15 Great Places to Hunt Waterfowl (2022)

By Matt Young

While good waterfowl hunting can be found across this continent from the Arctic to the Everglades, there are certain locations that regularly attract extraordinary numbers of birds. These are the places that waterfowl hunters dream about during the off-season and where many of us hope to hunt at least once in our lives. Over the years, Ducks Unlimited has sent correspondents to many of the hottest waterfowl hunting areas in the United States and Canada. The following reviews of great waterfowl hunting destinations (in no particular order) are based on their reports.

1. Southern Saskatchewan

By virtually any measure, Saskatchewan would rank high among North America's best places to hunt waterfowl. The province is not only the continent's most important breeding area for mallards, pintails, and other dabbling ducks but also a staging hub for Arctic geese and other waterfowl raised across the Far North. In certain areas of this province's vast prairie-parkland region, it's not uncommon to take large and small subspecies of Canada geese, white-fronted geese, light geese, mallards, and pintails in the same decoy spread. Public hunting is available on many large wetland projects conserved by Ducks Unlimited and its partners in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Freelance waterfowlers can also secure permission from farmers to hunt on private land.

When it's hot: late September-October

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, canvasbacks, redheads, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, light geese

Contact: Tourism Saskatchewan sasktourism.com

2. Eastern North Dakota

Whether you are pursuing Canada geese, light geese, dabbling ducks, or divers, you can find them in abundance somewhere in North Dakota. Located in the heart of the prairie Duck Factory, this state supported more than 8 million breeding ducks in 2009 and hosts even larger numbers of staging waterfowl during the fall migration. Hunting access is available on a variety of public lands in the eastern half of the state, including federal waterfowl production areas, state wildlife management areas, and properties enrolled in the state's Private Lands Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) program.

When it's hot: October-early November

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, gadwalls, green-winged teal, lesser scaup, Canada geese, lesser snow geese

Contact: North Dakota Game and Fish Department gf.nd.gov

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3. Central Valley of California

Acre for acre, the Central Valley of California supports more wintering waterfowl than anywhere else in North America. At peak times, this region hosts 5 to 7 million wintering waterfowl-more than 60 percent of the Pacific Flyway's ducks and geese. As you would expect, the high ratio of birds to habitat results in some superb waterfowl hunting. This is especially true on private duck clubs in places such as Butte Sink, Suisun Marsh, and the Grasslands. Good public hunting is also available on several intensively managed national wildlife refuges and state wildlife areas in the region, which also support large numbers of wintering waterfowl.

When it's hot: late November-January

Abundant species: pintails, mallards, wigeon, green-winged teal, Aleutian cackling geese, white-fronted geese, light geese

Contact: California Department of Fish and Game wildlife.ca.gov

4. South Louisiana

Any survey of North America's top waterfowl hunting areas would have to include Louisiana. America's Wetland-as south Louisiana's coastal marshes are collectively known-supports upwards of 9 million migrating and wintering ducks on average. Some of the state's best duck hunting can be found on the Chenier Plain in southwest Louisiana. Freelancers equipped with shallow-running duck boats will find plenty of public hunting opportunities on the massive Sabine and Lacassine national wildlife refuges in Cameron Parish.

When it's hot: late November-January

Abundant species: gadwalls, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, pintails, mottled ducks, white-fronted geese, lesser snow geese

Contact: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries wlf.louisiana.gov, Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex fws.gov/swlarefugecomplex

5. Peace River Country, Alberta

As the northernmost major grain-producing region in North America, the Peace River Country of northwestern Alberta is a magnet for migrating waterfowl raised across the boreal forest and Arctic. In September, waves of Canada geese, white-fronted geese, lesser snows, Ross's geese, mallards, pintails, and other dabbling ducks descend on the region to gorge themselves on wheat, barley, lentils, and peas. As in other parts of Prairie Canada, visiting hunters can freelance by scouting the fields and asking permission from local landowners.

