It was a perfect day for a duck hunt - wet, cold and windy. Problem was, there weren't many ducks around.

As a result, the 1998 opening of the Utah hunt, which was supposed to be good, was, in fact, slow.How slow? A number of good hunters left the marshes early Saturday with nothing but wet feet and cold hands.

And as one hunter said, "That hasn't happened to me on an opener in a long, long time."

So what happened? This was, after all, expected to be a good opener.

"Storms," said Val Bachman, manager of the Ogden Bay Bird Refuge. "The storms came up from the south this week and started the birds moving south. There was nothing up north to get those birds moving into Utah, so we lost a lot of our birds," he said.

"We had a lot of birds earlier in the week, but then they picked up and flew south. It didn't help, either, that a lot of the birds that were here stayed high and out of range today."

In anticipation of a good hunt, hunting pressure was up on many of the popular marshes.

The hunt was officially scheduled to open at 8 a.m. The first shots were heard on Ogden Bay about 15 minutes early. While no numbers are known, early indications are that several citations for early shooting were issued.

There were large numbers of ducks flying right after the opening barrage of gun fire. There were also a number of geese flying. In both cases, however, game officials and hunters agreed that there were far fewer than last year.

Early reports are that hunting was generally slow all along the eastern marshes of the Great Salt Lake.

Hunting at Public Shooting Ground, Howard Slough and the Layton marshes was reported slow. The one area where hunting pressure was down was Howard Slough.

For the first few minutes of the season there were a lot of birds and shooting on the Bear River Bird Refuge. But as quickly as it all started, it ended - and for the rest of the morning only occasional shoots heard. Hunting pressure was about the same as last year, but success was off.

Paul Skeen, Jeff Kelsey and John Simmons, all of Roy, had little to show for their hours on the marches.

"We hunted the same spot last year and had our limits by this time," said Kelsey. "There just weren't as many ducks this year."

Brad Sneddon of Riverdale had a good time introducing his grandson to the marshes but left without a single duck.

Lane Lewis of West Valley also left the marshes without a duck. He said that what ducks he did see were high - "real high."

Following him was a party of four that reported getting in some shooting but came away with only one-half duck each.

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The opening day is never good for goose hunters, and Saturday was no different. There were very few geese checked on Saturday.

Last year's migrating population of ducks was the highest in recorded history - 92 million. Numbers were down this year, to 84 million, but hunting was expected to be excellent.

And, consensus is among veteran hunters and game officers that it could still be excellent, provided, of course, that the storms swing north and start pushing ducks down into Utah.

The duck hunt will run through Jan. 16. The goose hunt will close Jan. 10.

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