Make the most of your vacation time with these combination trips for waterfowl, upland birds, and much more
By Bill Nichol
How can you improve a hunting trip filled with swarming ducks, feet-down geese, and lots of shooting? Most waterfowlers would not have a ready answer for this one. But many of North America’s top waterfowling venues are also prime habitat for big game, upland birds, or popular sport fish. This means that bagging a trophy buck, shooting a brace of pheasants, or landing a lunker bass is possible for waterfowlers willing to forgo that afternoon nap.
So before you plan your next hunting expedition, consider the following 10 destinations where you can combine world-class duck and goose hunting with other outstanding hunting or fishing pursuits. Taking advantage of these diverse sporting opportunities could make your next waterfowl hunting trip even more memorable and open the door to some exciting new outdoor experiences.
1. South Dakota Ducks with Pheasants
In autumn, few places in the United States have more ducks than eastern South Dakota. Thanks to its pothole-rich prairie landscape, the state’s northeast corner often supports one of the highest concentrations of breeding ducks in the country. This region is also a major staging area for millions of ducks migrating south from North Dakota and Canada, giving hunters the opportunity to see spectacular concentrations of waterfowl. From 1999 to 2005, each out-of-state hunter bagged an average of nearly 11 ducks during his or her trip to South Dakota. This high success rate is due in part to relatively low hunting pressure. South Dakota annually issues only 5,000 waterfowl licenses to nonresidents through a lottery held in July.
Of course, nonresidents who draw a waterfowl license should also take advantage of the state’s celebrated pheasant hunting. The ringneck season usually opens the third week of October, roughly a month after the start of duck season. Based on state surveys, pheasant populations in 2006 were near a 40-year high. As with ducks, pheasants are more concentrated in the eastern half of the state and occur in numbers as high as 13 birds per square mile.
2. New Brunswick Black Ducks with Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock
Wingshooters in search of a truly classic sporting combination should set their sights on the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The salt marshes of this eastern province are historic environs of the prized black duck and home to a waterfowling tradition dating back 300 years. Despite a decline in continental black duck numbers, New Brunswick’s black duck population has remained relatively stable during the past several years. And duck hunters have capitalized on this trend. According to Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) harvest statistics, New Brunswick has one of the highest black duck-per-hunter seasonal averages in Canada.
The first of October marks the traditional start of waterfowl and upland bird seasons in New Brunswick. With the countryside awash in bright fall foliage, hunters can pursue black ducks and other dabbling ducks on tidal marshes in the morning and then stalk woodcock and ruffed grouse in lowland forests and farmland during the afternoon. A good pointing dog or flushing retriever is invaluable for locating these upland birds in thick cover. Both woodcock and grouse often flush in close quarters, offering only fleeting shots before they disappear among the limbs and tree trunks. Upland hunters revere both birds for their elusive nature and their agility in flight.