Best of the Flyways

Thinking about hitting the road next season? Here’s your guide to some of the top waterfowling experiences in North America

© John Hoffman, DU; Prop Styling: Doug Barnes, DU

Like the ducks and geese we pursue, many waterfowlers feel an innate urge to travel. For waterfowl, this year will be like thousands of years before it, as birds follow the four major flyways from breeding to wintering grounds. Fall migrations begin when the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, triggering something deep within a duck’s genetic lineage that says it’s time to go.

When the sun sets early and there’s frost in the fields, waterfowlers can also fall victim to wanderlust. They yearn to expand their universe of waterfowling experiences, to hunt the famous places they’ve read about since childhood, to meet the birds on their own terms. A waterfowling road trip can rejuvenate our passions for the birds and for the work we do to conserve habitat all along their migratory paths.

This is a resource for those contemplating a migration of their own—a flyway-by-flyway overview of noteworthy hunting spots, interesting cultural attractions, tasty food, and memorable outdoor experiences.

Is this the year that you will scratch that travel itch? Remember what filmmaker Warren Miller used to say: “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

Atlantic Flyway

Photo © toddsteelephotoart.com

When it comes to choosing your next adventure, the Atlantic Flyway is an embarrassment of riches. It’s a region with abundant and diverse habitats and centuries of waterfowling history and tradition. You might find yourself crouching in a sink box in Quebec’s Saint Lawrence River, bodybooting over hand-carved decoys on Chesapeake Bay, or gunning for mottled ducks and black-bellied whistling ducks on Lake Okeechobee. Follow these suggestions to experience some of the best that the Atlantic Flyway has to offer. Read more.

Mississippi Flyway

Photo © John Hoffman, DU

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. It doesn’t hurt that more ducks winter here than in any other region in North America. Wherever your Mississippi Flyway adventures take you, you’re likely to find plenty of birds, friendly folks, and heartland hospitality. Read more.

Central Flyway

Photo © montanaoutdoorimagery.com

From the Canadian Arctic to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the diverse landscapes of the Central Flyway provide a variety of options for hunters. Visiting the Prairie Pothole Region is a pilgrimage of sorts for those who understand the importance of this area for breeding waterfowl. Travel to the other end of the flyway, along the Gulf Coast, and you’ll begin to understand the vast geography these birds cover on their annual journeys. At stops all along these migratory pathways, hunters head to the field to bear witness to this timeless wildlife spectacle. Read more.

Pacific Flyway

Photo © garykramer.net

The Pacific Flyway is the longest and most diverse flyway, stretching from the North Slope of Alaska all the way into Mexico and beyond. Hunters looking for true adventure and mount-worthy birds have plenty of choices. Maybe a harlequin amid Alaska’s spectacular scenery. Or a bull pintail in full winter plumage among the Central Valley’s rice fields and managed wetlands. Or a cinnamon teal, as unique, beautiful, and precious as the habitats on which it relies. Like prospectors clamoring for riches during the gold rush, you can find these treasures and more when you head west. Read more.

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Photo © billkonway.com

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