This year, we’ll switch things up. Let’s recognize that even the most zealous can fans probably won’t fly to the West Coast or the Lone Star State to collect their dream bull. They might, however, travel shorter distances within their own flyways in hopes of taking a drake can or two. So, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 harvest statistics, here are the top canvasback states by flyway.
OK, the drama’s gone out the window already. It’s California, with 15,657 cans, which was good for second overall nationwide. In fact, the entire Pacific Flyway took just 21,010 canvasbacks in 2017, so we won’t bother with an honorable mention.
Yeah, it’s Texas, where hunters took a North American-high 16,895 cans in 2017-’18 — the bulk of the Central Flyway's total of about 28,229. However, waterfowling titan North Dakota receives a solid honorable mention here, as fowlers shot about 7,504 canvasbacks — good for fourth overall — in 2017.
Here’s where it gets interesting. This is the canvasback flyway, as hunters shot about 40,087 cans in 2017. Louisiana wins easily, as hunters there took home 9,679 canvasbacks in 2017, good for third nationwide. What about honorable mention? Tennessee. Yes, Tennessee. Volunteer State hunters shot about 6,409 cans in 2017, good for fifth overall. Heck, I’ll throw in a second honorable mention for Minnesota, where fowlers took about 6,155 cans in 2017, which was sixth in the country. Many folks — OK, just me — probably wonder where perennial can hotspot Wisconsin ranked. Amazingly, five other Mississippi Flyway states shot more than the 2,719 cans taken by Badger State hunters in 2017. Remember, of course, that the harvest statistics are estimates … not that I’m sore.
East Coast hunters often get shorted a bit when it comes to canvasback opportunities, as Atlantic Flyway hunters took only about 10,693 cans in 2017. However, Maryland provides hope, as hunters there shot a dandy 4,982 cans in 2017. And honorable-mention winner Virginia wasn’t too shabby, either, as it took a respectable 2,695 canvasbacks.
So, there you go — solid can bets from coast to coast. Get your gang rigs ready, and bring plenty of shells. Meanwhile, I'll be chasing cans here at home — despite the fact that my state didn't make the list ... not that I'm sore.
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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.