By John Pollmann

Stretching all the way from the shores of Hudson Bay in the north to the grainfields and wetlands in the south, Manitoba is a province defined by its diverse geography. And for those who pursue waterfowl, it is a landscape that brings an equally wide range of hunting opportunities. If you've never considered making the journey to Manitoba to hunt waterfowl, here are a few reasons you might want to plan a trip for next season.

Tradition Reigns

There is no property more synonymous with Manitoba's rich waterfowl history than the Delta Marsh northwest of Winnipeg, where legions of researchers have gleaned information vital to the future of waterfowl conservation, and generations of hunters have gathered each fall seeking a chance to decoy canvasbacks, mallards, and Canada geese.

"The tradition of waterfowl hunting on the Delta Marsh is very much alive and well today," says David Reese, general manager of the Famous Jimmy Robinson Duck Lodge, which has provided guided hunts on the marsh for more than 75 years. Guests at his lodge often include teams of fathers and sons and others looking to pass on their hunting traditions to a new generation.

Nestled into blinds made of the abundant natural marsh vegetation, Reese says that hunters can expect to see several species of diving and dabbling ducks in the decoys each day.

"And rarely does a hunter ever sit in the same place from one day to the next; you are always changing locations to stay with the birds," Reese continues. "I think that the variety of species and settings is why hunters like to come back year after year. This is a place unlike any other."

Hunt the Duck Factory

The Prairie Pothole Region covers part of southwestern Manitoba and includes some of the most highly productive nesting and brood-rearing habitat for ducks in North America. Because of this, it is also a top destination for waterfowl hunters in the fall.

"This region not only produces a lot of waterfowl but also attracts a large number of migrating ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes because of the habitat that is available," says Paul Conchâtre, owner of Birdtail Waterfowl. "There's a little bit of something for everyone, and the hunting is world-class."

A popular option for pursuing waterfowl in this part of Manitoba includes a morning Canada goose hunt followed by an afternoon field hunt for mallards and pintails. Some of the best hunting, however, can be found by decoying ducks over one of the area's many prairie pothole wetlands, where the birds will build food stores before heading south.

"Our diver hunting is pretty much an untapped resource," Conchâtre adds. "We have absolutely tremendous diver hunting for bluebills and canvasbacks out of layout boats on the big waters, and quite often we're the only ones out there doing it."

Season-Long Opportunities

The first day of September marks the start of waterfowl hunting across much of Manitoba, and from the season's opening bell until the final decoy is picked up at the end of the year, there are opportunities for hunters across the province.

"Late September provides hunters with good shooting for local ducks and geese, but after a week or two we typically start to see the first birds arrive from the north," says Kris Wujcik with Michitoba Outfitting in western Manitoba.

This includes snow and blue geese straight from the Hudson Bay colony, Wujcik says. These birds make their first stop south of the breeding grounds to take advantage of the food and water available in the area.

"By the first week in October, our mallard numbers start to pick up, and we will hunt them in the fields and over water until freeze-up," Wujcik says. "From start to finish, there are opportunities to hunt."

It's a similar story in the swath of ground between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, known as the Interlake Region, according to Bob Yaworski of Oak Hammock Outfitters.

"The lakes act like a funnel for migrating waterfowl and the region becomes a magnificent staging area for these birds before they head south," Yaworski says. "When a big north wind blows, we will lose some to the south, but more migrate in to replace them. It's that way until the end of the season."

Yaworski hunts almost exclusively in the Oak Hammock Marsh Managed Hunting Area, which limits hunting pressure, but he speaks highly of the opportunities that exist elsewhere for waterfowl hunters. "Manitoba is a pretty special place," he adds.

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