Excitement, adventure, beautiful scenery—that’s what hunting in Colorado is truly about. And there’s no better way to experience all three than waterfowl hunting. Watching the sunrise over the river; sharing good conversation with friends in a duck blind; listening to wing beats as a flock of mallards circle your decoys; watching your bird dog make the perfect water retrieve. Waterfowl hunting provides the ultimate way to connect with nature and immerse yourself in the Colorado Outdoors.
Whether you’re a beginner who’s looking to experience your first hunt or a seasoned veteran who has been away from the duck blind for a while, there has never been a better time to hunt ducks and geese in Colorado. The following 12 resources and tips will help you get the most out of your hunting experience this season:
1. Record Duck Populations Await Hunters in 2015
A black Lab and mallard ducks. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
For Colorado waterfowl hunters, 2015 could be a banner year. Thanks to unusually wet weather and ideal nesting conditions across the Continental United States and Canada, nationwide duck populations have soared to the highest numbers in 60 years. Mallards, the most popular duck among Colorado hunters, posted a breeding population of 11.6 million birds—an all-time record! With epic numbers of ducks likely to pass through the state this winter, there has never been a better time to dust off the decoys, grab the Labrador and high-tail-it to your favorite warm-water slough, river, lake or reservoir.
A cow moose rests on a lawn in Lakewood. Photo by CPW.
In this segment of “Ask the Biologist,” Colorado Outdoors Online reader Carol Metz asks:
Question: “Why are moose showing up in residential areas along the Front Range?”
Last week, Arvada and Lakewood residents got quite the surprise when two Shiras moose sauntered into town. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers were able to tranquilize the rogue animals and safely relocate them to more remote habitat in South Park. However, local residents are curious as to why moose appear to be vamoosing the marshy wetlands of Colorado’s mountain parks and are now exploring suburbia.
CPW Biologist Shannon Schaller. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Biologist Shannon Schaller explains some of the reasons why moose are expanding their range, why urban sightings may become more common and also offers a few tips on how to play it safe around these large, powerful animals.
“There are several reasons why we are seeing more moose along Colorado’s Front Range. Moose are a pioneering-type animal and adapt to a variety of habitats. With their size and forage demands, moose typically travel within a home range of 3-6 miles. However, they seasonally wander much farther searching for food and available habitat, which occasionally brings them into suburban areas.
Additionally, Colorado’s moose population is expanding statewide. In fact, our moose population is doing so well that it’s growing more rapidly than in most other states. As the moose population grows, moose will continue to move out of the core locations where they were initially introduced (North Park, Grand Mesa) and into adjacent areas that may provide suitable habitat—including towns and suburbs. Many times these wandering moose will move back out of suburban areas on their own in a matter of a few days or a week. However, wildlife officers may decide to relocate a moose if there is the potential that the animal may be harmed by vehicles, harassed by pets or if it poses a threat to human safety. Read more
There is no denying northern Colorado is an incredible place to call home.
The golden triangle of Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor has routinely been recognized among the top five best places to live in the United States. The area is the largest producer of beer in a state considered the “Napa Valley” of craft brewing. The elaborate biking system, with 310 miles of trails, recently placed Fort Collins at No. 11 among the nation’s most biker-friendly cities. Finally, two local restaurants — Jay’s Bistro in Fort Collins and Chimney Park Bistro in Windsor — were recognized among the nation’s top 100 restaurants.
That is quite an impressive list, but there is an additional award of which the golden triangle is just as deserving.
The World Fishing Network recently announced a competition to crown a number of U.S. cities as America’s Ultimate Fishing Towns. It is a pretty easy argument as to why the local communities in northern Colorado within the Big Thompson and Poudre drainages should once again top the ranks. I present exhibits 1 through 5 as evidence of the area’s superior position as Fishing Town USA:
1. Big Thompson River
A Big Thompson rainbow caught on a dry fly. Photo by Iolanthe Culjak.
The upper section of the river between Idlewilde and Olympus dams has largely not been impacted by whirling disease, a parasite that decimated the rainbow trout population in the Poudre River during the mid-1990s. The Big T remains among Colorado’s finest wild-rainbow-fishing destinations with sections of river boasting up to 2,000 adult rainbow trout per mile. Read more
The spring snows continue to come but soon they will fade to the green leaves of a new season’s birth for Colorado. Turkey season is just a month away, and I find myself tuning calls, checking my old turkey vest and, at times, day dreaming about those gobbles at first light.
I thought about how we might approach this new season for the novice hunter and will work to provide some insight about what you should attempt to put in practice in the woods this spring. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the upcoming season: Read more
Pheasant hunters on a 2014 NHP hunt. Photo by Tony Dymek/CPW.
