DENVER – Summer is coming to an end and once again it is time to get ready for waterfowl hunting in Colorado. CPW’s Avian Research Section Leader, Jim Gammonley, offers a brief forecast to help hunters determine if it will be a good season.
“There are a few key ingredients to a successful season,” says Gammonley. “Waterfowl abundance, habitat conditions, and weather. Each of these is important at a continental, regional and local scale.”
North American duck populations tend to vary over time in response to changing wet and dry habitat conditions on the main continental breeding areas in Canada and the northcentral U.S.
Reproductive success of arctic-nesting geese also fluctuates depending on timing of ice and snow melt, and summer temperatures. When populations are high, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits longer seasons and higher bag limits for waterfowl, whereas when populations are low hunting regulations are more conservative.
Colorado has enjoyed long hunting seasons and high bag limits for the past 20 years, due to generally high numbers of ducks and geese in North America. The trend continues in 2015 with high numbers of most duck species, including record numbers of mallards and green-winged teal, that were counted on breeding grounds this past May. Most goose populations also remain well above USFWS objectives. “This means long seasons and high bag limits will once again be in place for Colorado and throughout the U.S., providing more opportunity to hunt waterfowl,” adds Gammonley.
Most of the waterfowl seen in Colorado during hunting season come from breeding areas directly north of Colorado, in Wyoming, Montana, western North Dakota and South Dakota, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Gammonley says these areas have had generally good habitat conditions for breeding ducks and Canada geese, so there should be good numbers migrating through Colorado this fall and winter. In addition, there is local production of ducks in Colorado, primarily in North Park, the San Luis Valley, and the upper reaches of the various rivers across the state.
Reports show local habitat conditions are shaping up to be relatively good this fall as well. Drought conditions have improved throughout Colorado, and water should be available in many reservoirs, streams, ponds, and wetlands across the state. Gammonley says the improved conditions mean there should be good supplies of natural foods and grain available.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 2015 Waterfowl Brochure is now available online at http://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/RulesRegs/Brochure/waterfowl.pdf.