Valley prepares for waterfowl hunting, likely below-average season

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- The hot, dry summer is all but behind us, and the cooler wetter temperatures are a welcome change for many around the Valley, especially hunters.

Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say waterfowl hunting this year throughout the state will likely be below average because of the drought. Local hunters and businesses are staying optimistic, though, and are gearing up for the season ahead.

A waterfowl hunting dog can be trained to grab just about any type of bird, and those dog owners are optimistic there will be plenty of birds in this sky this season.

"Any season whether it's big game season, whether it's waterfowl season, you just never know [how many birds will be in the area]," Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists say ducks and geese on the eastern plains may be scarcer this year than last thanks to the drought, a trend U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Central Flyway representative Jim Dubovsky expects, too.

“Overall, drier than average conditions will prompt ducks and geese across the state to seek better conditions farther south as they migrate through Colorado,” Dubovsky said.

Wildlife officials alike say while hunters can’t control all hunting conditions, they can take a few steps to help improve their chances of having a successful hunt.

"Weather will have a tremendous effect on waterfowl hunting, so if hunters just take a little time, do a little research, there's a good chance they'll have a successful year this year," Porras said.

“Hunters seeking ducks and geese this hunting season should target areas where that have a history of good, reliable water conditions each year. Bottom line: wetter is better,” Dubovsky added.

As these birds continue their migration paths to the south, local companies and hunters say bird hunting is looking up; the waterfowl hunting business has shown no sign of slowing down on the Western Slope.

"I’ve noticed a lot of the geese in the Valley, and we've got a resident flock that basically stays year round," Sportsman’s Warehouse hunting manager Don Tyre said. "I've seen quite a few people coming in, buying a lot of ammunition so far."

From shotguns to bird bags and-- don't forget-- those dog accessories, the sport has a passionate following in the Valley.

"[Hunters] just love to spend a day on the lake with their dog and if they bag a few birds, that's fine," Tyre said. "The birds come in fast and furious, you usually call them in."

So as the weather starts to change, hunters keep your eyes on the sky: Ducks and geese could be coming this way.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the majority of ducks and geese will stop off in Colorado for a short while as they continue to migrate south to New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

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