Swan Hunting on the Great Salt Lake

Welcome to KSL Outdoors and welcome to a crisp morning in the marsh. I’m with Rob Friedel, with Avery Outdoors. What the heck are we doing out here, it’s cold? It is cold, in fact we just had that snow storm come in last night, so we got a couple of guys that want to go out and shoot some big white swans.
And there’s a lot in the air, isn’t there? There is, there’s a lot in the air. The DNR said 47,000 I think on the last report. So yea, we are looking to hopefully capitalize on it. Ok, let’s go meet the guys. Cool. I got a call from Jeremy, he is the manager of the Logan Sportsman’s Warehouse. He said hey I’ve got a kid up here, he’s got a swan tag and oh yeah his dad has a swan tag to.
Meet Mark and Jeff Johnson, a father and son that both love to hunt and both just happen to work at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Logan.
We got you some banded waders and I know you guys have good boots, but these things are insulated and breathable so when you are trucking around in the mud, you are going to sweet and it’s going to breathe it’s going to feel a lot better I promise you. They are really, really comfortable. We got you some jackets, some bags, some gun cases. You guys are going to look the part, not that you don’t already.
Jeff was born with a disability, but his dad says it’s never slowed Jeff down.
Born with Spina Bifida, had a lot of surgeries when he was young. He’s done a great job, he’s shot elk, deer, he’s done a really good job with his handicap. Loves to hunt. Yea. Yea.
Has it been good for him to work there? Very good. Yea, he used to do janitor work at the local rec center. He hated it, got on at Sportsman’s, he loves it. Comes home happy, not mad at everybody.
It’s in my wheelhouse, what I enjoy. The people I work with they are awesome, everyone is awesome.
He’s got a great attitude, he’s always early to work. Fun to be around, he take a joke like some of the best.
You’ve never shot a swan? Nope. They are big birds. Yep. I’ve been on hunts but I’ve never shot one.
The way a majority of people in Utah probably hunt them is just pass shoot them. So like what you’ll do is find the birds’ flight path and you get in between them. The downfall of that is that a lot of times the birds are actually pretty tall.
We want to try and shoot a swan within forty yards.
You don’t have to have 48 decoys like we are running. Typically if you are where the swans want to be. If you have a couple of decoys that’s usually enough. So that’s one of the better ways to do it, I mean to ensure that you are going to get a close shot.
Right behind us, right behind us.
We haven’t been set up but maybe ten minutes and already the swans are headed our way.
Don’t shoot the gray ones, try and shoot the white ones alright and they look slow, lead them. With this wind especially, I mean they are cruising. You want to put that bead way in front of them alright.
Young tundra swans still wear the gray plumage of a poult, and even though they’re legal to shoot, they aren’t as prized as the white-feathered adults.
Ok, don’t look up into the sun because your face will glare. They are going to come right over the top of us.
Don’t move! Be ready to go. Shoot them straight up! Straight up! Straight up! Shoot them again Jeff. Nice! Woo! Nice Jeff! That was all you buddy. Was that a white one? Yea, they were all white, that’s why I told you to shoot them.
Nice shooting Jeff. Good job bud.
I hit it pretty good though. Yea you did. Alright Jeff let’s break out your tag, we’ll get that punched and get this bird. You are shooting ducks from here on out buddy. Good job dude.
Alright son!
Chad and Rob run an outfitting business called Fried Feathers. They are the only waterfowl hunters in the state that I know of that are licensed, Utah Boat Captains, medically trained and insured. If you want to hunt waterfowl and maybe don’t have a ton of experience. These are the guys I’d go with.
We take guys out, we are all set up so especially for the people that don’t get to hunt very often, you know they can come, show up, they don’t have to make the investment in decoys, boats, blinds, dogs. You know those sorts of things. We just make it easy.
And like we always say, you can’t kill them from the couch and it’s gorgeous day, I mean it’s sunny, it’s a little cool, but man it’s just gorgeous to be out here.

