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
A black lab holds a retrieving dummy. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
With leash laws strictly enforced these days in most cities and counties, it can be difficult to find a place to train, exercise and swim your high-energy hunting dog during the off season. And anyone who has trained a dog for upland or waterfowl hunting knows that keeping a hunting dog fine-tuned is a year-round endeavor.
For Denver residents, the Dog Off-Leash Areas (DOLAs) and Sport-Dog Training Areas at Cherry Creek and Chatfield State Parks offer a convenient location to train and exercise field dogs.
Located in Littleton, Chatfield’s DOLA features 69 acres of grassy fields, unimproved prairie and a variety of well-maintained trails. The diverse terrain also includes two large-sized ponds — perfect for practicing water retrieves with a Chesapeake or Labrador retriever. Cherry Creek’s DOLA, located just south of Denver, offers a vast 107 acres of short-grass prairie for upland field work and provides creek access in multiple locations. Read more
Online hunter-education courses make it easy for aspiring hunters. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
Story by Gary Berlin
Formal hunter education training has existed since 1949 when New York became the first state to require hunters to complete hunter education prior to buying a hunting license. More than 20 years later, Colorado joined the ranks, requiring anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1949 to obtain a hunter education certificate to purchase or apply for a hunting license. Because of the success of hunter education training, which reduced hunting-related shooting incidents, today all 50 states and 11 Canadian provinces have some type of hunter education requirement.
Between 1949 and 2000, a typical hunter education class consisted of 12 to 22 hours of formal classroom training, passing a comprehensive written exam, demonstrating safe gun-handling techniques and firearms proficiency at a firing range. It was not uncommon for a student to attend three to six individual class sessions before obtaining their hunter education certificate.
At the onset of the 21st century, a number of far-sighted, state hunter-education administrators recognized that many of their residents were resorting to the Internet for their news, information, entertainment and education. These administrators submitted a proposal to the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) to create a program for online delivery of hunter education. Read more
When it comes to outdoors expertise, no one understands Colorado’s fishery and wildlife resources better than Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s diverse staff of wildlife managers, park rangers and biologists. For these dedicated individuals, working for CPW is not just an occupation but a way of life. When they’re not enforcing fish and game laws, patrolling state lands or conducting fish and wildlife research, most CPW employees are avid sportsmen and women who spend their leisure time hunting and angling throughout the state. Here, CPW staff share their personal stories and experiences, provide on-the-ground field updates and offer a unique, “inside” perspective on all things hunting and fishing in Colorado.
In this segment of CPW Field Journal, Southwest Regional Manager Patt Dorsey explains how the solitude of hunting helps her to de-stress and escape everyday life.
Wood ducks provide exciting jump-shooting opportunities for waterfowl hunters.
Wood ducks comprise a good percentage of a hunter’s bag limit during the early duck season along the South Platte and Arkansas rivers. You may have a tough time decoying these agile and wary fowl, but if you religiously hunt the river bottoms and surrounding ponds, it is likely you will get some pass-shooting opportunities based on good numbers of wood ducks inhabiting these areas. Read more
Wasps, spiders, sunburn, allergies, rattlesnakes, mosquitoes and chiggers are just a few of the challenges you must brave. But if you enjoy a good wing-shoot and the fast-paced action of fishing for crappies, these unpleasantries may be worth tolerating to take advantage of some early season outdoor opportunities on the Eastern Plains.
Experienced waterfowl hunters understand the importance of using a natural-looking decoy spread to bring ducks within shooting range of the blind. In this video, you will learn about some of the different types of decoys that are available and decoy strategies to pull in even the wariest, hunter-savvy ducks.
Duck decoys are an essential tool for every serious waterfowl hunter. But organizing floating decoys and keeping anchor lines tangle-free is a constant challenge. In this video, you will learn how to setup and breakdown your decoy spread quickly and easily–all while keeping your hands warm and dry on blustery days. This innovative decoy-anchor system is based on the popular Texas-style rig but with a Colorado twist.
I suppose we were a little suspect of each other. He wondering why I was taking him from his tiny universe and me wondering if he could be everything his predecessor was. He has grown comfortable around the house and has taken well to training. I haven’t even shot a bird over him and yet he has already made me look forward to hunting again, given me back a passion I lost. I am baffled by what dogs do for us.
It is August and Denver is baking, but for the first time in a year, I can’t wait for a cool breeze indicating autumn. There are great times ahead for Dutch and me.
I’m looking forward to walks under yellowing cottonwoods and naps in predawn wetlands. There will be nicks from barbed wire and days when a truck heater never felt so good. And of course there will be mallards banking into decoys and pheasants to chase.
So throw a couple of preseason dummies for your companion. Fall is coming. Anticipate how perfect the world can look when following a hunting dog with shotgun in hand.