Reports on top waterfowl harvest states typically underwhelm, as the list ultimately ends with Texas and California. (Of course, astute observers will note that hasn’t stopped Lovett from producing several such blogs when creativity fails. Ahem.)
It might be more interesting to look at states where hunters average the most ducks and geese — more of a tribute to individual success than overall kill numbers. So we reviewed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Hunting Activity and Harvest During the 2016-’17 and 2017-’18 Seasons report, and this is what we found. Some surprises await.
Top States, Ducks Per Hunter, 2017-’18
5) Oregon, 17.9. Pacific Flyway hunters do well in general, and Beaver State fowlers were no exception. Top species: Mallards, at 183,971. No. 2: Wigeon, 96,155.
4) Arkansas, 19.3. No surprise, right? Neither are the top species: Mallards, at a whopping 427,479, and gadwall, with 181,126.
3) Mississippi, 20.3. Magnolia State hunters didn’t take the sheer number of birds their neighbors shot, but you can’t argue with that average. Top species: mallard, 61,215, and green-winged teal, 50,899.
2) Louisiana, 23.1. Another Mississippi Flyway State represents with a great per-hunter figure. Teal topped the list here, with 221,026 bluewings and 215,457 greenwings.
1) California, 23.2. Yeah. Yawn. But numbers don’t lie. Golden State fowlers shot an astounding 356,700 greenwings and 209,323 mallards.
Honorable mentions: We have to work the Central and Atlantic flyways into the mix. In the Central, North Dakota took high honors, as hunters there shot about 14.5 ducks apiece. You might think Texas would be No. 2 (it was close, at 14.0), but second place went to New Mexico. Yes, the same New Mexico we recently listed as one of the worst states for duck hunting. Hunters took about 14.1 ducks apiece there.
In the Atlantic Flyway, North Carolina ran away with the title, as hunters took about 13.3 birds apiece. Wood ducks were by far the top species, with 117,457.
Top States, Geese Per Hunter, 2017-’18
5) Missouri, 8.3. Missouri seems to make every good list we print. With 97,127 honkers and more than 20,000 light geese, it’s a bona fide goose hotspot.
4) Colorado, 9.1. Really? Yep. Hunters there took 104,263 Canadas and a smattering of light geese to crack the top 5.
3) Kansas, 9.3. No real surprise here. Honkers dominated the harvest, with 95,786, and a few thousand snow, blue, Ross’s and speckle-bellied geese rounded out the take.
2) Nebraska, 11.0. Again, no shocker. Canadas dominated, as hunters shot about 138,904, plus about 4,000 other geese.
1) Rhode Island, 11.1. What? Seriously? Yep. Ocean State hunters (fewer than 1,000 of them) only took about 9,000 geese, but their average topped the nation. We’re not suggesting that Rhode Island features better goose hunting than California, Texas or the other states on this list. Just sayin’.
Honorable mention: We need at least one Pacific Flyway state in the mix. And because at least part of Montana qualifies, we’ll give it a nod, as hunters there averaged 5.9 geese apiece. Washington was just behind, with 5.8 per hunter.
Now, who wants to help me plan a Rhode Island honker hunt?
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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.