When it's hot: September-early October

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, wigeon, green-winged teal, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, light geese

Contact: Travel Alberta mywildalberta.com

6. Texas Panhandle

The Texas Panhandle lies in the heart of what is known as the playa lakes region, also encompassing parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. Much like the prairie potholes of the northern Great Plains, playas are dependent on seasonal precipitation, and in those special years when timely rainfall replenishes these unique wetlands, the Panhandle fills up with incredible numbers of waterfowl. Hunting pressure is light across much of this sparsely populated region. Freelance waterfowlers can often receive permission from landowners to hunt waterfowl on playas and private agricultural land.

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When it's hot: late November-December

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, wigeon, green-winged teal, Canada geese

Contact: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department tpwd.state.tx.us

7. Eastern Arkansas

Known as the Duck Capital of the World, Stuttgart, Arkansas, has long been a favorite destination for waterfowl hunters from near and far-and for good reason. Extensive rice production, naturally flooded bottomland hardwoods, and intensively managed green-tree reservoirs make the broad alluvial plain surrounding Stuttgart a winter paradise for mallards-and duck hunters. For those willing to work for their birds, good public hunting is available on the nearly 34,000-acre Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson and Arkansas counties and the 160,000-acre White River National Wildlife Refuge, spanning nearly 90 miles in four counties.

When it's hot: late November-January

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, wood ducks, green-winged teal, gadwalls, white-fronted geese, lesser snow geese

Contact: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission agfc.com

8. Great Salt Lake, Utah

The Great Salt Lake is an oasis for breeding and migrating waterfowl in the heart of the arid Great Basin. This 70-mile-long lake and associated marshes are among the continent's most important staging areas for pintails and other dabbling ducks. Steeped in waterfowling tradition, Great Salt Lake is home to nearly 30 private hunting clubs, such as the Bear River Club-dating back to 1901-as well as the Chesapeake, North Point, Harrison, Rudy, Ambassador, and New State clubs. Public hunting is available on the lake itself and on several state waterfowl management areas along its shores.

When it's hot: early October-November

Abundant species: pintails, mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, shovelers, green-winged and cinnamon teal

Contact: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wildlife.utah.gov

9. Upper Mississippi River

During the 1930s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a series of locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River, creating a vast network of shallow open water, islands, and marsh along the borders of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, these wetlands attract droves of staging waterfowl during migration. At peak times, more than 50 percent of the continent's canvasbacks as well as thousands of other ducks, geese, and swans gather on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Public hunting is allowed throughout much of this sprawling 240,000-acre area, and waterfowlers equipped for hunting big water have good success gunning from points and islands along the shoreline.

When it's hot: late October-November

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Abundant species: canvasbacks, redheads, lesser scaup, mallards, Canada geese

Contact: Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge fws.gov/
midwest/UpperMississippiRiver

10. Chesapeake Bay

The cradle of American waterfowling, Chesapeake Bay has a rich sporting heritage dating back to Captain John Smith, who first hunted in the region during the early 1600s. More than 400 years later, the region remains a good place to hunt a variety of waterfowl. The nation's largest estuary is among the Atlantic Flyway's most important migration and wintering areas for dabblers and divers. In addition, nearly the entire population of Atlantic Canada geese winters along Maryland's Eastern Shore and surrounding areas. Public waterfowl hunting opportunities abound on the bay itself as well as on wildlife management areas and national wildlife refuges.

When it's hot: December-January

Abundant species: mallards, black ducks, green-winged teal, canvasbacks, Canada geese, greater snow geese

Contact:
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries dgif.virginia.gov, Maryland Department of Natural Resources dnr.state.md.us

11. Southern Ontario

This narrow strip of land in the heart of the Great Lakes is a little piece of heaven for waterfowlers in one of North America's most densely populated areas. During the peak of the fall migration, large concentrations of divers and dabbling ducks gather at such storied locations as Long Point, the St. Clair Flats, and the Thousand Islands. Layout hunters equipped to safely hunt offshore have especially good success when the divers are in. Less adventurous waterfowlers can also find good public hunting for dabbling ducks on coastal and interior marshes.

