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Division of Wildlife


Biologists come up with plan to try to keep more ducks on State Wildlife Area.

Hunters who enjoy pursuing waterfowl in Colorado’s San Luis Valley (SLV) should be prepared for some new regulations at one of the Valley’s most popular hunting properties.

The forecast for waterfowl hunting in most of the state shows improved conditions compared to last year, but dry conditions in the SLV reduced local waterfowl populations in an area that historically is one of the best areas in Colorado for waterfowl production.

As a result, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has implemented regulation changes at Russell Lakes State Wildlife Area. “This year, we worked with Ducks Unlimited to come up with a plan to provide a refuge for birds to keep them on public land,” said Dave McCammon, a DOW wildlife technician.

“We closed Section 29 at Russell Lakes during waterfowl seasons and restricted hunting hours to before 1 p.m. during the first season which runs Oct. 4 – 19. Our goal is to provide a safe haven that will keep birds from leaving the property and seeking refuge on private land,” said McCammon. “As a replacement, we are opening up Davey Lake (which is part of the Russell Lakes complex) to hunting.”

Waterfowl hunters in the SLV should also keep in mind that the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is partially closed to waterfowl hunting for the second year in a row and hunting on the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge will be restricted.

Late season rains added some much-needed moisture in the Valley, but an otherwise dry year resulted in a big drop off in local waterfowl populations. Statewide breeding population fared better than last year, but still sputtered through a dry spring that did not see much-needed precipitation until after the critical nesting period.

Since local ducks typically make up a large percentage of the early season bag for Colorado hunters, waterfowlers should expect the season to start out slow in the early split but improve as hefty populations of northern ducks migrate south during the second and third splits.

Fortunately, the number of ducks in Canada is up this year. Many of the ducks that migrate through Colorado each fall come from southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan. McCammon said hunters in the SLV might have better success in the later seasons when migrants arrive from the north.

The San Luis Valley is part of the Pacific Flyway. The Pacific Flyway duck season runs from Oct. 4 through Oct. 19; and Oct. 29 through Jan. 25, 2004. The bag limit is seven ducks including no more than two female mallards, one pintail, one canvasback, two redheads and four scaup. Pintails or canvasbacks are not allowed in the bag after Dec. 11. The possession limit is two daily bag limits.

Conditions in northeast Colorado, which is part of the Central Flyway, are better. The Central Flyway duck season runs from Oct. 4 - 26, Nov. 1 - 30 and Dec. 7 through Jan. 18. The bag limit is six ducks including no more than five mallards, of which no more than two can be female mallards, one pintail, one canvasback, two redheads, one mottled duck, two wood ducks and three scaup. No pintails or canvasbacks are allowed in the bag after Nov. 16. The possession limit is two daily bag limits.

Waterfowl hunters waiting for the arrival of northern birds should take into account that a high population of northern ducks is just one of the factors that leads to success. Another major factor is weather - a heavy cold snap can push migrating birds through Colorado quickly, giving hunters little opportunity. On the other side of the coin, a lack of any significant weather can keep the majority of the birds up north until after the season. The best scenario for Colorado waterfowl hunters is series of weather events to the north, pushing small waves of birds into the state.




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