Take heart, because the duck hunting is probably worse somewhere else. Unless you live in West Virginia
As I’ve pointed out previously, some states simply don’t offer great duck hunting opportunities. Maybe they’re not in a major flyway. Perhaps they lack waterfowl habitat. Whatever the case, hunters in several areas consistently tote lighter straps than their brethren in duck-rich regions.
In the spirit of fun, I perused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released harvest and activity statistics from the 2018-’19 season, and several states jumped out. Here’s my (light-hearted) look at the worst duck hunting states by flyway.
Poor Arizona. With an arid to semi-arid climate and topography rich with mountains and plateaus, it just ain’t duck country. As such, its waterfowl harvest pales in comparison to powerhouse Pacific Flyway cousins such as Washington, Oregon, Montana and heavyweight champ California (1.08 million ducks taken in 2018-'19). This past season, Grand Canyon State hunters shot about 15,800 ducks. Their average of about 7.9 ducks per hunter wasn’t bad, but when you figure in the state’s paltry harvest of 1,200 geese, it becomes obvious that Arizona can’t compete.
Hey, Arizona is still great for quail, turkeys and big game. But if you’re after waterfowl, point your rig west toward the big boys.
It’s really not fair to rank New Mexico as the worst Central Flyway waterfowl state. Like Arizona, it just doesn’t have much duck habitat, and it cannot compete with bucket-list stops such as Texas (955,900 ducks in 2018-'19), Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. To be fair, the westernmost part of New Mexico is in the Pacific Flyway. Further, hunters in the Land of Enchantment averaged a solid 11.5 ducks per person in 2018. Still, when you consider the overall harvest of 37,600 ducks and 10,200 geese, it’s apparent that New Mexico is the little guy in the Central Flyway.
Honestly, it seems like Indiana actually has some pretty good waterfowl hunting. Heck, Hoosier State hunters shot about 75,000 ducks in 2018 for an 8.1 ducks-per-hunter average. When you add in 59,600 geese, the state even seems like a destination. But when compared to the Mississippi Flyway’s other big boppers — including Minnesota, Louisiana and Arkansas, where hunters shot more than 1 million ducks in 2018-'19 — Indiana falls short.
No worries. I’m sure Indiana hunters aren’t complaining. And they can always scoot over to southern Illinois or northern Ohio to enjoy good shooting, too.
Somewhere in West Virginia, a happy and successful waterfowl hunter is throwing darts at a picture of the Duck Blogger. “Why does he constantly pick on us?” the guy asks. Well, because Mountain State hunters only shot about 3,600 ducks in 2018 for a minuscule 3.3-duck-per-hunter average. When you mix in just 2,800 geese in 2018, West Virginia becomes the clear runt of the Atlantic Flyway.
Hey, I love West Virginia. It has great deer and abundant turkeys, plus fine folks. I just don’t want to hunt ducks there.
Sorry again, West Virginia. All factors considered, I must reluctantly name you the worst state for duck hunting. I hope we can still be buds. Go Mountaineers?
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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.