When it's hot: October-November

Abundant species: lesser scaup, canvasbacks, redheads, ring-necked ducks, mallards, black ducks, Canada geese

Contact: Hunt Ontario http://www.ontariotravel.net/en/play/hunting

12. Mississippi Delta

Birthplace of the blues, the Mississippi Delta has an equally rich waterfowl hunting tradition. When winter rains flood low-lying cropland and bottomland hardwood forests, this broad alluvial plain can rival neighboring Arkansas as a wintering ground for mallards, wood ducks, and a variety of other waterfowl. Freelance hunting is available in Delta National Forest and on several national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas in the region.

When it's hot: December-January

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, gadwalls, wood ducks, green-winged teal, white-fronted geese, lesser snow geese

Contact: Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks mdwfp.com, Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge Complex fws.gov/yazoo

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13. ACE Basin, South Carolina

Encompassing the watersheds of South Carolina's Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers, the ACE Basin is one of the most important waterfowl wintering areas in the south Atlantic Flyway. A mix of freshwater and brackish marsh, seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood forest, and intensively managed wetland impoundments draw large numbers of wintering dabbling ducks to the Palmetto State's Lowcountry every year. Some of the best waterfowl habitat-and duck hunting-are found on this region's historic rice plantations, which are privately owned and intensively managed for waterfowl and other wildlife. But the ACE Basin also has an abundance of public water open to hunting, and a small number of high-quality draw hunts are held on state wildlife management areas in the region.

When it's hot: December-January

Abundant species: green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, pintails, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls

Contact: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources dnr.sc.gov

14. Missouri Confluence Area

Many of the Mississippi Flyway's waterfowl-including at least 14 million ducks-pass through this narrow corridor formed by the Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers just north of St. Louis. The "Confluence" floodplain in Missouri's St. Charles and Lincoln counties is home to more than 200 duck clubs, some of which were established during the early 1800s. More than 40,000 acres of public land exist on national wildlife refuges, state conservation areas, and tracts owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the surrounding four-county area. Many of these properties are intensively managed for waterfowl and provide good public hunting opportunities for residents and nonresidents alike.

When it's hot: late October-early December

Abundant species: mallards, green-winged teal, wood ducks, Canada geese

Contact: Missouri Department of Conservation mdc.mo.gov

15. Northwestern Washington

When Lewis and Clark explored the Pacific Northwest in 1805, they encountered almost unfathomable numbers of ducks, geese, and swans. Today, the region continues to support a great abundance of waterfowl. At peak times, more than 500,000 dabbling ducks winter on Puget Sound, and many of these birds gather along Washington's northwestern coast in Samish, Padilla, and Skagit bays. Good public hunting is available on several state wildlife areas in Whatcom and Skagit counties as well as on Puget Sound.

When it's hot: November-January

Abundant species: mallards, pintails, wigeon, green-winged teal, long-tailed ducks, scoters

Contact:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wdfw.wa.gov

FAQs

What state kills the most waterfowl? ›

In the Pacific Flyway, 164,900 waterfowlers bagged more than 2.5 million ducks and 594,600 geese — all representing substantial increases over the 2019-2020 season. California had the most waterfowl hunters at 52,300, and they topped the million mark in duck harvest at 1.1 million — a 12 percent increase. California ...

Which waterfowl flyway is best? ›

Mississippi Flyway

This flyway is perhaps the most storied of them all. With a vibrant duck hunting culture, the Mississippi Flyway is home to nearly half of the duck hunters in the United States, and collectively they account for 40 to 50 percent of the nation's annual duck harvest.

What flyway has the most mallards? ›

Which flyway harvests the most mallards? 2,785,534 Mallards were harvested in the United States during the 2020-2021 duck season. The Mississippi Flyway shot the most Mallards with 1,211,677, which represented 43.50% of the total Mallards harvested in the United States.

