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Expect more ducks and elk in '07 hunts

The Utah elk and duck hunts will open on Saturday.

What hunters can expect are:

• More ducks. Heavy rains to the north, in Canada, provided ideal nesting conditions, thus a higher number of ducks were hatched and survived.

• More elk. Utah's elk population continues to grow. Relatively mild winters the past four years, along with good flood supplies, has moved the population closer to statewide goals.

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DUCK — While Utah's spring and summer was dry, reports from key breeding areas in Canada showed that the number of breeding ponds was 68 percent higher than the 50-year average.

The hunt will open at 8 a.m. on Saturday in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake and Weber counties, and 30 minutes before sunrise elsewhere.

The limit is seven ducks, but a hunter can have no more than two hen mallards, two red heads, two canvasbacks, one pintail or three scaups.

The season will close Jan. 19.

This will be the first season that hunters 12 years of age and younger will be able to hunt waterfowl in Utah. But, in order to hunt, they must complete the state's Hunter Education course, buy a hunting or combination license and be accompanied by an adult while hunting.

The conditions hunters will find at the state's waterfowl management areas will vary depending on where they hunt. At the areas where the DWR has good water rights, water conditions should be good within the diked units.

At the areas where the DWR's water rights aren't as good, conditions will be drier.

"Farmington Bay and Ogden Bay should have the best water conditions," said Tom Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Other WMAs that rely mostly on spring water, such as the Public Shooting Grounds and Salt Creek, will be drier. At Locomotive Springs, only one unit has water in it."

Conditions are also dry at the Clear Lake WMA northwest of Fillmore. Only the main units at the WMA will have water when the season opens.

Aldrich said the situation with Canada geese is similar to the duck situation. The number of breeding pairs in Utah, and the number of young they produced, were up slightly from 2006. But both numbers in

Utah were down slightly from their 50-year average.

The goose season will run from Oct. 6 to 18, then break for a week and run from Oct. 27 to Jan. 27.

The swan season, for those with swan permits, will run from Oct. 6 to Dec. 9.

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ELK — As of Wednesday, there were still some bull elk permits, both spike or any bull.

The forecast is that hunters should see more bulls this year.

Based on surveys this past winter, DWR biologists estimate Utah's elk population at more than 63,800 animals, which is only 4,800 animals shy of a statewide goal of 68,600 animals.

The largest elk herds are found on the central mountains near Manti and Wasatch Mountains units; the South Slope, Yellowstone unit in northeastern Utah; and the Plateau, Fish Lake/Thousand Lakes unit in south-central Utah.

Most of Utah's elk hunting takes place on spike-only units. These are units where only spike bulls may be taken. And, while there are a large number of spike bulls on these units, once the hunt starts the animals can be tough to find.

The success rate on these units averages about 18 percent.

The forecast for Saturday is for sunshine and warmer temperatures. The rain predicted for Friday, however, will make travel in the backcountry difficult.

Those hunters using off-highway vehicles are encouraged to obtain an OHV riding map showing those road open in the areas they plan to hunt. They are also encouraged to not ride off the roads.

Proclamation for both waterfowl and elk are available on the DWR Web site — — and from DWR offices and hunting license agents across Utah.

For more information, call the nearest DWR office or the main office at 801-538-4700.