When I say we were on the ice, I mean we were on the ice. Though temperatures were a bit unseasonably warm, we were able to find good ice on parts of the freshwater reservoir Willard Bay. The water under was was about two feet deep, which was fortunate—I fell through the thinner ice along the edge both while putting out, and picking up, decoys. God bless good waders.
Though the common goldeneye has always been present in the region, the population in and around the Salt Lake has boomed in recent seasons—so much so that they were by and far the most prevalent diving duck we saw. I'd never shot a goldeneye before venturing to Utah, and now I've killed several. Pictured here is my first. He came whistling in on his own, and didn't get out of dodge in time.
While common goldeneye were certainly the most common duck we saw while on the ice in the bay, there was no shortage of varying species. Pictured here is the lone wigeon of the day, felled by Avery's Travis Madden. Bluebills, canvasbacks, buffleheads and shovelers all gave us looks, too.
Of course, one of the region's most sought after game birds (if you've drawn a tag, at least) is the tundra swan. This juvenile—perhaps knowing that I didn't have a tag, myself—cruised into our decoys, and stayed awhile. He was perhaps 15 yards overhead when I snapped this photo. A lucky day for him, indeed.
Part of what drew me to Utah was the chance to hunt ducks on the Salt Lake, where airboats—like the one pictured here—are the most common form of water transportation. Much of the lake and the surrounding waterways is shallow and plagued with thick mud—when it's not frozen, at least. Running an air-propelled rig solves both problems. Avery's Chad Yamane was my guide and our wheelman, of sorts, on this particular trip.
On the second day of my stay, Chad and Travis introduced me to the "traditional" Utah duck hunt on the Great Salt Lake proper. We set out roughly 200 simple black duck (or rather, duck-like) silhouettes and a few floaters, then climbed into "coffins" that were sitting on 2-3 inches of water, tops. The puddle ducks wasted no time in coming right in.
Why would I fly a couple thousand miles and then spend two long days with my back quite literally on ice? To kill a few ducks, naturally. As a lifetime resident of the mid-Atlantic region, I jumped at the chance to join some of the fine folks from Avery Outdoors for an airboat-led waterfowl hunt on Utah's Great Salt Lake and the surrounding waterways. And so I joined Avery Pro Staffers Chad Yamane and Travis Madden in putting the hurt on the Beehive State's migratory bird population. You can get a closer look at the trip with the photos I've embedded above.