November 20, 2013
Duck Hunting on the Mud Flats of Utah's Great Salt Lake
By Phil Bourjaily
A traditional coffin blind hunt on Utah’s Great Salt Lake is as close as you’ll come to duck hunting on Mars — if Mars had water and thousands of ducks. I got to experience it last week and it was one of the coolest duck hunts I have ever been on.
There are miles of mud flats around the lake with a bottom that is almost concrete-hard and covered by 2-8 inches of water. That’s it. There’s no vegetation except some algae that floats in the water and no living creatures except brine shrimp. There’s a hilly, rocky shoreline. It's barren. We saw several rafts of countless thousands of ducks as we ran out in airboats.
Once in our spot, which frankly looked no different than any other spot out there, we set 300-500 homemade black silhouette duck decoys. The oldtimers used sheet metal decoys when they started hunting like this in the 40s. Now the decoys are coroplast. When stuck close together, they look like a raft of ducks. We threw out a bunch of conventional decoys in front of those. Then we lay in coffin blinds among the decoys.
It looks improbable but it works. We shot about half and half green wing teal (one of my very favorite ducks) and shovelers (not so much – I gave them a pass, and I passed on the lone goldeneye that swung the spread, too). There is literally no place for a crippled duck to hide, and the few birds we sailed were rounded up by the Labs on duty.
The hunt offered several of my favorite features: shallow water, a hard bottom to walk on and no lost ducks. Some might say the area lacks in scenery, but it was the total lack of scenery that made it memorable for me. I would do it every day if I lived in Utah. If you are ever in the Salt Lake City area and want to try it, Rob Friedel is a good hunter, a nice guy, and has very reasonable pricces. Otherwise, it’s a BYOAB (Bring Your Own Air Boat) deal.