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Bird hunting

Vimal Patel
Champion Chocolate Lab, Anna Bell, retrieves a duck for her owner, Rick Hunter.
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Greg McCoy still remembers the first bird he hunted.He lined up the pheasant in his rifle sight, and fired off a clean shot, heralding the 12-year-old boy into the world of bird hunting.

McCoy is now the Weld County chapter president of Ducks Unlimited, a group that preserves wetland for ducks, and he still enjoys hunting. But unlike many in a hobby teeming with pride-filled folk, the Greeley resident admits hes not the best hunter in the world. In fact, hes pretty bad.Hunting isnt about bagging an animal, though, or the thrill of the hunt, he says.Its about the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, he said, and the love of being outdoors.He recalls those carefree days when he would frolic behind Windsor Middle School near Windsor Lake with his dad and brother in tow, and spend the day hunting.But for McCoy, or even for those who live for the thrill of the hunt, good news awaits: bird hunting season is around the corner. Different dates exist for different birds, but the general bird hunting season begins Sept. 1 and lasts until spring. And bird hunting in Colorado is particularly diverse, said Jim Gammonley, a bird research program manager at the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Greeley area has a good Canada geese harvest, while pheasant hunting throughout the eastern plains is a draw. But as hunters prepare to kick off another season, love of the outdoors topped the list of the sports pleasures. Well, almost. For one, you get away from the wife, quipped bird hunter Joe Valenzuela of Brighton. The 40-year-old had been hunting since he was 12, and years before that, he played the family bird dog, scampering into the field to retrieve fallen birds. Aside from matrimonial timeouts, Valenzuela, like many hunters, just loves the tranquility of the outdoors. Youre not in a shopping mall, there arent people around you. Its just you and the weather, he said. For Troy Auer, the best part of bird hunting is watching his hunting dog work, holding down and retrieving prey. For some dogs, its not taught to them, he said. Its bred into them. Last year, Auer said, was an exceptional year for hunting birds. But when it comes to bird hunting, location is everything. Good decoys, timing and location means a plentiful hunt. But without them, the hunting could be slim. Ducks Unlimited wants to preserve wetlands for ducks, so the birds flourish and conditions for hunters improve as well. In Weld County, it looks like the group has had some success. Nationally, for every 10 eggs ducks lay, about 1.6 are expected to survive. In Weld, the number is 2.6. On the surface, one may glean the seeming irony of hunters who are concerned for the welfare of birds.But Shawn Porter, a former president of the Weld County chapter of Ducks Unlimited, said environmental concern, animal welfare, and improving the conditions of hunters arent necessarily exclusive goals.We save a lot more ducks than we shoot, he said.McCoy, too, said he has respect for all the animals he hunts birds and big game alike.Every animal I kill, I have the intention of eating it or giving it to someone who will.He has no sympathy for those heftily fined for hunting animals outside of their season, not even accidentally. After all, ignorance isnt an excuse. And anyway, one shouldnt shoot unless he or she is absolutely certain whats on the other end, he said. It could be a deer, it could be elk, but it could also be your best friend, he said.By Vimal Patel of the Greeley Tribune.Vail Colorado


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