Elk, deer, moose, bear, antelope and mountain lion aren’t the only game in town. Often overshadowed by the big game hunts that dominate western Colorado are the autumn hunts that involve birds, shotguns and often on-water locations. Grouse, ducks, geese and even turkeys can all be found in this corner of Colorado, from Grand Junction to the Green River.
Eric Hamilton has lived in Craig for all of his 46 years and if there’s a hunt he looks forward to each fall, it’s blue grouse season. “We bird hunt quite a bit,” he says, touting blue grouse and sharptail as favorites. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Hamilton is a big game outfitter, but even during his archery hunts he keeps a lookout for birds. “We’ll hunt them in some spots where we know they’re feeding,” he says. “We look for them while archery hunting, and we’ll cook them up right there and have them for lunch.”
Safe grouse season runs from Sept. 14 to 20 in GMUs north and west of Craig. Sharp-tailed grouse can be taken Sept. 1 to 15 in GMU 4 north of Craig, and dusky (blue) grouse from Sept. 1 through Nov. 17.
Waterfowl hunting in the Pacific Flyway (west of the Continental Divide) can be challenging just for the struggle of finding access to waterways, but the efforts are often rewarded as hunters often return from the Yampa River or Elkhead Reservoir with their limits.
Ducks and geese gather at the very north end of Elkhead Reservoir, making a boat nearly mandatory for access as that area is surrounded by private land. The Yampa River also presents access difficulties, as most bottomland was homesteaded more than 100 years ago and is private. Some areas such as Duffy Mountain have public BLM land that accesses the river and may be hunted.
In Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge waterfowl may be hunted only at Butch Cassidy Lake, Hog Lake and the Green River corridor. The use of dogs for hunting and small game retrieving is encouraged.
A great deal of waterfowl hunting in northwest Colorado is done on private ponds or watering holes. Roger Simones runs a cement plant in Craig, and the water ponds there make for good hunting in the fall. “Ducks are getting better and better,” he says. “Last year was phenomenal, with every kind of duck, from mallards to even wood ducks.”
— Dan Olsen
Waterfowl Hunting Fees
Small Game License Plus:
Habitat stamp — $10
Colorado waterfowl stamp — $5
Federal Duck stamp — $15
Small Game License:Small Game License:
Small Game License:
Resident — $21
Plus $10 Habitat Stamp