What state kills the most mallards? ›

We're No. 1! According to the migratory bird hunting activity and harvest report published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters killed more mallards in Arkansas than anywhere else during the 2019-20 duck season. No other state comes close.

What is the duck hunting capital of the world? ›

This is it: Stuttgart — The Rice and Duck Capital of the World. It may look small and commonplace, not unlike dozens of other small cities scattered across the Delta. But in the world of waterfowling, Stuttgart is hallowed ground.

Which is the best eating duck? ›

Pekin Duck (or Long Island Duck)

Pekin duck is the most popular duck to eat. Pekin duck meat is known for its mild, satisfying flavor that easily adapts to a number of cuisines. It has lighter flesh and milder flavor than either Moulard or Muscovy duck, and is considered perfect for whole roasting.

What state has the longest duck season? ›

Despite the likelihood of lower duck population numbers, the state of Utah again recommended one of the longest waterfowl hunting seasons in the Unites States, a full, continuous 107-day duck season lasting most of the winter.

What state kills the most geese? ›

Of the top three states, Minnesota licensed the most goose hunters, with 50,500, followed by Pennsylvania, with 37,800, and Maryland, with 28,200. Pennsylvania hunters spent 204,500 days in the field last season to bag their geese.

Where is the best place to hunt mallards? ›

Greenhead Greats: Top 5 Hunting States for Mallards
  • 5 | No. 1: Arkansas. ...
  • 1 | No. 5: Montana. ...
  • 2 | No. 4: North Dakota. ...
  • 3 | No. 3: Washington. ...
  • 4 | No 2: Missouri. Hmm. ...
  • 5 | No. 1: Arkansas. ...
  • 1 | No. 5: Montana. ...
  • 2 | No. 4: North Dakota.
Jul 27, 2017

Where is the best goose hunting? ›

Hunters shoot impressive numbers of birds and enjoy high success rates in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas. But waterfowlers in the Dakotas shoot the most birds. From 2005 to 2007, North Dakota hunters averaged nearly 121,000 Canada geese per season.

How many duck flyways are there? ›

For management purposes, North America is divided into four flyways—the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific. For more information about waterfowl hunting management, visit www.flyways.us.

Which state has the most duck? ›

Minnesota had the most active waterfowlers, with 65,900. No state in the flyway shot more ducks than Arkansas, whose hunters took a whopping 1.14 million birds, including 620,654 mallards.

Where are most ducks found? ›

Ducks are found in wetlands, marshes, ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans. This is because ducks love the water. Some species of ducks migrate or travel longs distances every year to breed. Ducks usually travel to warmer areas or where the water does not freeze so that they can rest and raise their young.

How many ducks are killed by hunters each year? ›

More than 31 million ducks are killed each year for their flesh. Animals who are meant to swim, play, and forage are deprived of all these natural behaviors when they are crammed by the thousands into dark sheds with only wire, dirt, and feces to stand on.

Where is the goose capital of the world? ›

And wouldn't you know it, locals call this The Wild Goose Capital of the World. Or how about Kenmare, North Dakota, which this year hosted its 15th annual Goosefest, a seven-day hunting festival? Up until a few years ago, Kenmare was a traditional stop for up to 400,000 snow geese.

Do you get money for banded ducks? ›

Sometimes ducks or doves can have two bands, one of which could be a reward band. The USFWS began using reward bands decades ago to encourage hunters to report the bands they recovered. Original reward bands were worth $2, but now some of them are worth as much as $100.

Where are most banded ducks killed? ›

The MALLARD is the most commonly banded—and harvested—bird in North America. Estimated miles flown by a pintail between 1940 and 1954. The bird was banded in northern Alberta and killed near Tabasco, Mexico. Most banded waterfowl shot by hunters are reported to the BBL.

What is the duck capital of America? ›

Stuttgart, about 55 miles east of Little Rock, is known as the duck capital of the world. For the next two months, thousands of hunters will descend on eastern Arkansas and drop millions into the state's economy.

