Ranking The Waterfowling States – Part 4

Previously – we made backhanded compliments to Tennessee and Maryland . . .

To recap how we got here:

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 . . .

On to numbers 20 through 11…

20. South Dakota

20 isn’t a bad ranking, right?

Poor South Dakota.  In this instance, she’s definitely North Dakota’s little brother.

In fact, if we could lump the two Dakotas together, we might end up with a top 5 ranking.  Alas, geography can be a bitch some days.

Still, not a bad place for some of the fattest mallards your lab will ever pick up . . .

19. Colorado

I’ll be the first to admit, Colorado snuck up on me a little bit.

I pictured it more as the West Virginia of the West, too mountainous to be spectacular.  Boy, was I wrong.

Colorado has sneakily become one of the top goose states in the nation.  Both Canada and light geese are abundant in the eastern part of the state.  Add in a healthy population of mallards that tend to hang around most of the season in the many river basins, and the always elusive migrators like teal and you end up with a great all around waterfowling destination.

18. Alaska

Alaska was, perhaps, the state that gained the most from our “star” duck exception.

Want a King Eider?  Alaska is your choice.  Not “a” choice.  The choice.

How about Harelquins?  Maybe the only waterfowl that gives a drake wood duck a run for his money in the “looks” department . . . Alaska is THE destination for these resplendent birds.

Toss in any number of waterfowl targets, and make sure to mention the Barrow’s Goldeneye, and you can see why we may have tweaked our data a little to bump the Last Frontier into the top 20 . . .

17. Kansas

Cornfields and wheat fields and, hey, you want mallards?  ‘Cause the Jayhawks have got mallards by the truckload.  Plenty of geese too, to round out your wingshooting.  And, even though it didn’t weigh heavily in our rankings, you gotta love a place where you can shoot ducks, geese, cranes and pheasants on back-to-back days.

Mild winters often see Kansas loaded with birds and would probably push it a little higher on the list.

16. Oklahoma

The Sooner State was another Midwestern (is it in the Midwest?  I don’t know where the Midwest begins and ends, honestly) state that snuck in.

Frankly, I think Oklahoma is riding Texas’ coat tails a little, but a little research shows it offers plenty of ducks, geese, and cranes on it’s own.

15. North Carolina

Look gang . . . This whole thing was done primarily with numbers . . . In a previous life, some of us were statisticians and math geeks . . . So we crunched all these numbers together and came up with this spreadsheet and even added in the gut factor and the “star” birds and whatnot.

I say all that to say this:  I’ve hunted North Carolina.  Several times.  As near as I can tell, our spreadsheet is wrong.  Way wrong.

Oh, I’ve seen reports and read stories and articles about the Tarheel State and it’s great duck hunts, it’s late season goose smackdowns, the whole 9 yards.  Maybe they’re true.  Maybe NC deserves this spot in the rankings – but, when you’re arguing about this piece, make sure you put me down on the other side of this ranking.

14. Oregon

I may have penalized Oregon for their college football mascot being a duck, yet a strangely domestic looking Peking type thing dressed in chartreuse.

Plenty of waterfowling opportunities in the Pacific Northwest . . . Oregon just has the bad luck of not being California or Washington.

13. Illinois

Proximity to the Mississippi River has privileges.  And Illinois starts a run of Mississippi states littered with fertile farmland, flooded timber, and migrating waterfowl by the truckload.

12. Mississippi

This is probably a little low for the Mississippi River’s name state, but I think this ranking shook out based on the lack of “star” ducks.

Mississippi is loaded with mallards, plenty of geese and teal and pintails and gadwalls pass through on their way south for the winter.  I think they ended up 4th or 5th in total waterfowl harvested.  It’s just not THE place for any one species.  Not that it’s a bad thing to be well rounded.

11. Wisconsin

Statistically, Wisconsin is a great state for divers – particularly both the greater and lesser scaup and the King, the Canvasback.  But that’s not the whole story.  Tons of little lakes dot the landscape and offer shots at redheads, mallards, teal, bufflehead – you name it, they got it!

Up next – tensions mount as the top 10 is unveiled . . .Continue to the top 10 waterfowling states.