If you are a duck hunter, you know the mingled joy (watching the sunrise over a river, calling in mallards to your decoys) and challenge (sitting quietly in a frosty duck blind) that comes with hunting waterfowl. In Colorado, the waterfowl hunting season is long and plentiful—which should give you plenty of time to experience both. The primary waterfowl season begins in October (check here for dates pertaining to specific areas).
“With waterfowl hunting opportunities extending from mid-September teal seasons to light goose conservation seasons ending in April, there are many opportunities for hunters to enjoy opportunities to harvest ducks and geese in Colorado,” said Jim Gammonley, avian program leader at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). See our resource guide here.
Colorado’s waterfowl environments are diverse, ranging from shallow wetlands to large reservoirs. Most of the ducks present in Colorado during the hunting season are migrants from breeding areas north of our state, Gammonley noted. Typically the best hunting is available when a cold front pushes birds south along the Central or Pacific Flyways (or “aerial highways”) from southern Canada, the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.
“As always, numbers, timing of arrival and length of stay of migrant ducks and geese in Colorado is highly dependent on weather,” Gammonley said. “Waterfowl use a variety of habitats throughout the season in Colorado, and it is advisable for hunters to scout several locations that may be selected by ducks and geese during early, middle and late portions of the season. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for waterfowl hunting on public lands throughout Colorado.”
In Colorado, public land such as state wildlife areas, state parks, state-trust lands and WIA properties offer a variety of good hunting opportunities. Some areas rival the best private duck-clubs. Scouting the best locations and watching the weather are all part of a successful waterfowl hunting experience Tips for hunting ducks on public land are available here.
For Colorado hunters, Gammonley reported that this year breeding populations in the northern areas that provide most of Colorado’s waterfowl opportunities remained well above the long-term average. The mallard population grew again in 2016 to 11.8 million, up from 11.7 million in 2015, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which is similar to the 2015 estimate and 51 percent above the long-term average. Mallards are the most popular duck to hunt in Colorado.
Breeding populations of gadwalls and American wigeon were also similar to 2015 numbers, and the breeding population estimate for green-winged teal was a record high of 4.3 million. Rounding out the top five most heavily harvested duck species in Colorado, the 2016 continental breeding population of blue-winged teal (6.7 million) was 22 percent lower than in 2015, but still 34 percent above the long-term average.
Written by Alicia Cohn. Cohn is the communication specialist for CPW and is an avid outdoorswoman.