Migratory Bird Hunting: September Means Doves, Ducks, and Shotguns in Colorado

colorado hunting

The first week of September might seem too early for Colorado hunting, but seasons for doves, ducks, and geese all start up this month. One advantage of these early hunts is that the birds are “uneducated” and unwary, and can really zoom into your set-ups and respond to your calls.

But do you know the ins and outs of migratory-bird hunting regulations? They can get confusing: Migratory-bird hunting is regulated by numerous state and federal game laws, and those laws can vary considerably from state to state. That means even the most conscientious waterfowl and dove hunters can find themselves paying fines instead of enjoying the hunt.   

Brush up on you need to know before you head afield this month for some bird hunting.

Duck, Duck, Goose

Migratory-bird hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods are state-specific, so check with your state’s game agency beforehand. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies has provided an easy-to-reference list of agencies and links, which can be found here.

Early September is the traditional opener for that speedy little duck, the teal. This year, for example, teal hunting season in Colorado runs September 9-17 in Lake and Chaffee Counties and all areas east of I-25. Cinnamon, blue-wing, and green-wing teal are all legal game.

Early Canada goose seasons also opens this month. In Colorado, early Canada goose season runs from September 1-9 this year, but only west of the Continental Divide. 

Doves and Zones in Colorado

Seasons for mourning and white-winged doves are longer this year, opening Sept. 1 and running through Nov. 29 statewide. The best hunting occurs in the mornings and late afternoons when the birds come to watering holes and agricultural fields in search of food and a chance to wet their beaks.

Know Colorado Hunting Law

The most common migratory-bird hunting violations concern baiting. Simply put, you can’t hunt ducks, geese, or doves over bait. But what constitutes bait?

It’s not that easy to define. Consider this from “Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting,” published online by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement here.

“Hunting waterfowl over a crop that has not been harvested but that has been manipulated (rolled/disked) is considered baiting under current regulations. The presence of seed or grain in an agricultural area rules out waterfowl hunting unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, normal agricultural harvesting, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice.”

What is “normal”? Every year, what seems “normal” to duck and dove hunters near agricultural fields isn’t the same kind of “normal” to the game wardens who cite them for illegal baiting. Best advice: Contact your local game wardens for their definition of baiting.

Another common violation is not having a plug in your pump or semi-automatic shotgun that limits only two shells in the magazine. Frequently, hunters get dinged on this because they removed the plugs for upland game hunting and just forgot to replace them before the migratory opener.

According to U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney Doug Richards, “Colorado provides its citizens with access to a wide variety of outdoor activities and access to beautiful public lands for the purpose of hunting, fishing, and other activities. As such, the State carefully regulates the use of those lands to ensure they are preserved for all to enjoy. Hunting small game is no exception and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is responsible, per statute, to ‘protect, preserve, enhance, and manage’ the wildlife resources of the state. Violations of those laws can result in license revocation, fines, and even possible imprisonment. Know the laws, stay safe, and have fun!”   

Legal Help for Hunters and Anglers

Members of U.S. LawShield’s HunterShield program have access to attorneys for the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members receive discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. These seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add HunterShield to your existing membership for only $2.95 per month.

Not a member of U.S. LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a hunting sportsman or woman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law. —Brian McCombie, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield Blog

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