The mighty Mississippi Flyway holds uncountable waterfowl hunting opportunities. Here’s how Duck Hunting Nation ranks the states
Our first 2021 Duck Hunting Nation roundup covers the waterfowl-rich Mississippi Flyway. Stretching from the dark waters of Lake Superior through the famed Mississippi Delta and points south, this tradition-rich flyway features some of the country’s best duck and goose hunting opportunities. We’ve updated each state’s page with license costs, links to current regulations and other information.
Alabama might get lost in the buzz surrounding famous nearby waterfowling destinations, but it offers surprisingly good hunting and scores a solid Duck Hunting Nation grade. Hunters do well on local wood ducks and migrant gadwalls, mallards, bluebills and ringnecks. Plus, it features abundant public opportunities, including Tennessee Valley Authority land and many wildlife management areas.
The Natural State remains atop the bucket list of most waterfowl hunters, and why not? It remains the country’s No. 1 destination for mallards and the heart and soul of green-timber hunting. Arkansas has more than 100 WMAs, many of which are managed for ducks. And if you’re uncomfortable navigating flooded woods in the dark, you can find many reputable outfitters to provide memorable hunting. The state receives a solid A from Duck Hunting Nation.
Hoosier waterfowl hunting doesn’t get much press, but Indiana features decent opportunities for ducks and geese. Hunting for honkers in the state’s abundant agricultural areas can be pretty good. Duck hunters can find success along the Wabash and Ohio rivers, and at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge. The state only merits a mediocre Duck Hunting Nation grade, but residents still have chances to toss out decoys and wait on whistling wings.
Rich in tradition and lore, Illinois still provides solid opportunities for ducks and geese, and earns a B rating from Duck Hunting Nation. Private clubs own much of the state’s best waterfowl habitat, but enterprising hunters can ply one of the state’s 60-plus public hunting areas, including 11,000-acre Horseshoe Lake.
Known for big bucks and heavy gobblers, Iowa scores a mere C from Duck Hunting Nation. Still, it provides some pretty good duck and goose hunting. The Mississippi River forms the state’s entire eastern border and annually attracts great flights. Some of the state’s WMAs are also well suited for ducks. Later in the season, mallards and geese stack up along major rivers, providing good cold-weather hunting.
The commonwealth holds plenty of hills and hollows for whitetails and turkeys, but it also contains pockets of good waterfowl hunting. Areas along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers can offer excellent hunting. Some state WMAs, such as Ballard and Sloughs, can draw tens of thousands of wintering birds. Sure, Kentucky only gets a C from Duck Hunting Nation, but some sleuthing can lead you to A-list areas.
Every duck hunter dreams about hunting the end of the funnel — the final destination for millions of ducks and geese. That’s Louisiana. Almost 8,000 square miles of the state consists of water, making it perfect for ducks and helping it earn a well-deserved A from Duck Hunting Nation. Further, the state has no shortage of WMAs and solid outfitters, so you won’t have to search hard for a place to hunt.
Surrounded by Great Lakes and with uncountable inland lakes, rivers and wetlands, Michigan features very good duck and goose hunting. Saginaw Bay and the St. Clair River Flats remain famous destinations, but you can also find opportunities at the state’s Wetland Wonders — seven waterfowl hunting areas totaling almost 29,000 acres. And don’t forget Michigan’s 80-some state game areas, spread throughout the state. The Great Lakes State earns a sound B from Duck Hunting Nation.
Folks often overlook Minnesota when discussing big-time waterfowling states, but they shouldn’t. The state has a plethora of outstanding duck and goose habitat, including the Mississippi River, Lake Winnibigoshish, and thousands of wetlands and wild-rice lakes. Abundant agricultural acreage in the state’s southern portion provides outstanding goose opportunities, and Minnesota has a longstanding waterfowl hunting tradition. The Gopher State scores an easy B from Duck Hunting Nation.
Naturally, a state sandwiched between the Mississippi Delta, Mississippi River and Gulf Coast should stand out for waterfowl hunting. And Mississippi doesn’t disappoint, earning an A from Duck Hunting Nation and serving as a wintering area for millions of migratory birds. Rivers, bayous, swamps, brakes and flooded woods hold loads of ducks and geese. And the Mississippi Sound attracts huge numbers of redheads, bluebills and other divers.
The Show-Me State might receive less attention than its southern neighbors, but it’s a great waterfowling state. Some folks even call it the new Arkansas. The Missouri and Mississippi rivers funnel thousands of ducks and geese through the state every fall and winter, and the Bootheel region has become a hotspot in recent years. Further, the state has a good system of conservation areas and public hunting spots — enough to earn it a B from Duck Hunting Nation.
Duck Hunting Nation awards Ohio a B but acknowledges that the state is a case of the haves versus the have-nots. Much of the state has decidedly un-ducky terrain similar to Indiana or Kentucky, but remaining marshes along Lake Erie provide incredible waterfowling opportunities. Controlled hunts at wildlife refuges and other public spots also offer good action. And goose hunting can be solid throughout fall and winter.
You’d expect the home of Reelfoot Lake to score a good Duck Hunting Nation grade, and Tennessee obliges, with a B rating. Dozens of state WMAs cater to waterfowl hunting, and Kentucky and Barkley lakes also provide respectable gunning. Waterfowl opportunities dwindle as you head farther east in Tennessee, but good action in the Volunteer State’s western portion more than makes up for that.
Known for football and big deer, Wisconsin also has excellent waterfowl hunting. It’s bordered by two Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River runs along much of its western border. Meanwhile, thousands of lakes, rivers, marshes and potholes dot the rest of the Badger State, letting it produce huge numbers of local ducks and attract hordes of migrants. Only the state’s heavy hunting pressure holds it to a B rating from Duck Hunting Nation.
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.