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Duck Hunting without the Crowds

A sampling of public waterfowling hotspots often overlooked by hunters
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Private Lands Open to the Public

Several state wildlife agencies have access programs that provide public hunting on private lands. States such as Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and North and South Dakota lease hunting rights from farmers and ranchers, opening these private lands to the public. 

Rocco Murano is the senior waterfowl biologist for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department. He's also an avid waterfowler who hunts almost exclusively on private lands open to the public. "The waterfowl hunting can be extremely good, and I almost never have to compete with other hunters," Murano says. 

South Dakota has two programs that offer high-quality public waterfowling. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, is delivered in the James River watershed in the eastern third of the state. This watershed covers much of the state's prime prairie pothole country. "We currently have 70,000 acres enrolled in CREP and hope to have up to 100,000 acres by the end of 2012. All this land will be open to public hunting," Murano says. 

Another 900,000 acres of private land are enrolled in South Dakota's Walk-In Areas program. These properties are most often used by pheasant hunters, but good waterfowl hunting is available on many of them as well. 

"Opportunities for public waterfowl hunting in South Dakota are virtually limitless," Murano says. "A hunter can hunt a different pothole every day for the rest of his life and never run out of new places to try. I don't think I'd be wrong to say that South Dakota has more opportunities for public waterfowl hunting than any other place in the country."

Murano adds that while South Dakota limits the number of nonresident waterfowl permits available, approximately 60 percent of the hunters who applied were successful in obtaining permits for the 2012 season. South Dakota and other states with private land access programs publish atlases showing locations of leased properties. In addition, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department has an interactive map on its website that helps hunters locate public access areas. 

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