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Wading Into the 10 Best Duck-Hunting States

Duck hunting is a passion we can't get over. These states are the ones we go to for satisfying the urge.

The glory of duck hunting is in the details. It's waking up at excruciatingly early hours and yanking yourself out of a warm bed to hop in your truck loaded with duck-hunting gear, pull on waders, and slosh chest-deep through frozen waters. It's the eruption of ammunition that lights up the sky as a flock of birds makes its way into range. It's in the camaraderie of fellow hunters and in becoming a part of the picturesque scenery of a crystalline morning during duck season. But what are the best duck-hunting states?

Across the country, there are many good places to duck hunt. Many of them are along the migratory flyways or navigational routes, that ducks use year after year. In the U.S., four main duck migration trajectories are used by fowl migrating from north to south as the seasons shift: the Atlantic Flyway, the Mississippi Flyway, the Central Flyway, and the Pacific Flyway. The ducks start north in Canada and travel south along these four pathways as they make their way to their winter quarters. The 10 states on this list, all along those routes, offer up the best of the best when it comes to duck hunting.

10. New York

A duck hunter calling to waterfowl from a raft on a lake.

Getty Images, Sergei Chuyvko

Between Lake Erie, the esteemed Finger Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway region, and the shores of Long Island, New York offers some of the best wing shooting in the country. You can't forget the wetlands, creeks, and river opportunities that the Empire State offers.

Top Spots: Long Island, the Finger Lakes

9. California

A flock of mallard ducks floating on a lake.

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California is a duck-hunting sleeper state. If you know, you know. But because we know, we'll let you in on the secret: The waterfowl hunting in the Golden state is prime! Being so large, it's a diverse state that offers duck hunters a variety of chances to connect to birds.

Top Spots: San Pablo Bay, Goose Lake

8. Nebraska

A dog retrieving a slain mallard duck in a field.

Getty Images, SteveOehlenschlager

Mallards tipping their wings and running each other over, trying to land in your set, will make any waterfowl hunter get their dander up. In the Cornhusker state, water and field hunting are alive and well.

Top Spots: North Platte River, Calamus Reservoir

7. Minnesota

A duck decoy can be a major help during duck season.

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Anywhere you can have geese and puddle ducks dumping into your decoys, you'll have a great waterfowl hunting experience. As Minnesota is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," it goes without saying that it would be on this list.

Top Spots: Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, Rice Lake

6. Maryland

best duck hunting states

Getty Images, Bob Balestri

To have a nostalgic American dream turned real-life experience, look no further than hunting the eastern shore of Maryland with a well-trained duck dog. From public hunting in the interior to the venerable Chesapeake Bay, duck hunting in the Old Line State is on many waterfowler hunters' bucket lists.

Top Spots: Chesapeake Bay, Pocomoke River

5. North Dakota

best duck hunting states

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A hot bed of prairie pothole duck hunting, North Dakota offers some of the best wing shooting to be found anywhere. Even when the ice shows and the hunting gets more challenging, there's nothing better than setting up on a pothole the mallards have been using.

Top Spots: Devil's Lake, Sheyenne River, Missouri River

4. Mississippi

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It's called the "Mississippi Flyway: for a reason: In the Magnolia State, the waterfowl will practically land in your lap, from the Mississippi Delta to the thousands of acres of prime farmland.

Top Spots: Bogota Wildlife Management Area, Malmaison Wildlife Management Area

3. Illinois

best duck hunting states

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Illinois has droves of ducks navigating the Central Flyway. Pockets of water in every corner of the Prairie State give duck hunters a chance at some feathers, whether you hunt in flooded timber or a millet hole. 

Top Spots: Horseshoe Lake, Meredosia Lake

2. Arkansas

best duck hunting states

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Just an hour east of Little Rock, the city of Stuttgart, Arkansas has earned a reputation as "the duck capital of the world" for its world-famous mallard hunting. And it's not all the Natural State has to offer, with its prime location toward the end of the Mississippi Flyway. There are wildlife management areas all across the state that offer duck hunters top-notch opportunities to fill tags. 

Top Spots: Stuttgart, Bayou DeView Wildlife Management Area

1. Louisiana

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Arguable, Louisiana has the best duck hunting anywhere in North America between the Mississippi Delta, flooded timber, and the coastal wing-shooting. Duck season is like a holiday for residents in the Bayou State, which is home to pretty much every species of duck that a hunter could want to chase, such as pintails, gadwalls, wigeons, wood ducks, or canvasbacks. Oh, you'll find speckle bellies, snow geese, and Canada geese, too. Anyone can get their dream duck hunt in this state, from the public hunting opportunities in wildlife management areas, National Wildlife Refuges, and the many guide services available. It's easy to see why so many duck hunters return to Louisiana every season.

Top Spots: Atchafalaya Delta, Pearl River Wildlife Management Area

READ MORE: 4 Duck Hunting Hotbeds in the U.S.