A series of cold fronts last month across Colorado brought an early taste of winter weather to the state, but waterfowl hunters have been enjoying a red-hot start to the season thanks to an influx of migrating ducks and geese.
“There is no doubt that the birds have moved in,” says Matt Reddy, regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited in Colorado and Wyoming. “Canada geese and mallards in really good numbers, but I’m also getting reports of other puddle ducks and divers. At this point, we’re set up for a good season.”
Near Ft. Collins, veteran Colorado hunter and Avery/Banded pro-staffer Vance Stolz reports some of the strongest mallard numbers he has seen in years.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had this many ducks around at this point so early in a season,” says Stolz. “I was a bit worried about things at first, because the big front that came through and brought the birds also brought some really cold weather and the smaller waters started to lock up. But the temperatures have evened out a bit, the little ponds are opening back up and the birds are still here. We’re in a pretty good spot.”
Lesser Canada goose numbers along the Front Range are also impressive, says Mossy Oak pro-staffer, Colin Mulligan, and he reports seeing good numbers of light geese in the region as well.
“We’re finding them mixed in pretty regularly with the Canadas. I’m hearing reports from friends further east who are finding some really big snow goose feeds,” he says. “Overall, it has been a really good start to the season.”
Mulligan has been focusing on mallards on river systems, with the occasional wigeon or wood duck filling out a limit.
In southern Colorado along the Arkansas River, gadwall are the bird of choice for hunters, says Cody Giebel.
“Overall, this is the most ducks I’ve seen in the area in the last five years, but the gadwall numbers really stand out,” says Giebel, a member of the Mossy Oak pro staff. “There is a good amount of wild millet, and they are really hitting it.”
Giebel, like Mulligan and Stolz, ranks the start of the Colorado waterfowl season as one of the best in recent memory.
“There is a bit of hunting pressure out there, but the bird numbers are creating some great opportunities,” he says.