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Great Rivers for Waterfowling

America's rivers are rich with waterfowling opportunities and traditions.
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More Great Rivers for Ducks and Geese

There are 3.5 million miles of rivers in the United States, some of which have historically provided waterfowlers with the finest duck shooting in the world. Manipulation by man has changed the natural course of rivers, north to south and east to west. But ducks and geese still follow river systems during migration. And many waterways and their backwaters allow for myriad gunning opportunities. Only a handful of these big-time gunning rivers are mentioned here because the overall list is lengthy. Others to be considered would have to include the Platte, Snake, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio, Red, St. John's, White, and the Cache, to name but a few. Chances are you will find a Ducks Unlimited waterfowl habitat conservation project nearby. Remember that hunting rivers can be treacherous and requires dependable gear and a high degree of good judgment and caution. If you decide to go, be careful out there. For detailed information regarding public hunting, contact the state wildlife agency in the area you plan to visit.

The Columbia

If there is a more scenic waterway to hunt waterfowl than the Columbia River, I have not yet been there. The setting is breathtaking—big water, marsh, mountains. And, rain, just about every day. This is a slice of heaven for the diver hunter, particularly those who favor scaup and canvasbacks. But those with an interest in puddle ducks will not be disappointed. Wigeon, pintails, and mallards are regular visitors. On the historical side, Lewis and Clark camped along the Columbia. And the region is known for its house boats, or floating duck shacks, which can be traced back more than a hundred years. These unique structures—many of which have been refurbished—remain in use. The Columbia is more than 1,200 miles long and features 11 dams on its main stem. There are several public hunting areas, including the 5,000-acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge located near Vancouver, Washington, and the sprawling 50,000-acre Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge situated on the Lower Columbia near Brownsmead, Oregon.

The Missouri

The Missouri River served as a way west for pioneers, with virtually all the major trails beginning somewhere along its path. Originating in southwestern Montana, the Missouri meanders more than 2,300 miles before flowing into the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis. The river's waterfowling roots can be traced to Native Americans, whose camps were identified by early explorers Joliet and Marquette, and, later on, Lewis and Clark more than 200 years ago. Public hunting is available at a number of sites in the states through which the river runs, or borders. Mallards are the primary targets in many areas, but along the length of the river, you may run across any number of waterfowl species. Canada geese are prevalent in the northern reaches. Two public hunting areas to keep in mind include Grand Pass Conservation Area near Marshall, Missouri, and the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Hunting Access Area near Pierre, South Dakota.

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