Try fewer dekes for last-gasp ducks

TREMONTON, Utah It's your absolute last chance for a limit of mallards at Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area in northern Box Elder County near the town of Tremonton.

Area manager Randy Berger (435-854-3610) says there are 2,000 to 3,000 ducks and 800 to 900 geese on the WMA.

"Right now with the ice on, they (hunters) have been doing quite well. But the problem we're having now is whether we'll hang on to our ice," said Berger.

"We had nearly 6 inches of ice, but with this warm snap coming through, I don't know if it will stay."

Utah duck season closes Jan. 14; goose season ends Jan. 29.

Berger explained that when the ponds freeze he has to lower the water levels to the ponds to keep the ice and to maintain a channel of open water so the ducks will stay longer.

If there is no open water, the ducks leave. If the ice melts, there's nothing left but mud and the ducks leave.

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And if they fill the units up again the birds will leave anyway. It's a delicate balance.

Doesn't make sense to you?

Well, it doesn't make sense to any of the DWR-WMA managers either.

From Farmington WMA to Ogden Bay to Salt Creek, once the ponds freeze, the birds generally stay put if there is a little open water, but if the water opens up completely the birds still leave.

After two weeks of freezing temperatures, the hottest hunting spot in Utah was at Salt Creek. Hunters were shooting limits with a mixed bag of birds; cinnamon and greenwing teal, pintails, gadwalls, wigeon and plenty of mallards were being taken. It's a little unusual for such a variety this late in the season.

"I don't know why they're still around," said Berger referring to the pintails and teal.

"About 80 percent of what we have are mallards and probably 7 or 8 percent are pintails and the rest are mixed."

Look for the hunting success to continue, especially if it gets cold again.

Berger recommends cutting down the number of decoys this time of year because the ducks are looking for small pockets of birds to sit with.

For a map of Salt Creek WMA, go to the DWR's Web site: wildlife.utah.gov.

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