Experienced hunters enter the field confident of finding game. For new hunters, gaining that confidence — knowing the where, when, how and why of hunting — is often the biggest barrier to success.
That’s the idea behind the Novice Hunter Program, a new Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) effort to help recent hunter-education graduates master the basics of pheasant hunting. The brainchild of Northeast Regional Manager Steve Yamashita and his staff, the program enjoyed a successful launch in 2013 and is currently underway for the 2014 seasons. Read more
A black Lab proudly displays a rooster pheasant. Photo by © Jerry Neal/CPW.
On Nov. 8, hunters and bird dogs alike will celebrate as Colorado’s 2014-15 pheasant season opens statewide.
According to wildlife managers, pheasant populations have improved significantly over last season. Precipitation returned to much of the core pheasant range this summer — just in time to improve habitat and begin the rebuilding process of Colorado’s pheasant crop. Although pheasant populations remain far below where they were five years ago, there are enough roosters to keep things exciting and plenty of additional reasons to lace up your hunting boots and explore Colorado’s Eastern Plains this fall.
As an avid wingshooter, pheasant hunting has long been one of my favorite outdoor pastimes. The flash of brilliant color and raucous cackle of a rooster pheasant bursting from dense cover is enough to make even the most seasoned hunter giddy with excitement. I’ve hunted these amazing birds for decades, and it’s a sight and sound that still captivates me. Read more
Photo by Shannon Schaller/CPW.
For Colorado hunters, April of every year is a time of excitement and anticipation over the big-game license drawing. Although many of Colorado’s big-game licenses are available over-the-counter, hunters must apply for and draw the more coveted licenses for species like bighorn sheep and mountain goat.
This past year, as I was getting ready to submit my license application, I was especially excited because I knew that I had enough preference points to potentially draw a goat license.
When I first started hunting big game in Colorado, I was only interested in hunting deer and elk. However, as a district wildlife manager (DWM) in Summit County, I was fortunate to have both sheep and goats in my district. Over the years, I started applying for both species because they fascinated me. Sheep and goats live in such rugged terrain, and I always thought it would be the ultimate challenge to pursue them. Read more
“If the purpose of hunting is only to kill an
animal, then the process is moot; we contain the
technological ability to kill all animals.”
–Allen Morris Jones
The phrase “fair chase” has a very specific meaning in the hunting world. The Boone and Crockett Club defines it as “the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big-game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.” This means fair-chase hunters pursue their quarry on foot; hone their skills so they make quick, clean kills; and obey the law.
Jim Posewitz, the founder of Orion, The Hunter’s Institute, writes (in Beyond Fair Chase) that fair chase “addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.” The principle of “fair chase” is revered by ethical sportsmen and a cornerstone of the American hunting heritage.
Roosevelt enjoys a hunt in Colorado’s backcountry.
It was President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter of big game, who in 1887 joined leaders such as George Bird Grinnell, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Gifford Pinchot to form the Boone and Crockett Club, a group of sportsmen dedicated to stemming the destruction of America’s natural resources and wildlife at the end of the 19th century. Together, they worked to save Yellowstone, advocated for the principles of fair chase, and embraced the principles of science-based management of natural resources. Read more
A Rio Grande cutthroat. Video capture by Jerry Neal (CPW).
Nestled in the rugged mountains of southwest Colorado lies a remote, privately-owned ranch that shelters the pristine waters of Haypress Lake. Each June, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s fishery biologists and hatchery personnel set up a spawn-take operation at Haypress to collect roe and milt from Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Haypress Lake is the primary collection site for Rio Grande cutthroat eggs in Colorado. The offspring of the Haypress fish are then restocked into nearly 80 lakes and streams throughout the Rio Grande Basin. This short video provides an intimate look at this unique, annual event. Special thanks to John Alves, Ben Felt, Doug Sebring, Kirt Achenbach, Landes Randall, Kevin Terry and Ruthie Brown for their contributions to the Haypress spawn-take and Rio Grande cutthroat conservation efforts.
If you live in Colorado and watch much TV, chances are you’ve seen the “Hug a Hunter” and “Hug an Angler” commercials. But what you may not realize is these popular and informative TV spots are part of a much larger public-education campaign – one that has expanded beyond its origin in Colorado and captured the attention of conservation groups and wildlife agencies from across the country.
The “Hug” commercials are just one part of a multifaceted marketing effort managed by the Colorado Wildlife Council.
Established in the late 1990s by the Colorado State Legislature, the Wildlife Council’s primary objective is to educate the general public about the important role hunters and anglers play in habitat conservation and wildlife management. The Wildlife Council’s ongoing mass-media campaign, funded by a 75-cent surcharge on every Colorado hunting and fishing license, includes radio and television spots, billboards and a variety of Internet-based advertising and promotions. Read more