What hunters should know about Utah’s waterfowl hunts in 2021


DWR press release

It’s a calm, still morning as you sit by the edge of a lake in your awning. You hear birds in the distance and turn your head to see several ducks flying towards you. Your heart rate quickens and you slowly raise your shotgun. Waterfowl hunting season has finally arrived.

With the exception of swans (which require a permit from the hunting drawing which ended July 21), the rest of the waterfowl hunts in Utah are open to anyone with a hunting permit from the ‘Utah. However, you must also have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number to hunt any waterfowl in Utah and a federal duck stamp if you are over 15 years of age. You can sign up for a free HIP number on the Utah Division of Wildlife. Resource site. You can purchase a duck stamp from your local post office, various licensing agents, or over the phone. The phone number is 1-800-782-6724. Duck stamps are not available at DWR offices.

If you’re planning on hunting ducks, geese or swans this fall, here’s what to expect and when the different seasons open:


The continent-wide population surveys were canceled again this year, due to concerns over COVID-19, so there is no current estimate of the duck population in North America. However, some US states located in major duck breeding areas were able to conduct their surveys. Overall, the data shows fewer ducks this year compared to last year.

“Many of the main breeding areas for most duck species were dry this summer due to the drought,” said Blair Stringham, DWR Migratory Game Bird program coordinator. “This year’s low spring runoff has also dried up many wetlands in Utah. This means there are fewer nesting ducks and fewer birds in the overall population migrating south this fall. Hunters in Utah will likely see fewer ducks this hunting season. “

Typically, around 15 species of ducks can be found in Utah. Details and photos for each species can be found in the 2021-2022 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook. Hunters should note that the pintail limit is one this year.

“Hunters can greatly improve their success when hunting ducks by spending time scouting before each hunt,” said Stringham. “Learning where and when the birds are in a specific location can allow hunters to be where the birds want to be, when they want to be there, and will dramatically increase the number of birds they harvest.”

For example, each species of duck uses different types of habitat. Diving ducks, like barebacks and redheads, love large, open bodies of water. Puddle ducks, such as teal and shoveler, are usually found in shallow water. Species like mallards can be found just about anywhere.

“Think about the species you hunt, and then look for them in the habitats they want to be found,” Stringham said. “If you can’t find the species you are targeting, move through different areas until you find them.”

Calls are also an effective tool to help hunters succeed in duck hunts. Most hunters use a traditional duck call that looks like a mallard hen. Experimenting with other sounds, such as duck or pintail whistles, can increase success. Dogs are great at helping hunters retrieve downed birds and will increase your chances of finding ducks that fall into thick blankets.

The general season duck hunt runs from October 2 to January 15 in the northern area of ​​Utah and from October 16 to January 29 in the southern area. The youth hunts open on September 18 in the north zone and October 2 in the south zone. Check the Utah Waterfowl Guidebook for the limits of the two areas and bag limits for ducks.


Goose surveys were also canceled this year due to COVID-19, but anecdotal observations suggest Canada geese production was similar to last year. However, drought conditions will have an impact on geese migrations.

“Waterfowl hunting will be more difficult this year as there is less wetland available for birds and hunters,” Stringham said. “Hunters can expect to see fewer birds migrating through Utah this year than in previous years. We also don’t have as much food for the birds, so waterfowl will migrate across the state faster, so there won’t be many birds later in the season.

An important tip for success in goose hunts is to use a good call.

“Calling is a very important part of the goose hunt,” Stringham said. “Geese are very social birds, so being able to sound like a goose can help hunters harvest more birds. “

Black goose season dates:

  • North Zone: Oct. 2-14 and Oct. 30 to Jan. 30, 2022

  • Wasatch Front sector: Oct 2-14 and Nov 6 to Feb 6 2022

  • Eastern Box Seniors Zone: October 2 to January 15, 2022

  • South zone: Oct. 16 to Jan. 29, 2022

Pale Goose Season Dates:

The youth hunts allow black goose hunting and will begin September 18 for the East Box Elder, North and Wasatch Front areas, and October 2 for the South Goose area. Check the Utah Waterfowl Guidebook for specific area boundaries and season dates.

Hunters should also note that most light goose hunts take place on private property. Be sure to get written permission from landowners before hunting on their property.


Tens of thousands of swans pass through Utah each fall on their way to their wintering grounds in California. Although swan surveys have also been canceled this year, their populations generally remain stable, so they will likely be similar to last year.

“Swans migrate and stop at the same places every year,” Stringham said. “Traditional hunting areas, such as the Bear River Migratory Bird Sanctuary, will hold swans from the first part of November until the marshes freeze over.”

Hunters should also be aware that swans leave roosting areas to feed in the morning and late afternoon, and throughout the day when temperatures cool. Pre-hunt scouting can help determine when swans are moving, so hunters know what times of day to hunt.

“Hunting along a swan’s flight path or in its feeding grounds will increase your chances of harvesting a swan,” Stringham said.

Hunters should also be sure of the swan species they are targeting before attempting to harvest one. Trumpeter swans and whistling swans both migrate through Utah and are both legal to harvest. Each species can be identified by its size and sound. Trumpeter swans are significantly larger than whistling swans. Trumpeter swans do not have a yellow colored area near their eyes and they also make a distinctive trumpet sound, hence their name.

Utah is one of nine states in the United States to allow swan hunting. Due to the small size of the Trumpeter Swan population in the Greater Yellowstone area, the US Fish and Wildlife Service sets an annual harvest quota for the number of Trumpeter Swans that can be harvested in Utah.

Like last year, there is a federal quota of 20 Trumpeter Swans that can be harvested in Utah. Swan hunting season was closed early in the past two years in Utah because the federal quota for trumpeter swans was met. Licensed hunters can legally take a trumpeter swan or a whistling swan; however, hunters are discouraged from harvesting trumpeter swans.

The general swan season runs from October 2 to December 12. Youth with a swan license can hunt swans during the Youth Waterfowl Hunting in the North Zone, which opens Sept. 18. Those with a swan permit can only harvest one swan during the 2021 season.

Waterfowl management areas

There are over 20 Waterfowl Management Areas (WMAs) throughout Utah that are owned and managed by the DWR.

Due to extreme drought conditions this year, water levels in the Great Salt Lake are low and access to WMAs will be difficult in some areas. Willard Spur’s WMA is currently mostly dry, but is expected to slowly fill up throughout the fall. Clear Lake WMA is also very dry and will not have much water until the end of the hunting season.

“With some common waterfowl hunting areas having very low water or being totally dry this year, the WMAs are likely to be overcrowded as more people will be concentrated in areas that have sufficient water,” Stringham said. “Please be courteous and respectful to others who hunt in the same areas as you. “

For specific details and status reports on WMAs, visit the DWR website. Be sure to check the conditions before attempting to launch an airboat. The WMAs will open to the public on September 16.

Waterfowl snap

If you want to add fun and challenge to your hunt, consider completing the Waterfowl Slam. Hunters earn a slam by completing different requirements, such as harvesting a group of species in a certain time period or in a certain location. There are currently 10 slams with different difficulty levels, so you can find a variety of fun and unique challenges. Along with trying something new, hunters who complete the slam can also earn colorful bracelets to collect.

The money earned from the slam is used to carry out home improvement projects at various WMAs across the state. This year, the money generated by the slam – along with contributions from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and other partners – helped fund the purchase of more than 1,200 acres of land, which now connects the WMAs in Salt Creek and Public Shooting Grounds.

Learn more about the Waterfowl Slam on the DWR website.


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