Ranking The Waterfowling States – Part 1 – Basements Aren’t Bad…

Look.  The simple fact of the matter is this: when we set out to rank all 50 states based on their waterfowling, someone had to be ranked first, and someone else had to be ranked last.

There’s little to no dispute, realistically, that waterfowling in, say, Louisiana, is better than waterfowling in Connecticut.  That’s not to say that you should just give up on ducks and geese if you live in the Nutmeg State, so much as to say it’s a different experience.

How we did this:

We built out a master spreadsheet – we ranked the states based on huntable land, number of hunters, waterfowl harvest, ducks per hunter, geese per hunter . . . Then we added in what we termed “star” ducks or geese – meaning, that state is THE location for a species – there were bonus points weighing these species to slant those states (i.e. King Eider and Harlequin in Alaska) higher in the rankings.  Finally, there were the intangibles – those states that just didn’t seem right in their rankings, based on history or legacy or some other intangible . . .

With that, here we go . . .

50. Hawaii

Hawaii has a goose for their state bird (the Nene) and 2 additional ducks that are found only on it’s islands.  So that’s a good start.

Except that you cannot hunt waterfowl in Hawaii.  The Nene was nearly wiped out when the islands were colonized, and although it has come back from the brink of extinction, it’s numbers are still relatively low (maybe 2000 left).

The Hawaii duck, or Koloa, isn’t much better off, with estimates around 3-4K left.  This puddler looks like a mottled or hen mallard, with some slight alterations.

Hawaii also offers us the Laysan teal . . . Similar to it’s mainland cousins, this bird is gorgeous when in full plume.  Alas, it’s not destined for the trophy room anytime soon.

The Island State also sees plenty of birds migrate through, but waterfowling is off limits at this time.  I’ll say “sadly” since this cements the Aloha State in last place in our rankings.

49. Connecticut

This one feels bad.  Connecticut is tiny.  It’s relatively dry, and has relatively little to offer in the way of food source.

That’s not to say that Connecticut has “bad” waterfowling, just that it has more limited opportunities – less land with the same amount of hunters always creates a bottleneck.  In some proposals for the upcoming season, there have been talks of additional closures of public areas.

Add in that Connecticut doesn’t have a “star” bird, and you end up with #49 on the list.

Still, even at this ranking, Connecticut sees plenty of birds harvested each season.

48. New Hampshire

This one hurts.

My long time hunting buddy recently relocated to New Hampshire, and his high hopes were dashed by our data.

Like many Eastern seaboard states, you’ll run across mallards, blacks, even canvasbacks and teal and plenty of geese . . . The problem for many of these “low” ranking states has more to do with the lack of a “go-to” duck, public land access, and hunters.

The sea coast still offers some cool species, and some of the swamps and backwaters allow for some memorable mornings.

At least that’s what I’m gonna tell David.

47. West Virginia

The curse of geography.

On paper, specifically a map, West Virginia should be a top 25 state . . . Centrally located, south enough to escape the bitter northern cold, north enough for late migrations.

The problem is the mountains.  And size.  Where many states can offer diverse geography, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia plays a beautiful note over and over.

Don’t sleep on this rank, however.  Those mountains all equal lots of bottoms, leading to some hidden gems for waterfowling; coupled with the fact that the forests are known for big deer, West Virginians are apt to find some great duck and goose pockets, with very little competition.

46. Rhode Island

Okay.  Before I respond to angry letters from (presumably) Providence mobsters, let me say this – I realize that there is actually really good waterfowling in Rhode Island.  Ducks and geese hugging the coastline pass right through here, and I have it on good authority that the states hunters know what they’re doing and have plenty of success.

However.

The whole state is the size of my truck.  I don’t care if they produce gold banded Harlequin limits on every hunt, I can’t move them higher in our rankings when they’re smaller than the county I grew up in.

45. Maine

This one surprised me.

I’ve spent a bit of time in Maine.  Beautiful state.  Tons of coastline.  But, going by the numbers, it just can’t match up in our rankings.

To start, maybe it’s not as “well known” because of it’s frigid and damp winter. Duck hunters are crazy, but we draw the line somewhere.

Still, Maine has a great sea duck hunt, as well as some cool inland ponds and marshes. One great outfitter we’ve hunted with personally and had an amazing time with is Bold Coast Outfitters. If you like homemade wild blueberry pies and the freshest lobster in the USA the trip with Bold Coast is worth every penny and of course we took our fair share of Eiders, Old Squaw and Black Ducks.

44. Vermont

I had to google “Vermont waterfowl hunting” – that’s how little I knew about the state.

Evidently, it stacks up better than Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut . . .

Going by the numbers, Vermont isn’t terrible.  But it ain’t Texas, either.

43. Wyoming

Eastern Wyoming has enough agriculture to lend itself to some decent mallard and goose shoots.  That’s pretty much the end of the Wyoming ranking.

Wyoming is split between two flyways, and has some interesting regs . . . It’s not a waterfowl wasteland . . .

42. Massachusetts

My ex-wife is from Massachusetts.  Based on that alone, the state wasn’t cracking the top 40.

Geography-wise, Mass does okay – coastal, lots of creeks and rivers and marshes and bays.  Plenty of birds come through here each season, and there are a bunch of secret honey holes dotting the coast.  But getting someone to divulge that information is like getting tickets to a Yankees/Red Sox series in September . . .

41. Arizona

In my head, Arizona is a desert, and there had to be little to no waterfowl activity.  Then I started talking to some folks and learned that there actually are quite a few hidden gems, including a great supply of wigeon, some wayward Cinnamon teal, and the standard puddle duck fare.

Up next, 40 – 31 – we get into some tougher choices and maybe some dissension among the rankers. Comment below if you disagree or have hunted some of our 41 through 50 states. Click here to continue to Part 2

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