What is the fastest flying duck? ›

The fastest duck ever recorded was a red-breasted merganser that attained a top airspeed of 100 mph while being pursued by an airplane. This eclipsed the previous speed record held by a canvasback clocked at 72 mph.

Which duck has the best meat? ›

Pekin and Muscovy ducks are typically the breeds of choice for meat production. Some hatcheries sell a “jumbo” Pekin which has been selected for meat production and is not good for exhibition purposes. Muscovy ducks are referred to as ducks, but they are, in reality, a separate species.

What is the prettiest duck? ›

It is to note that the Mandarin duck is considered the most beautiful duck in the world. It was spotted for the first time by a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The report said that the bird can be described as a “small-exotic looking bird” which can be seen in East Asia.

What is the largest meat duck? ›

The largest duck in the world is the Muscovy duck. Weighing a massive 15 pounds, these ducks are certainly giants. Males are larger than the females and can be up to 30 inches long. Muscovys are native to America where they thrive in cold conditions.

How long can a duck fly without stopping? ›

Most of the time, ducks can travel eight hours before resting. During migration, for example, mallard ducks will travel 800 miles in eight hours.

What time of year is best for duck hunting? ›

Generally speaking, the best time of year to hunt waterfowl is during the cold fronts of mid-fall. However, the location of the hunt and species of duck will also play a role in predicting the best times to hunt.

Why is duck season so short? ›

Historically, liberal hunting regulations have prevailed under favorable habitat conditions on the breeding grounds, which usually coincide with larger waterfowl populations. Shorter seasons and more restrictive bag limits were instituted when habitat conditions and bird numbers declined.

What size shot is best for goose hunting? ›

Most experts say the best loads for geese are sizes 1, BB, BBB, or T steel shot. For most hunting situations, BB or BBB shot is the most effective shot size. Both have plenty of pellets, but still enough energy to bring down a goose. Guns are usually 10- or 12-gauge.

What's the best choke for goose hunting? ›

For ducks and geese that are close, improved cylinder or even skeet constriction choke work well. If the birds are farther out, a modified choke tube is better.

What is the best time to hunt geese? ›

Spring, Late Summer, Fall and Winter. As mentioned, the time-of-day equation for goose hunting is fairly simple. Take advantage of morning and evening feeding flights in fields. Pursue them at midmorning and midday over loafing waters or, if wet weather hits, at feeding areas.

Where can you find mallards? ›

Mallards occur year-round across much of the United States. Populations that breed across Canada and Alaska leave in fall for wintering sites in the southern United States and northern Mexico, typically traveling along well-known migration flyways.

Is Alabama a good duck hunting state? ›

Alabama may not have the duck populations as our northern and eastern cooler climate neighbors, however, it is very much a favored outdoor recreational activity amongst many avid waterfowl hunters throughout our state.

What do you say to a goose call? ›

Feeding or Laydown Call

Simply say da-da-da-da or who-who-who while growling into the calls with the deepest voice you can make. This is a sound that is used by geese on the ground while feeding ... it is a confidence call to birds in the air.

Where is the best goose hunting in the world? ›

Sweden goose hunting is unequivocally the highest-volume goose hunt on earth. While there are no guarantees in wild goose hunting, expectations for 20 geese per hunter daily are reasonable.

What state has the best goose hunting? ›

The Mississippi and Central flyways get the nod for high-volume light goose hunting with Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas consistently leading the way in lesser snow and Ross's goose harvest. White-fronted geese utilize much of the same habitat, so good hunting for them is generally found in the same areas.

What state has the longest duck season? ›

Despite the likelihood of lower duck population numbers, the state of Utah again recommended one of the longest waterfowl hunting seasons in the Unites States, a full, continuous 107-day duck season lasting most of the winter.

Is duck hunting in Missouri good? ›

All in all, Missouri is one of the best areas within the Mississippi Flyway to offer goose and duck hunting. Missouri duck hunts provide excellent opportunities to find swarms of widgeon, pintails, teal, gadwall, mallards, Canada Geese and Specks.

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