Farmington Bay • On a balmy late October Friday afternoon, 35 trucks, many with empty boat trailers, parked in muddy lots near dikes and boat launching areas at Farmington Bay.
Camouflage-clad hunters, more than a few with happy-looking dogs in tow, prepared their decoys, grabbed their shotguns and pulled on chest waders in anticipation of a late-afternoon hunt. Refuge manager Rich Hansen said recent storms brought in more than 62,000 ducks into the area.
The storms were a distant memory on this crisp Friday afternoon when the setting sun cast a golden glow over the marshes.
A diverse group of folks prepared to enjoy an evening hunt.
Rob Hansen and Austin Olsen prepared to ride mountain bikes on a dike to reach their hunting destination. Hansen, an avid South Jordan cyclist, has devised a special trailer to carry decoys in a detachable tub that can float in the cold brown refuge waters.
"I do this four or five times a year," said Hansen, who said most of the dikes are open to mountain bikes and free of motorized traffic. "I like to ride a bike and shoot a gun."
Olsen said he likes being a fairly short drive to a public hunting area where he can leave work a little early and get in some hunting.
In the same parking lot, Kaylub and Lindsey Krahenbuhl of Bluffdale put on their camo gear and prepared their boat and decoys for the evening shoot.
"I just like being with my husband," said Lindsey, who was hunting ducks for the second time. "I don't want him alone. I didn't get anything the first time, but I enjoy just being with him. I enjoy this kind of hunting. I like being outside and enjoying nature."
For his part, Kaylub usually hunts Utah Lake. He has hopes that the storm did move some ducks into Farmington Bay, birds he hopes his decoys will draw into his boat that will be turned into a hidden blind.
Mike and Alex Kuehn, a father and son hunting duo from Layton, try to come out to Farmington as often as they can, usually for a couple of hours.
"It's a good father and son activity," explained Mike.
Kelly Pope and Magna buddy Luke Syme try to hunt two or three times a week. Pope said they enjoy the thrill of the hunt without a lot of people.
The duck hunt offers more opportunity than any other Utah season, running from early October until January 29. That means "bluebird" hunting days in the early fall followed by early storms and then snow and freezing conditions in late December and early January.
What makes it great for hunters is the abundance of close-to-home refuges where hunting is allowed. While Farmington Bay is the closest to major population areas, there are state and federal areas along much of the eastern and northern shores of the Great Salt Lake. Add to that the many private duck clubs, and Wasatch Front hunters have access to areas that would be the envy of many throughout the United States.
There are so many ways to enjoy duck hunting.
Putting out decoys in hopes of luring in ducks to a blind is part of the fun. Being out before dawn and looking at the sparkling lights of the Salt Lake Valley while being in a wild, quiet place can be a satisfying experience. Spending the year training an eager Labrador and then watching the dog retrieve and follow orders makes all the work pay off. Learning to identify birds on the fly including many of the shorebirds that aren't hunting adds to the enjoyment. And many hunters enjoy preparing ducks, geese and swans for the table, finding marinades and cooking methods to enhance the flavor.
For most, though, spending time in the outdoors with a friend or loved one is a big part of the experience.
Judging from the folks out on a Friday afternoon at Farmington Bay, that's a big reason for putting on the camo, grabbing the decoys and shotgun, putting the dog in the back of the truck and heading out to the refuge for an evening that may or may not involve actually shooting a duck.