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
mallards, pintails, canvasbacks, redheads, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, light geese
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
mallards, pintails, gadwalls, green-winged teal, lesser scaup, Canada geese, lesser snow geese
North Dakota Game and Fish Department gf.nd.gov
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:
pintails, mallards, wigeon, green-winged teal, Aleutian cackling geese,
white-fronted geese, light geese
California Department of Fish and Game dfg.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:
gadwalls, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, pintails, mottled ducks, white-fronted geese, lesser snow geese
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries wlf.state.la.us, Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex fws.gov/swlarefugecomplex