an experienced waterfowl hunter to go out with. He said new hunters can network with people through the state Wildlife Forum and find someone to help them gain experience.
“Try to get involved with someone that knows how to hunt waterfowl,” he said.
Figure out which type of hunting techniques you want to use
Bubak said there are three main techniques used when hunting ducks and geese. Jump shooting involves the hunter walking around and moving to flush the birds out to shoot them. In pass shooting, the hunter hides between two bodies of water — typically along a dyke — and shoots the birds when they fly from one body of water to another. Decoy shooting involves using decoys and bird calls to attract the waterfowl to the hunter’s location.
“Once you start understanding a little bit about how waterfowling works, you watch the birds and you can see they are landing in a certain area and you set up decoys in that area,” Bubak said. “It helps entice the birds to land where you are instead of 50-60 yards out where they are too far out to shoot… They like to be with other birds.”
Bubak said because there are fewer geese than ducks in Utah, geese are a bit harder to hunt and a large majority of geese are harvested using decoys.
Practice shooting clay pigeons before the hunt
Anytime you want to hunt, you should practice shooting before you go to familiarize yourself with how your firearm shoots. Duck and geese hunters should practice shooting clay pigeons to get a feel for shooting a moving target.
“Those birds do move fast,” Bubak said.
Limits for ducks and geese
The duck limit is seven per day, but hunters can’t have more than one canvasback per day, two hen mallards per day, two pintails per day, two redheads per day, two wood ducks per day and no more than three scaup ducks per day.
The limit for dark geese is four per day and hunters can only shoot 20 light geese per day.
Dark geese include cackling geese, Canadian geese, white-fronted geese and brant geese, Bubak said. Light geese include snow geese, ross geese and blue geese, which are the same size as a snow goose, but have a different color pattern.
Season dates and zones
Hunters with a combination license can continue hunting geese after the duck season ends Saturday. The season for dark geese in the northern goose zone also ends Saturday, but the dark geese urban zone runs until Feb. 1 and the general goose zone ends Jan. 25, Bubak said.
The season for the light geese northern and urban goose zones ends Saturday, but reopens Feb. 18 and runs until March 10. The light geese general goose zone ends Jan. 25, but reopens Feb. 28 and runs until March 10 as well.
The northern goose zone includes portions of Box Elder County and the urban goose zone includes portions of Utah County, Salt Lake County, Davis County, Weber County and Morgan County. The general goose zone includes all the other areas of the state, including private property. However, hunters must get permission to hunt on private property.