Division of Wildlife
NEW WATERFOWL REGULATIONS FOR RUSSELL LAKES
Biologists come up with plan to try to keep more ducks on State
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
“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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