Outdoors | A quick and easy guide to waterfowl hunting in Colorado

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For waterfowl hunters around the country, finding a place to hunt is often more challenging than the hunt itself.

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. But not in Colorado.

With natural flyways and convenient reservation systems, the state offers some of the best opportunities to hunt waterfowl on public land in the nation. On top of that, waterfowl numbers in Colorado remain above their 40-year average despite drought conditions in northern breeding areas.

Many of Colorado’s state wildlife areas, state parks, state-trust lands and WIA properties offer good waterfowl hunting. In fact, some of these areas provide top-notch shooting that rivals the best private duck clubs. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a Walk-In Access program, which provides access to private land that CPW has leased for small-game and waterfowl hunting.

Many of the state wildlife areas and state parks require hunters to make advanced reservations to hunt waterfowl. This system not only manages the hunting pressure, but allows hunters to arrive at a reasonable time and know they have a spot.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website offers a variety of resources to help waterfowl hunters find a hunting spot and make reservations. But do some research online before you choose a spot. You don’t want to book a pond that has gone dry or a spot along a frozen wetland. In most cases, you can make reservations up to two weeks in advance. Call early and have some alternate choices in case your first option is taken.

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Colorado is part of two different migratory bird routes, the Central Flyway and the Pacific Flyway, with a variety of zones within each. You can start teal hunting in September and have some form of duck or goose hunting available every month through April. The goose hunting in Colorado is world class.

You can hunt state wildlife areas along the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers. There is also great waterfowl hunting around many of the state’s reservoirs. Two southeast Colorado reservoirs, Queens and John Martin, have seen recent increases in water levels and should provide excellent waterfowl hunting. In general, lakes, reservoirs and warm-water sloughs within the Central Flyway are always good bets.

The Central Flyway is the primary migration route for ducks and geese as they fly south and into Colorado. It includes all areas east of the Continental Divide, but primarily consists of the Front Range and Eastern Plains.

These riparian areas are especially productive late in the season after reservoirs and gravel pits have iced over and ducks are forced to search out open water along rivers.

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For information about Colorado’s waterfowl seasons and hunting regulations, check the 2018 Colorado Waterfowl brochure, available at statewide license agents, CPW offices and online. Duck and goose hunting in Colorado requires a small-game license and both federal and state waterfowl stamps, available for purchase through CPW’s online system. In addition, hunters are required to obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number.

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Click to listen to my complete interviews with fishing guide Brad Petersen and District Wildlife Manager at Springfield Brian Marsh about waterfowl hunting.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>