In advance of the Saturday, Nov. 9 opening of pheasant season, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has leased more than 250,000 acres of private land for public hunting access, including land for a new hunter program in the northeast region.

“Our Walk-In Access program has been hugely popular,” said Ed Gorman, small game manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We depend on willing landowners to provide hunting opportunity for Colorado pheasant hunters. The properties we lease may change from year to year, so make sure you see the white signs before you start to hunt.”

Hunters are required to check for the rectangular white “Walk-In Access” signs on the corners of leased properties before entering a property.

After three years of drought and relaxed federal rules on haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program grasslands, habitat conditions for pheasants remain less than optimal in the state. Another dry spring meant fewer chicks were hatched in 2013, meaning that older, wiser birds make up a bigger percentage of the population this year. Summer and fall rains improved cover conditions somewhat, but pheasant populations are markedly lower than in 2010 and 2011.

“This will be a year that sharpens your skills as a pheasant hunter,” Gorman said. “There are birds out there, but numbers are lower than we would like to see and harvesting them won’t be as easy as it was two or three years ago.”

East of I-25, pheasant season runs through Jan. 31, 2014.

This is also the first year of an innovative Colorado Parks and Wildlife effort to recruit new hunter education graduates to bird hunting.  Working with Pheasants Forever, CPW’s Novice Hunter Program combines a morning of classroom instruction on pheasant biology, hunting tactics, safety and hunting ethics with an afternoon of field exercises and shotgun shooting instruction. This fall, Novice Hunter Program students will be able to test their new skills on a small number of Walk-In properties that are restricted to program graduates.

About 9,500 acres of Novice Hunter Program properties are designated by bright yellow signs.

“Building confidence in the field is important for a new hunter,” said Theo Stein, Northeast Region hunting and angling outreach coordinator.  “We want to give these novice hunters a few places to gain that confidence this year.”

CPW developed the Novice Hunter Program as part of an effort to attract new hunters and keep them interested in the sport. As part of the pilot program, Novice Hunter Program students’ license-buying habits will be tracked in the coming years to assess program participation and future hunting endeavors. A full report on the program’s first year will be presented to the Commission at its December meeting in Pueblo.

“The Novice Hunter Program provides an opportunity for new hunter education graduates to work with wildlife managers and experienced pheasant hunters,  learn new hunting skills, and practice them in the field”  said Steve Yamashita, northeast regional manager.  “CPW and its partners are committed to finding new ways to engage the next generation of hunters. This program helps us move toward this important agency goal.”

For more information on pheasant hunting in Colorado, visit:  http://wildlife.state.co.us/Hunting/SmallGame/Pages/SmallGame.aspx.

Logo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife

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