11 (or 12) States to Duck Hunt Before You Die

By author of The Duck Blog

These Bucket-Listers Offer Waterfowl Heaven

As age and time afield pile up, hunters often think less about achievements and more about experiences. In turkey hunting, that leads some folks to pursue the 49-state Super Slam. Waterfowlers are no different, though they tend to focus more on hunting exotic locales or pursuing species that don’t frequent their flyway.

So, in the spirit of bucket-list scheming, here are my thoughts on states you should hunt before you die. We’ll leave harvest numbers to other lists and focus more on romance and adventure. And we’ll also offer this disclaimer: Just because your favorite state didn’t make the list doesn’t mean it isn’t visit-worthy. We can’t cover 49 destinations in one blog.

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Maine

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1 | Maine

Yeah, I know Massachusetts hunters actually shoot more eiders than Maine waterfowlers, but there’s just something about the thought of gunning big sea ducks along the scenic shorelines of the Pine Tree State. Or, you could ply open water in layout boats. Either way, fresh lobster will highlight the dinner menu (and you might sneak inland and shoot some black ducks, too).

Photo © Lillian Tveit/Shutterstock

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Florida

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2 | Florida

Hey, why not be a snowbird? With solid opportunities for ringnecks, bluebills and redheads, the Sunshine State is a bona fide diver destination. (Think layout boats and 70-degree weather.) Or maybe full-plumage late-season blue-winged teal appeal to you. Or mottled ducks, or fulvous or black-bellied whistling ducks. Did I mention it could be 70 degrees?

Photo © Images on the Wildside

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Oklahoma

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3 | Oklahoma

Admittedly, when I think about Oklahoma, I envision red dirt and hard-gobbling Rio Grande turkeys. But when good buddy Todd Rogers, of Rut N Strut Guide Service, showed me how well local hunters do on ducks, I immediately wanted to chase waterfowl Sooner-style.

Yeah, I know most of those ducks are produced in prairie Canada and the Dakotas. Sure, I realize Texas hunters shoot more birds. But there’s a great appeal to piling up mallards, gaddies and pintails in a seemingly arid environment.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Missouri

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4 | Missouri

Again, this might appear to be a head-scratcher. Missouri is a no-doubt destination for big whitetails and heavy Eastern turkeys. However, many folks don’t realize the quality duck and goose hunting the state offers. Check out the Big Muddy. Or gun specks and mallards in the Bootheel region (call my buddy J.D. Driskill at Dirty Rice Outfitters). You can’t go wrong.

Photo © Bill Konway

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South Dakota/North Dakota

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5 | South Dakota/North Dakota

Cheating alert. Yeah, I’m listing the Dakotas as one. That’s because although regulations and license opportunities differ between North and South Dakota, the overall waterfowling experience can be very similar, with massive feeds in cut grain fields and vast swaths of prairie potholes. Go early to enjoy the local-duck bonanza. Or hunt late to catch the final massive waves of hardy mallards and geese. You’ll return again and again.

Photo © Images on the Wildside

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Washington

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6 | Washington

Northwest waterfowling has always intrigued me. You can hunt the coast, the Columbia River or other inland areas. Pursue divers, puddlers or sea ducks. Plus, Washington has specklebellies, nine varieties of Canada geese and Wrangell Island (Russia) snow geese. It’s also the only Lower 48 state where you can shoot a harlequin. But my crush is more personal. I love wigeon, and Washington (and Oregon) offers them in abundance.

Photo © Images on the Wildside

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Alaska

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7 | Alaska

This might represent the ultimate waterfowling adventure. You’ll find endless varieties of fowl here, including harlequins, king eiders, Barrow’s goldeneyes, Eurasian wigeon and more. Or, you can shoot conventional puddlers and divers — all against the majestic backdrops of the Last Frontier.

Photo © Images on the Wildside

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8 | Texas

I’m not sure why you wouldn’t hunt Texas at least once in your life. Go early for world-class teal shooting. Visit Laguna Madre for once-in-a-lifetime redhead hunting. Experience the Lone Star State’s diverse goose hunting opportunities. And eat some brisket and shoot a few hogs while you’re at it.

Photo © Bill Konway

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California

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9 | California

The practical side of me thinks that California makes sense because I could shoot a cinnamon teal and see more pintails than I’ve ever witnessed. The other side of my brain just thinks it would be cool to hide in the tules and experience gunning that folks such as Bing Crosby and Clark Gable used to enjoy. Either way, I gotta go.

Photo © Images on the Wildside

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Louisiana

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10 | Louisiana

Duck hunters regard some places as holy ground, and Louisiana certainly qualifies. It’s the end of the funnel for millions of ducks and geese each fall. And with acre after acre of flooded timber, coastal marshes and flooded grain fields, it was seemingly designed for waterfowling. Chase mallards. Hunt gaddies. Gun canvasbacks. And eat some crawfish. You might come home with a Cajun accent.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Arkansas

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11 | Arkansas

No surprise here. Mallards rule, and Arkansas is the mallard titan. No matter where you hunt, you’ve probably dreamed about hitting the flight just right in the Natural State. Think flooded timber. Or rice fields. Visit Stuttgart, the Rice and Duck Capital of the World. As Realtree pro Chad Belding, host of The Fowl Life, said, “The Grand Prairie during duck season, it’s almost religion down there. … Many years, I tell myself I’m going to spend the entire 60-day season down there. You feel like a duck hunter and feel like you fit in.”

Photo © Bill Konway

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