Alberta Waterfowl Hunting

Alberta offers more than 5 million acres of public hunting

Alberta's diverse and plentiful wetland habitat fosters a strong waterfowl population.

Thousands of ducks and geese swirled over the pea field in an attempt to join the frenzy of fowl on the ground for an evening meal. The sight was breathtaking. My buddies and I had set up across the road on a 10-acre wetland with a dozen floating decoys bobbing in front of us. We used the natural vegetation to hide, and when the birds decided it was time for a drink, there was a steady stream of birds popped back and forth between our wetland and the pea field.

The shooting was nothing short of spectacular, and we filled our bag with mallards and pintails, and then added a few specklebellies and snow geese to round out the action. Interestingly, our hunt took place on a conservation property, open to anyone who would like to hunt. I've never seen anyone else hunt the spot, and it is reflective of the types of opportunities that still exist throughout Alberta.


Public Leases
Alberta is paradise for an avid waterfowl hunter. A vast array of habitat types support large numbers of nesting and migrating ducks and geese. From large boreal wetlands to critical staging lakes and marshland to the cattail ponds and prairie sloughs, Alberta has it all. Mallards might be the most-popular species to pursue, but gunning for canvasbacks, redheads, gadwalls, teal, wigeon and a host of arctic geese and locally raised Canadas is simply outstanding.


The most populous of Canada's three Prairie Provinces, Alberta covers about the same land area as Texas, with 661,848 square kilometers (255,541 square miles), and has a population of 3.7 million people. It is relatively young in North American terms, having become a province on Sept. 1, 1905, which helps explain the frontier mentality that still exists.

Being tied to the British Monarchy, Canada refers to government-owned lands as "crown land" or "public lands," of which it has many vast tracts. Similar to state-owned lands or Forest Service Lands, they are managed for a number of industrial, agricultural, recreational and conservation values. About 60 percent of Alberta is crown land, which includes large areas of boreal forest in the north and key holdings of native grasslands in the south.


Before Alberta became a province, grazing leases were created to help divide and eliminate conflicts amongst free-range grazers that operated in the west. About 5,700 grazing leases cover 5 million acres, or 5 percent, of Alberta's public lands, primarily in settled portions of the southern reaches of the province. These leases are only one of several forms of agricultural dispositions of Alberta's public lands, yet they account for nearly 10 percent of all agricultural land in Alberta. Individual lease sizes generally range from a section of 640 acres in central Alberta to almost three sections, or 1,920 acres, in southern Alberta grasslands. A significant amount of lease land features incredible areas of wetland, which equates to great waterfowling.


The 5 million acres of public land under agricultural lease are accessible to hunters, so if you wish to hunt on agricultural public land, go to the Government of Alberta Web site, Public Lands Division, click on Recreation on Agricultural Public Land (srd.alberta.ca/RecreationPublicUse/RecreationOnAgriculturalPublicLand.aspx) and explore the interactive map. You will find every lease in Alberta, with a list of conditions for access and information on any restrictions. It is a pretty good system that opens up millions of acres for hunting with maps, driving instructions and more.

Private Conservation and Access Guide
In the past two decades, conservation organizations in Alberta have secured significant amounts of critical and productive habitat. The Alberta Fish and Game Association, Alberta Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada have successful land acquisition programs that often work collectively to be more effective on the ground.

The AFGA and ACA have conservation mandates, but also recognize the importance of providing access for recreational hunting. As these organizations became more successful in acquiring lands, they started publishing Discover Alberta's Wild Side — Guide to Outdoor Adventure to share their acquired information with hunters. The guide -- which is also available online -- is updated every year, and the 2010-2011 issue is double the size of the original guide, packed with maps, photos, directions and information on wildlife species likely to be encountered on each property.

This year's guide includes ACA and AFGA properties, as well as those from DUC, with a total of 701 conservation sites, including the newly posted 302 projects from DUC. More than 400,000 listed acres are waiting to be explored. The hunt described earlier took place on one of these properties.

Navigating the Guide
Separated into 12 grids, the guide identifies each conservation site by a number on the map that corresponds to written information provided within the guide. For each site, details on habitat and wildlife, restrictions to access or activities, partners involved and the legal land location are listed.

