Mario Andretti said it best: “if you wait, all that happens is you get older.”
Back in the dark ages, when my dad was helping me unstick my 5-year-old’s rubber boots from too-deep marsh mud, hunters mostly hunted local, and let their dreams of hunting travel languish. How things have changed. These days, it seems like most fowling folk have been to Canada and are going back, while others cross borders to clobber neighbor state’s birds, or hop a flyway to witness their first goose tornado. Why? Because we can. Passion drives the thing. Traveling to hunt is no longer elitist. One of my favorite hunts last year was a Maine eider expedition, and the guys in camp were regular Joes with guns from DU banquets, and it was their second trip…during a recession! So I talked to Ramsey Russell, a biologist and international man of duck-hunting mystery, who brokers hunts all over the planet. We came up with a list of reasonably priced must-do hunts in the Americas.
Some of the best are close to home and should be: two of my other favorite hunts of the year took place in Arkansas, within driving distance of WILDFOWL‘s Illinois HQ. I’ll never forget snows sucking into our vast spread like foam packing peanuts whirling into a ceiling fan. Or shooting limits of specklebellies—over water! And just over the border in Alberta, we shot a half-dozen different subspecies of geese in one morning. This list is not a ranking and is by no means comprehensive—none of the spots I just mentioned are even on it. Chesapeake Bay isn’t, either. Though every waterfowler should make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the hunting on the Bay these days often falls short of epic. This list is merely a good start. Print out these pages, paste them on the fridge, circle a dream hunt or two and go tell your wife what you want for Christmas. You won’t have to twist her arm to go to Mexico. Whether it’s 37 species you seek or just great experiences, the only thing that happens if you wait, is you get older.
- An hour or so south of New Orleans is one of the coolest trophy duck games in town. “People think of canvasbacks, they think of Lake Sinclair and Pool 9, but let me tell you, there is not a better place on God’s green earth to shoot cans and pintails; it is the most amazing thing. You run south from Venice down the river an hour or two and branch off into the marsh, and from there you are in a pirot in one of the most imperiled duck habitats on the planet due to saltwater intrusion. It is guaranteed if they haven’t had a hurricane (which kills duck food with saltwater from flooding) and if it’s stable, you will kill a can and a pintail, then fill out on gaddies and teal. It’s unbelievable,” Russell says. Shoot your limit early and go chase redfish and speckled seatrout. Or in January, you can go offshore and hook tuna after hunting, and January is the best month for a plumed out drake can or pintail.
Ducks, Bucks & Dates
-- Pintails and canvasbacks
-- Starting at $200-$300 a day
-- Peak: January