Despite recent regulation changes, the Atlantic Flyway offers great waterfowling opportunity. Here’s how Duck Hunting Nation ranks the East Coast states for 2020
Our first Duck Hunting Nation roundup centers on the Atlantic Flyway. From tiny wood duck sloughs to coastal gunning for sea ducks, the region offers perhaps unmatched variety for waterfowlers. Despite recent reductions to daily limits of mallards and Canada geese, the flyway continues to produce solid hunting opportunities. We’ve updated each state’s page with license costs, links to current regulations, and other vital information.
The Constitution State isn’t a big destination for waterfowlers, but it actually features some decent hunting for geese, puddle ducks, and sea ducks. Still, low harvest and hunter numbers hurt its Duck Hunting Nation grade.
This tiny state offers good opportunities for puddle ducks and honkers in fall, plus greater snow geese during the spring conservation season. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the Delmarva Peninsula is one of the most important waterfowl wintering areas in North America. When you throw in some prime (albeit popular) national wildlife refuges, Delaware receives a solid Duck Hunting Nation rating.
Don’t hunt the Sunshine State if you want mallards or honkers. Otherwise, duck hunting opportunities abound, and Florida’s Duck Hunting Nation grade reflects that. Winter diver hunting can be great. And how about the chance to shoot mottled ducks, whistling ducks, or maybe even a full-plumage blue-winged teal late in the season? The state has many public lakes, plus limited-access waterfowl hunting at many state, federal, or publicly accessible private properties.
Duck hunters don’t talk much about Georgia, perhaps because they’re trying to maintain secrecy. The Peach State offers solid waterfowling action, including great gunning for wood ducks and ample opportunities for diving ducks — especially ringnecks. Further, hunters will find lots of public areas — including some coastal estuaries and sounds — to try. As a result, Georgia gets high Duck Hunting Nation marks.
The Pine Tree State is famous for eider hunting, but that’s not the only reason it gets a high Duck Hunting Nation grade. You’ll also find scoters and long-tailed ducks on the saltwater, plus wood ducks, black ducks, buffleheads, and goldeneyes inland. And did we mention you can eat fresh seafood every day?
Long renowned for the Eastern Shore and Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is one of just four Atlantic Flyway states to receive an A grade from Duck Hunting Nation. The state has it all: great goose hunting, mallards and wood ducks inland, and divers and sea ducks — even some brant — on the bay. Many wildlife management areas let waterfowlers explore.
Urban sprawl and heavy competition for public spots limit Massachusetts’ Duck Hunting Nation grade, but the state offers some respectable opportunities. Saltwater hunting for eiders, scoters, and longtails is good. Inland, mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, and geese can provide decent action. Hunters also shoot some Atlantic brant.
The Granite State is small, with somewhat limited waterfowling available, but you’ll find plenty of uncrowded public properties. New Hampshire’s modest 18 miles of ocean waterfront produces some eiders and scoters, and inland beaver ponds and creeks hold mallards, woodies, and black ducks. Goose hunting can also be good.
Whoever wrote about the swamps of Jersey might have had duck and goose hunting on the brain. The state earns an A grade for its hundreds of miles of coastline, and loads of inland and coastal lakes, ponds, and marshes. More than one-third of the flyway’s black ducks and more than two-thirds of North America’s Atlantic brant winter in New Jersey. Hunters also do well on geese, gaddies, wood ducks, green-winged teal, and sea ducks.
Diverse opportunities, a great hunting tradition, and abundant public land combine to give New York a high Duck Hunting Nation rating. The state features excellent goose hunting, and hunters also shoot loads of brant. In addition, fowlers take lots of divers, puddle ducks, and sea ducks. Further, the state splits its season to allow early, mid-, and late-season hunting.
Want ducks? North Carolina hunters shoot a pile of them every season — enough to merit an A rating from Duck Hunting Nation. Wood ducks lead the way, but Tar Heel State hunters also take good numbers of divers, other puddlers, geese, and brant. Pamlico Sound is a major stopover for many waterfowl, including long-tailed ducks and all three species of scoters. And did we mention you can hunt tundra swans there?
Known more for deer and turkeys, Pennsylvania actually offers solid waterfowling options — enough to earn it a high Duck Hunting Nation grade. Canada goose hunting is good, and the Keystone State has many lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds that typically attract good numbers of puddlers and divers.
The country’s tiniest state might qualify as a sleeper for duck and goose hunting. There’s good inland action for many puddle ducks, plus solid goose action. Further, saltwater hunters typically find lots of eiders, scoters, and brant. And the licenses are cheap. Duck Hunting Nation awards Little Rhody a solid B.
Its northern cousin might steal much of the attention, but South Carolina offers good duck hunting and some quality public properties. The coastal region in the eastern part of the state probably features the most diverse waterfowl opportunities. Hunters typically take good numbers of puddlers and ringnecks. Goose hunters also hold their own. Just watch out for alligators.
The Green Mountain State presents very good goose hunting and solid duck action in a low-pressure environment. Hunters typically take lots of mallards, woodies, greenwings, and black ducks inland, plus whistlers, buffies, and mergansers on bigger water. And goose hunters can still knock on doors and secure permission for some great hunts.
You’d expect a state on Chesapeake Bay to receive a high duck hunting rating, and Virginia certainly qualifies. Inland hunters shoot lots of puddle ducks, and big-water guys score well on divers and scoters. Goose hunters fare well, too. The state offers some quota hunts for waterfowl.
Let’s give West Virginia a break. Its beautiful hills and hollows just aren’t duck country, so the state gets a low Duck Hunting Nation grade. Still, dedicated Mountain State hunters do OK, taking respectable numbers of mallards, wood ducks, and Canada geese. Some of the best shooting occurs on large river corridors late in the season, when other waters have frozen. The Ohio River near Parkersburg holds good numbers of honkers and ducks late in fall.
Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.