Reaction was phenomenal. Days after the blog appeared, an email from West Virginia popped up, and I expected to receive a thorough scolding for listing that state among the most awful. Instead, the guy apologized, as he’d initially thought I was a Nigerian prince who was holding $1 million for him. Then, I heard from several hunters in my home state of Wisconsin, who wondered, after our typical combat-like opening weekend, how the home of Bucky Badger hadn’t made the list. “Because we killed 365,000-plus ducks,” I responded. They then pointed out 365,000-plus suggestions of where I could place that data.
Anyway, we’ve revised our list of the worst states this year. First, we threw out Hawaii. Sure, it sucks for waterfowlers, but that’s only because you cannot hunt waterfowl there. So, we’ll place the lovely islands of Hawaii in a special realm of duck and goose hunting suck-dom and move on.
You’ll note some familiar states here and a couple of new entries. Again, we intend no malice, and we’re not poking fun at any hunters or waterfowling opportunities. This list simply acknowledges that some states are better than others for ducks and geese. Now, onto the best of the worst, in no particular order.
If you’ve hiked a West Virginia mountain or gazed at the Ohio River, it would be difficult to place this lovely state on any worst list. But let’s just admit that the Mountain State just ain’t duck country.
Oh, waterfowlers there try hard. The state’s 1,000 or so active hunters shot about 4,900 ducks in 2017 for a respectable average. And they took about 5,600 geese, so life isn’t all bad. Still, when you review harvest totals from nearby states, it becomes obvious West Virginia can’t hang. No worries. Go in spring for a fantastic turkey hunting experience.
Man, it’s tough placing any state in the waterfowl-blessed Mississippi Flyway on this list, especially when that state has part of Lake Michigan along its northern tip and the mighty Ohio River at its southern border. Still, when you consider that Indiana hunters shot a flyway-low 90,900 ducks in 2017, you almost feel obligated. Waterfowlers shot a respectable 47,000-plus geese in 2017, so all’s not lost. But when viewed alongside neighbors Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, Indiana pales. Sorry, Hoosiers.
No shame here, as the state is covered by mountains and deserts. You wouldn’t list Arkansas among the best mule deer states, would you? It’s simply a matter of habitat.
Arizona’s minuscule numbers bear that out: 12,900 ducks and 1,800 geese in 2017. Actually, in areas with sufficient water, the state probably features some pretty good duck hunting. I was just in Scottsdale and watched several dozen mallards and Canada geese every morning. Sure, I was looking at the pond in a golf course, but still.
Yeah, refer to the Arizona entry. This wildlife-rich state simply wasn’t built for ducks.
However, consider this: New Mexico hunters shot about 42,600 ducks in 2017 and enjoyed a dandy 14.1-bird-per-hunter average. Meanwhile, Wyoming hunters took just 41,500 ducks and averaged just 10.1 birds apiece. No one would list Wyoming among the worst waterfowling states. Perhaps we need to rethink this or at least place an asterisk by New Mexico.
Many New Englanders will raise an eyebrow at this entry. But numbers don’t lie: about 10,100 ducks in 2017, for a 4.2 duck-per-hunter average. And 5,670 geese, with a 3.5-per-hunter average.
But how can New Hampshire make the list when Rhode Island hunters shot fewer ducks (about 9,000 in 2017)? Easy. Hunters in America’s smallest state averaged almost 10 ducks apiece for the season. Further, they shot 9,000 geese. Sorry, Granite Staters.
You probably have the same reaction I did to this entry: whoa. How can a state rich in waterfowl hunting history make the worst-of list? Actually, we created a new category for the Bay State, which received a C in the latest Duck Hunting Nation ratings: bad state for inland duck hunting.
The stats reveal a strong dichotomy. Massachusetts hunters shot about 2,123 longtails, 2,548 scoters and 4,034 eiders in 2017 — or let’s just say about 8,700 sea ducks. Subtract that from the state’s 21,400 total 2017 duck harvest and you’re left with just about 12,700 birds in the bag.
Awful? No. But compared to nearby states, it’s not great.
Again, no insult intended. Go Sox?
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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.