A Lab retrieves a mallard duck. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
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. Read more
Photo by David Lien.
Although I’ve been an avid upland and big-game hunter for most of my life, over the years I’ve only dabbled in waterfowl (duck and goose) hunting. And after moving to Colorado from Minnesota seventeen years ago, waterfowl hunting fell completely by the wayside, until a friend and dedicated waterfowler, Tim Brass (State Policy Director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers), invited me on a January 2015 goose hunt.
Watching V-shaped flocks of honking Canada geese flying overhead, not to mention those enticed to within shotgun range, rekindled my desire to hunt waterfowl. For those with the same latent duck and goose hunting itch, first you’ll want to purchase the appropriate licenses and stamps. Waterfowl hunters need a small-game license, for starters.
Hunters age 16 or older are also required to purchase a $25 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) and a $5 Colorado State Waterfowl Stamp. In addition, pick up a $10 Colorado Habitat Stamp (for anyone aged 18 to 64), but only one is required per hunter each year, in the event you bought one with your turkey, big-game or upland-game license.
Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
For most waterfowl hunters, finding a place to hunt is often more challenging than the hunt itself. These days, unless you have deep pockets for a private hunting lease or duck-club membership, the cost of entry can leave the average duck hunter out in the cold.
Thankfully, Colorado offers a variety of opportunities to hunt waterfowl on public land.
Whether you’re a beginner who is planning your first hunt or a more experienced waterfowler who has been away from the duck blind for a while, these tips and strategies will help you have a more enjoyable and successful season. Read more
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.
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. Abundant Duck Populations Await Hunters in 2016
A black Lab and mallard ducks. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
For Colorado waterfowl hunters, 2016 could be an excellent year. Thanks to three consecutive years of wet weather and good nesting conditions across the Continental United States and Canada, nationwide duck populations remain at or near record levels. Mallards, the most popular duck among Colorado hunters, soared to a population of 11.7 million birds. With excellent 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.
Cathy Brons and Aaliyah. Photo by © Jerry Neal/CPW.
A southerner by birth, I moved to Colorado last year with the mindset that I would be open to new opportunities. The moment arose last fall when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in joining her on a duck hunt. I had met Randi through work, and was thrilled to make a connection with another female who shared similar passions for the outdoors and wildlife. I hastily agreed, eager to understand her enthusiasm for hunting and to find out if I might enjoy the experience myself.
I hadn’t given much consideration to hunting until I took wildlife management classes in college, which fostered both my appreciation for the hunter’s role in conservation and hunting as a valuable wildlife-management tool. Yet the physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness I experienced as a novice in the field was unforeseen; something that could not have been revealed to me from the pages in a book or a lecture in a classroom.
My initiation into hunting was unique in that it was not a traditional, family-centered process. My Granddaddy passed away when I was very young, but I have always been told that he was a passionate dove and duck hunter. It saddens me that I did not have the opportunity to learn from him—to go out in the field with him or to be able to listen to the stories of his endeavors. However, I believe that I am sharing a connection with my past generations through my present hunting experiences. I know Granddaddy would be proud of my newfound eagerness and commitment to preserve the hunting heritage in our family. Read more
Canada geese in flight. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis.
There is nothing quite so vivid in my memories from decades of hunting and other outdoor experiences as watching V-shaped flocks of honking Canada geese flying high overhead during their annual migrations. From the lakes and rivers of northern Minnesota, where I first hunted geese, to the Eastern Plains of Colorado, where I was hunting on a recent January morning, there are few experiences that equal the sights and sounds of geese in conjuring up our primal ties to the changing seasons and hunting.
Before sunrise on Jan. 31, six of us were in an eastern Colorado farmer’s field anticipating flocks of geese spotting our decoy spread from above, then circling, turning, setting their wings and beginning to glide. The perfect shot opportunity is when they ultimately commit to landing—feet out in front, leaning back nearly upright, neck and head stretched forward at an angle like a Concorde jet—it’s a sight to behold.
I was hunting with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) Southern Rockies Coordinator, Tim Brass, Bill Brass (Tim’s dad, who was visiting from Minnesota) and BHA life member Melinda Miller along with avid Colorado waterfowlers Jens Larsen and Taylor O’Donnell. The experience level of our group ranged from hardcore hunters to first-timers (Melinda had never hunted waterfowl). Read more
Hunter education instructor Ginger Bailey and a youth share time afield in eastern Colorado. Video capture by © Jerry Neal/CPW.
For most of us, the New Year is a time of reflection. Specifically, it’s a chance to look back at the previous 12 months and identify the things we would like to change in our lives. But more importantly, changing calendars also provides a convenient benchmark that allows us to start anew and to begin looking forward. The proverbial blank canvas that emerges as one year ends and a new one begins is a prime opportunity to recreate ourselves and focus on what we deem most important.
Often, in our quest for self improvement, we tend to come up with the same, almost cliché, New Year’s resolutions year after year. We strive to lose weight (again), quit smoking (again), exercise more and eat less. And don’t get me wrong, these are all worthwhile and admirable goals (I certainly could afford to shed a few pounds myself after the holiday season).
However, as hunters and sportsmen, I think one of the most important resolutions that we can make is to share our passion for the outdoors with others. One of the best opportunities to contribute to this effort, aside from inviting friends and family to join us on our hunting trips, is by volunteering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Education program. Read more
When hunting waterfowl, a blind is essential to stay hidden from the sharp, well-trained eyes of ducks and geese. Although permanent blinds and pit-blinds typically offer the best cover and concealment, they are usually not an option when hunting public land. In this Colorado Outdoors “Quick Tip” video, you will learn how to build a simple but effective duck blind that works well for most applications. Best of all, this portable, light-weight blind costs less than $40.
Record duck populations could mean an excellent year for Colorado waterfowl hunters. Video capture by Jerry Neal/CPW.
The 2015-16 Colorado waterfowl season is underway and, by most accounts, hunters have plenty to be excited about this year. Thanks to unusually wet weather and ideal nesting conditions across the Continental United States and Canada, duck populations have soared to the highest numbers in 60 years.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the total breeding duck population estimate in the traditional survey areas in the Prairie Pothole Region was 49.2 million birds — up 8 percent from last year, which is the largest population estimate since waterfowl surveys began in 1955. Mallards, the most popular duck among Colorado waterfowl hunters, posted a breeding population of 11.6 million birds, surpassing the all-time record of 11.2 million birds set in 1958. The USFWS also estimated gadwalls, redheads, teal and northern shovelers at or near record numbers. Read more
Virtual scouting is important if you want to increase your chances of harvesting a big-game animal. The Colorado Hunting Atlas is a great tool, developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s GIS team, to help you achieve greater success in the field. In this Colorado Outdoors Online “Quick Tips” video, you will learn how to use the Colorado Hunting Atlas and see an overview of the main functions and features.