Hunting at North Sterling State Park
Now Available! Download the North Sterling State Park Designated Hunting Areas Map and Brochure
In the fall and early winter, waterfowl hunters can test their skill against the flocks of teal, ducks, and geese that migrate through North Sterling every year. Dove hunting along the 3½-mile long South Shoreline Trail requires a little more footwork, and it is the rare hunter that will try to fill their archery deer tag at the south end of the park.
Laws, Regulations, & Park Restrictions
The laws, regulations, and suggestions below will help you to have a safe, legal, and hopefully successful hunt at North Sterling State Park. All pertinent Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks laws and regulations apply, including season dates, license requirements, and bag limits, whether stated below or not.
All vehicles entering the State Park must display a valid park pass. Self-serve pass dispensers are located at the Elks Entrance, Balanced Rock area, South Entrance, and West Trailhead. Annual passes are available at the Visitor Center during office hours. Vehicles cannot park on county roads. The Inlet parking lot, just south of the intersection of CR-33 and CR-46, and the Outlet parking lot at the base of the dam outlet, are both State Park property as well and parking there requires a pass.
From fall to spring, most of North Sterling's water systems are winterized to prevent damage from freezing, including the flush restrooms that visitors are accustomed to using. Once these buildings are winterized, the vault-style restrooms are still available, and are located in Sunset Cove, the West Trailhead parking lot, and in the southwest corner of the Elks Boat Ramp parking lot.
Hunting is permitted in designated areas at North Sterling State Park from the first Tuesday after Labor Day to the Thursday before Memorial Day. These areas generally include the shoreline south of the South Boat Ramp and all state park property south and west of the Inlet Footbridge. Hunting is prohibited in all areas not clearly marked on the map. Ask a ranger if you are not certain where hunting is permitted. View North Sterling’s Designated Hunting Areas Map.
Hunting is only permitted with shotguns (bird shot only, T-size or smaller, no slugs) and bows. All DOW requirements for shot size, type, and hunting method apply.
Be responsible about the direction you shoot! This is a generally flat region, and even shotgun pellets can continue to travel some distance. All designated hunting areas are accessible by other hunters and park visitors. Hunters shooting in a careless or reckless direction will be issued a citation and removed from the park.
Target shooting and sighting-in is not permitted on park property.
Firearms or other weapons may not be discharged within 100 yards of any designated campground, picnic area, boat ramp, nature trail, or study area except as otherwise posted. See the designated hunting areas map for details.
North Sterling Reservoir is closed to ALL BOATING beginning on October 1st through April 15th. This includes hand-paddled watercraft used to set up decoys and retrieve downed birds.
Hunting is prohibited from the frozen surface of the reservoir.
Hunting dogs are permitted to retrieve downed birds and are not required to be on a leash while involved in hunting activities. Owners are expected to maintain verbal control of their dogs at all times.
Any person entering upon privately owned land to hunt (or retrieve downed game) without the permission of the landowner is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Please Note: Some publicly-available maps show most of the land bordered by CR-29, CR-44, CR-33, and the reservoir shoreline as “public land”. The majority of this land is leased to private citizens for grazing, and is NOT available for hunting. A fence-line clearly marks the division between state park property and leased grazing property.
The officers of North Sterling State Park and the Division of Wildlife closely monitor hunting activities at North Sterling to ensure the safety of all visitors and adherence to parks and wildlife laws and regulations. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the North Sterling State Park office at (970) 522-3657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
So where and when is the best place to hunt?
Waterfowl is by far the most popular game at North Sterling. Migrating flocks come and go throughout the fall according to the weather patterns. Morning and evening flight patterns and roosting locations depend on weather and water levels. Updated water level conditions and waterfowl counts can be found on North Sterling’s Conditions page, but waterfowl counts can change daily.
Often we see large flocks arriving at the park either just before or just after a storm front moves through. The same storm front can push away flocks that have been here for a few days. High water levels mean that intelligent flocks can hide up Cunningham and Darby Arms, where they are accessible only by private property. When water levels are lower, flocks can often be found earlier in the season in the coves at the south end of the park. Later in the season, hunting pressure usually pushes waterfowl into the central and northern parts of the reservoir, where hunting is not permitted. Pass-shooting is the last resort of the late-season hunter.
Hunters who set up near the inlet canal (south of Inlet Grove Campground) or the West Trailhead often have good luck, depending on flight patterns that day. Hunters who arrive and set up at least an hour before dawn usually have the best results – hunters who arrive at or just after dawn to set up can often spoil the flight patterns for themselves and others. Midday and evening hunters have mixed results.
Dove-hunting is permitted along the South Shoreline Trail only. Hunting is fair to good as long as the weather holds – an early frost or cold snap will quickly send the doves on their way south.
For two to four weeks of the fall, sandhill crane will use the southern shallows of North Sterling Reservoir as a pit stop on their migration route to southern Texas. Sandhill crane flocks rarely stay for more than a day or two, and it can be difficult to hunt them at just the right time. Check the Conditions page to see whether they’ve been spotted in the area.
Small herds of mule deer can occasionally be found in the areas along the South Shoreline Trail. Archery hunting is permitted in season with the correct license only in the areas south and west of the Inlet Footbridge. OHVs are not permitted on state park roads or trails to hunt or retrieve game.
Furbearing, Small Game, and Game Birds
Hunting furbearing, small game, and game birds is permitted by shotgun only along the areas south and west of the Inlet Footbridge. Although this type of hunting is permitted, the game is sparse on North Sterling’s property. These hunters may have better luck camping at North Sterling and exploring other hunting properties in the area, including state trust lands and DOW hunting leases.
Licensed falconers and their apprentices may hunt the same areas as other small game hunters. Rabbits and hares of several types are abundant in this area. Please call or stop by the park office to let us know you are in the area and keeping raptors legally.
What are the hunting conditions like at Jumbo (Julesburg) Reservoir? Are there other places to hunt waterfowl, deer, and small game in the area?
Jumbo Reservoir is a property managed by the Division of Wildlife, a sister agency to Colorado State Parks. The Division of Wildlife maintains a number of wildlife properties in the region, and hunters are advised to check the Division of Wildlife website at http://wildlife.state.co.us or call the Brush office at (970) 842-6300 for more information and details.
Several state wildlife areas (SWA) in the northeast region fall under new regulations beginning in 2009 aimed at studying the impact of hunting pressure on waterfowl populations and movements. Typically these new regulations include restricted hunting days, required reservations, and mandatory check stations. Be certain to plan ahead if you wish to hunt in any of the South Platte Research Program SWAs.
Regulations brochures for the State Wildlife Areas, State Trust Lands, Walk-In Access Lands, Late Cropland Atlas, Waterfowl, Small Game, Big Game, and details on the South Platte Research Program are all available online at http://wildlife.state.co.us/RulesRegs/RegulationsBrochures/ .
Trystin Piper with Sandhill Crane in 2008