Crowded Skies: 8 States with the Most Duck Hunters

By author of The Duck Blog

You Might Find These Marshes and Fields a Bit Crowded

Statistics reveal the number of waterfowl hunters is declining nationwide. However, that’s tough to believe some mornings at your local wildlife area.

Trucks fill the parking lot, spilling onto the road, and the glare of headlamps makes the marsh look like a Vegas laser show. You woke up ridiculously early, but your favorite spot is already taken.

Sound familiar? It can, depending on where you hunt. And that begs a common question: Which states have the most duck hunters?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife data holds the answer. But first, a caveat. This isn’t a list of places to avoid or areas with poor hunting. These states have fantastic waterfowl resources and thriving hunting traditions. That’s why their hunter numbers are high. And that’s an oft-frustrating Catch-22. A large hunting contingent represents a powerful lobby and a means to pass on our waterfowling tradition … even if it can be bothersome and inconvenient some days.

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North DakotaMichiganCaliforniaLouisianaArkansasWisconsinMinnesotaTexas

1 | North Dakota

I’m one of the tens of thousands of non-resident hunters who began flocking to North Dakota in the early 1990s when water returned to the prairies and duck hunting boomed. And why not? With millions of acres of prime nesting cover, vast migration stopovers and an endless sea of food, North Dakota is a duck and goose hunting paradise. That’s why it attracted about 33,500 active duck hunters in 2016. And those folks shot about 437,300 ducks. The Peace Garden State scene has changed somewhat since the glory days, but it’s still a prime waterfowl destination.

Photo © Bill Konway

2 | Michigan

Folks in Michigan love to hunt, and that passion extends beyond the deer and turkey woods. About 38,200 duck hunters hit the state’s marshes, fields and lakes in 2016. And those waterfowlers shot about 361,300 ducks. That should surprise no one. With loads of water — including two great lakes and Lake St. Clair — and abundant agriculture in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula, the state offers plenty of duck hunting opportunity.

Photo © Tim Zurowski/Shutterstock

3 | California

You were probably wondering when the Golden State would appear. Its vast size, long waterfowling tradition and prime location along the Pacific Flyway make it a no-brainer waterfowl hotspot. About 47,100 active duck hunters went afield in 2016, and they took a whopping 1.15 million ducks. As I’ve written before, it might be time for a West Coast swing, crowds or not.

Photo © Wang Liqiang/Shutterstock

4 | Louisiana

Well, duh. Ranking among the country’s most famous duck hunting destinations — and producing some of the nation’s most famous duck hunting families — Louisiana was a lock for this list. For the record, about 49,900 active waterfowl hunters hit the state’s bayous and backwaters in 2016, and they shot a colossal 857,000 birds. Southern hospitality indeed.

Photo © Bill Konway

5 | Arkansas

Duh No. 2. Everyone who’s ever donned camo and held a shotgun has dreamed of standing knee-deep in flooded timber as a tornado of mallards whirled overhead. As contributor Joe Genzel wrote recently, “On a major migration day, it can seem like all 1.04 million U.S. duck hunters are tucked into the flooded timber of Arkansas’ famed Bayou Meto.”

In 2016, about 53,900 hunters plied Arkansas’ green timber and rice fields, and they took about 1.14 million ducks. The Natural State continues to amaze.

Photo © Banded

6 | Wisconsin

This might seem a bit surprising, but it shouldn’t be. With two great lakes, the Mississippi River and tens of thousands of smaller waters between, Wisconsin is a major duck production state and migration stopover. And, as in Michigan, people there live the hunting lifestyle. The state had about 55,000 active duck hunters in 2016, and they shot about 365,500 birds. The best time to hunt in the Dairy State might be during Sunday Green Bay Packers games. But now that Aaron Rodgers is hurt, I wouldn’t count on that.

Photo © Bill Konway

7 | Minnesota

Those Minnesota boys (and girls) are all about duck hunting. About 57,100 Gopher State hunters went afield in 2016, and they shot about 573,400 ducks. Like Wisconsin, Minnesota is a tremendous production and migration stopover state, and it offers amazing variety. From ringnecks and cans to mallards and honkers, the lakes and fields of Minnesota have it all.

Photo © Bill Konway

8 | Texas

Yeah, I know. So much for drama. Its massive size and location at the end of the waterfowl-rich Central Flyway make Texas a shoe-in for the top spot. About 79,900 folks hunted ducks there in 2016, and they shot about 1.162 million birds. Further, the state many unique options, including the famed Laguna Madre for redheads, reservoirs and stock ponds for dabblers and divers, and a thriving, varied goose hunting scene. Like someone once said, Texas is a “whole other country.”

Photo © Banded