Save time when planning your trip by visiting the Web site at ab-conservation.com. Click on Discover Alberta's Wild Side — Guide to Outdoor Adventure and search each conservation site. You can pinpoint locations using Google Maps, read property profiles and download driving directions.

Nature Conservancy Properties
The Nature Conservancy of Canada's mission is to conserve and care for the diversity of plants, animals and the lands and water we all depend on. Since 1962, the NCC has conserved more than 2 million acres across Canada. In Alberta, NCC has preserved more than 178,000 acres through land donation, purchase and conservation easements.

Many sportsmen might not know that on many of NCC's 200-plus properties in Alberta, public access for hiking, fishing and hunting is permitted with prior approval. On NCC-owned properties, signs located at main access locations and perimeter signs at the four corners of the property indicate access conditions, and NCC's contact number and Web site are included on the main property sign. Although access on NCC properties is limited to foot access only, and there are properties that have restrictions, key habitat parcels throughout the prairie, parkland and foothills means waterfowlers will be amazed at the opportunities.

If you are interested in accessing an NCC-owned property, call (877) 262-1253. NCC staff will provide with you with an Access Waiver Form to complete, sign and return. You will need to carry the permission letter, which you receive back from NCC, when using the property. In 2011-2012, NCC plans to i

nclude their properties in the Discover Alberta's Wild Side — Guide to Outdoor Adventure, which will then provide details for close to 1,000 conservation sites.

Easy Access
Alberta residents are blessed with incredible hunting access, but with no restrictions on non-resident hunters, opportunities exist for all hunters wanting to explore new ground.

With more than 5 million acres of crown lands and close to 600,000 acres of land secured through conservation organizations, more hunting is available than a waterfowl hunter could ever explore. With only 17,000 licensed waterfowl hunters in the province, plenty of wetlands offer unused hunting space.

Truth be known, most Alberta waterfowlers prefer to hunt on private land and target birds on agricultural fields, and accessing private lands is as simple as knocking on a landowner's door and asking for permission.

Alberta appears to be the last frontier still waiting to be explored. If you seek a dynamic waterfowling experience, the western prairie of Canada is waiting for you.

Brad Fenson is a wildlife habitat specialist from Edmonton, Alberta.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Craig Boddington and Eric Poole take a look at the new modern Franchi Affinity shotgun.

Arkansas Snow Geese

Arkansas Snow Geese

Wildfowl Editor Skip Knowles took this short video showing all the Snow Geese flying. Let's just say, he had a very good hunt!

Picking a Puppy

Picking a Puppy

Wildfowl contributor Mark Romanack shares advice about choosing your next retriever.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer.

Of course, it Boats

8 Best Mud Motors for 2016

David Hart - May 26, 2016

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer. Of course,...

Check out our picks for the best new waterfowl guns from the 2019 SHOT Show! Shotguns

Best New Waterfowl Shotguns for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 23, 2019

Check out our picks for the best new waterfowl guns from the 2019 SHOT Show!

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call. Calls

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during...

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways! Clothing & Waders

New SITKA Women's Waterfowl Lineup for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full...

See More Trending Articles

More North America

In Mississippi's impassioned greenhead culture, family and limits are the margins by which a successful season is measured. North America

Duck-Hunting Culture of the Mississippi Delta

Joe Genzel

In Mississippi's impassioned greenhead culture, family and limits are the margins by which a...

If you're a diehard waterfowler, Kaska Goose Lodge is the place for your next great adventure. North America

Experience It All at Manitoba's Kaska Goose Lodge

Online Staff

If you're a diehard waterfowler, Kaska Goose Lodge is the place for your next great adventure.

Reelfoot Lake is a great symbol of southern culture. Its bald cypress trees — the last standing North America

Southern Charmed at Reelfoot Lake

Joe Genzel - February 23, 2018

Reelfoot Lake is a great symbol of southern culture. Its bald cypress trees — the last...

Traveling to hunt waterfowl is no longer elitist and many of the best dream trips are surprisingly North America

10 Surprisingly Affordable Dream Waterfowl Trips

Skip Knowles - June 21, 2017

Traveling to hunt waterfowl is no longer elitist and many of the best dream trips are...

See More North America

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.