Submission by Travis Thompson
The Duck Hunting Capital of the world. I’ll never forget my first trip to Arkansas – crossing the bridge in Memphis, we entered the state and suddenly, everywhere we looked, waterfowl filled the air.
Rice fields, corn fields, soybean fields, flooded timber. One bird that is synonymous with Arkansas is the Greenhead Mallard.
Responsive to calls and decoys, close working, and available in huge numbers, there are few places better to hunt the flagship duck than in Central and South Arkansas.
It’s hard for a state the size of Texas to fly under the radar, but when it comes to world class waterfowling, the Lone Star State isn’t usually the first destination to come to mind. But that line of thinking has changed.
The Gulf Coast has become a must-see hunt, as pintails, teal, bluebill, and thousands of lit up redheads descend each season. For a 6 duck limit of 6 different species, not many places come to mind as quickly as the South Texas coastline.
Best time to go is December and January, as cold fronts really spark the migration into full swing.
Missouri – Want snow geese?
No, not a couple buzzing your spread during the regular season. We’re talking about snow geese, thousands of them, honking and squealing and flipping and tumbling into your spread of 2000 decoys.
No plugs required, long days, and no limits. The Midwest is THE place for the reverse migration of lesser snows, and when conservation season starts, there are few places better than Missouri.
Best time to go is early February, but book now for next season!
Alaska – The King Eider
Just the name sends a chill down the spine of most hardcore waterfowlers. Alongside the Harlequin, this is the holy grail for most, if not all, hardcore waterfowlers.
No where else can you harvest these two handsome and impressive species.
The Harlequin is protected from harvest in most of the continental states, even if you were to stumble across one (highly unlikely) . . . The King Eider is truly an arctic duck, rarely venturing south of the border . . . There are few places in the world where you can harvest both on a single hunt, and Alaska is the spot.
Early seasons. Dumb ducks. And thousands of them.
These are the hallmarks of many Canada hunts. At the very top of the migration, birds that have spent the summer making baby birds, feeding to their hearts’ content, and basically lounging around, fat and happy. They’ve completely forgotten the sound a Benelli makes at 30 yards. This. This is an experience every hunter mast have once in his life. Thousands of teal, mallards, pintails, wigeon – you name it, they’ve got it, en masse.
By conservative estimates, 90% of the Cinnamon Teal are found in the Pacific Flyway.
What that means is that “going west” gives you the best shot you’ll have at filling out your teal trio . . . Late season hunts, particularly during mild winters, offer the best chance to land a drake in full plume. Earlier in the season, they can be difficult to distinguish from blue-winged teal.
Lake St. Clair, in upstate Michigan, has more Canvasbacks land in it than any other body of water in North America.
The king of the divers, there are few places better to have Cans decoy willingly than Michigan in late November.
Add in plenty of scaup and redheads to round out limits and you have the makings for a diver smackdown.
The Sunshine State should be renamed “The Whistler State” for the duration of duck season.
The only reliable spot in the US where you can round out a Waterfowler’s Challenge with both the Black Bellied Whistling Duck and the Fulvous.
Neither species decoys remarkably well, so this is more of a “be on the ‘X'” type of hunt . . . But listening to a flock of 200 Black-bellies as they squeal and chirp into your field is a sight every waterfowler should see . . .
The “Norman Rockwell Painting” of waterfowl . . . Canvasbacks and redheads on the Chesapeake . . . Black ducks in the tidal basins . . . Mallards and Canadas . . . No destination seems more “torn” from the pages of the Field and Stream magazines of our youth as the Eastern seaboard.