Some of These Under-the-Radar Destinations Might Surprise
With duck season approaching quickly, many hunters have locked in travel plans for famous destination states.
But those go-to states aren't the only places that offer quality duck hunting. In fact, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harvest statistics reveal some surprising hints about under-the-radar destinations in every flyway. Here, from east to west ‚ because we have to start somewhere ‚ are our picks for sleeper states with great hunting.
North Carolina topped the Atlantic Flyway harvest numbers in 2015, but Sunshine State hunters shot about 183,400 ducks that year, good for second.
You won't find many mallards here, but ring-necked ducks and blue-winged teal abound. Scaup, redheads and other diving ducks offer opportunity in the Gulf, and don't forget about mottled ducks, either.
And with balmy January temperatures ‚ highs in the low 70s, lows in the high 40s ‚ Florida seems even more appealing to battle-worn Northern duck hunters.
Photo ¬© Images on the Wildside
2015 harvest statistics ‚ about 449,300 ducks in 2015 ‚ would make the Badger State seem like a slam-dunk. Admittedly, a flyway-high 67,000 active waterfowl hunters probably pushed those numbers higher, and that pressure might dissuade some folks from hunting Wisconsin.
But think about it. The state produces huge numbers of mallards, wood ducks and blue-winged teal. The Mississippi River attracts more migrating canvasbacks than anywhere else, and Lake Michigan is a major wintering area for long-tailed ducks. In between, thousands of publicly accessible lakes, rivers and marshes offer puddler and diver opportunities from September through early December. And don't forget about the state's abundant ag fields.
With that kind of opportunity and access, Wisconsin is definitely worth a visit.
Photo ¬© Images on the Wildside
When you head west over the Mississippi or St. Croix rivers from Wisconsin, you'll enter another under-the-radar titan: Minnesota.
Gopher State hunters shot about 573,400 ducks in 2015, good for the No. 2 spot in the Mississippi Flyway. And there's no shortage of variety, either. Minnesota waterfowlers can expect to see good numbers of mallards, ringnecks, wood ducks, blue-winged teal and other species. And from wild-rice lakes in the northern part of the state, vast ag fields to the west and even metro opportunities around the Twin Cities, you can use a variety of methods.
Photo ¬© Guido Bissattini/Shutterstock
Enough with the Tom Joad jokes. The Sooner State doesn't get the press that its northern and southern Central Flyway neighbors receive, but it can provide great duck hunting.
Oklahoma hunters shot about 261,600 ducks in 2015, ranking the state third in the flyway, behind heavyweights Texas and North Dakota. Waterfowlers typically take lots of mallards, gadwall, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal and even diving ducks. And with only about 16,600 active waterfowl hunters in 2015, the duck-per-hunter average of 16.1 birds per season is outstanding.
Photo ¬© A.S. Floro/Shutterstock
That's not really a surprise. The Beaver State is sandwiched between Washington and California, the Pacific Flyway's two top harvest states. Still, you cannot ignore the 239,100 ducks Oregon hunters took in 2015. Mallards, wigeon, pintails and greenwings dominate the scene, but hunters also have opportunities for many diving ducks. And with a wide array of hunting options, including the Snake River and tidal hunts along the coast, variety abounds.
Photo ¬© Brian E. Kushner/Shutterstock