See all the whites ones Chris? Which one? Doesn’t matter, pick a white one, the two closest birds are good.
Get ready.
Tell me when.
Really most of our Waterfowl Management Areas along the Great Salt Lake have swans. Bear River Bird Refuge is place that most people like to go. It’s probably the most popular. But really anywhere along the East side of the Great Salt Lake. Some at Harold Crane, Ogden Bay has been really good the last few years. Farmington Bay has been really good too.
That was very close, getting closer by the minute. That’s for sure. That lead bird was a big bird.
We have a couple different species of swans that move through the state. Primarily we see tundra swans. All of those are coming from the north side of Alaska. So they make a big migration down into the Great Salt Lake area then they’ll head straight west to California. We do get a species, the trumpeter swans here. A lot of those come from the Greater Yellowstone area, as well as up through Canada.
But, primarily guys are seeing tundra swans here and that’s primarily what people harvest.
Right here Chad! On your right side!
Shoot him, shoot him. Oh geez. Holy crud. Wow! Nice shot.
How far was that? Ten yards? Maybe. I think ten is pushing it.
I thought it was a duck. I looked right there and there it was.
Alright you got a tag Mark? Get this one tagged.
You’re the last one. You are the only hold out. What’s the deal? I’m not quite sure yet. I guess I don’t have the lucky touch yet. Lots of time. Oh yea. Hopefully by this evening.
It’s been my experience, swans usually have a better evening flight than an early flight and tonight was one of those nights.
Coming straight at us, they are just bucking the wind.
There’s a single bird to the left too that’s working our way.
Shoot him, shoot him, shoot him. He’s in the decoys!
Got him! I didn’t think you were going to let him shoot him in the decoys? But ok.
Hey, you said shoot him.
I meant when he was flying! When he was doing this.
That’s a really good bird.
We got about ten minutes of shooting light left and swans flying all around. We decided to just sit and enjoy the scenery and watch these glorious birds.
It doesn’t get any prettier than that, especially with sunset behind it. Oh look at them all.
Look at that one with his feet down.
Oh that’s a shot right there.
That’s got a huge beak on it doesn’t it. And they’re saying, Chad was telling me that’s called a lore. That yellow patch there. That looks like a nice adult bird. Beautiful. What are you going to do with it? Eat it. Yea probably. Yea, that’s going to be awesome, that is really cool. Oh more shooting going on and you’ve got some ducks to kill. Yup.

You know the duck hunt has really been slow. In fact I think the air boaters are saying probably the worst start that they have had.
Guys have been getting birds, but it’s been a slow year if you ask most people.
Most waterfowl hunters will tell you just that. This years’ duck hunt has been tough. And low water in the Great Salt Lake hasn’t helped.
Go now! Nice shot. That a boy.
Overall waterfowl populations are still near record levels for ducks and geese. So it’s still a good time to be a waterfowl hunter. You just have to be willing to work a bit harder.
The weather is here it should do nothing but get better. I mean we do have a good number of ducks along the Wasatch front. And I’m sure there are some guys that are killing them. I mean if you are out there scouting and able to get into it. Then you are probably going to kill your ducks.
Left side Jeff. Get down, get down!
Nice shooting boys.
Really just looking for open water. A lot of the birds will sit tight until about noon or so and then they’ll start moving out to areas that will open up where they can feed throughout the afternoon. So some of my best hunts have been looking for areas that are thawing out in the afternoon and then hunting those areas. A lot of it will be that shallow, sheet water where salt grass, Salicornia is at. They can be awesome for mallards, pintails, wigeon.
Another pretty pintail.
One change waterfowl hunters will notice for next year is the number of pintails they be able to harvest.
We saw in our survey this last year that pintail numbers are down a bit from where they were last year. They dropped below a threshold to where we can have two birds, down, it will be down to one bird. So, for our 2017 season you’ll only be able to have one pintail. Which is unfortunate because we do have a lot of pintails here, but overall the population has dropped.
Another proposed change could be a win-win for hunters, especially in the southern part of the state. Biologists want to create two duck hunting zones in Utah for next season. The North Zone hunt would run Oct. 7-Jan. 20 and the South Zone hunt would run Oct. 14-Jan. 27th.
Yea we’ve been looking at doing that for a couple of years now. A lot of guys in the southern part of the state have had reduced opportunities just because it’s been warmer in the fall and birds aren’t moving south quite as fast as they have been.
The plan is just provide more opportunity to hunters if they are willing to be mobile they can hunt for a little bit longer.
Right there, right there.
And don’t come back!
Wow what a sight right here. The sun is setting, it’s beautiful and look at these three big birds. That one is a giant huh Chad? That is a toad of a bird right there. That is a Boone and Crocket swan. What a cool evening. What we got cans, we got pins, we got, what else did we get? Some spoonies, wigeon, fatheads. We got them all. What a, what a neat day. What happened to that one’s beak? I don’t know. That was a close shot! Hey don’t forget to get out and chase these things. There is only two thousand tags every year, if you do, give our buddies Rob and Chad a call, they’ll get you on the birds, that’s for sure.

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