The Question

Dear Ken,

I have hunted waterfowl my whole life, but lately they are becoming scarce. It seems as though opening day is the best of the hunting season and after that, I should just stop hunting. The waterfowl seem to go to areas that are protected (towns, parks, etc.). Do you have any tips on where to find ducks?

Edward Smith
Newfoundland & Labrador

The Answer

As a passionate waterfowler myself, I am all too familiar with times when birds seem to be scarce, and the traditional spots aren’t producing. By and large, Canada’s duck populations are doing very well, and 2011 was a particularly good year in many regions. That said, local habitat conditions or food availability can change annually, influencing when and where ducks move in the fall. Additionally, migratory corridors can change slightly over time, further adding to the challenge of locating birds.

Ducks can be sensitive to disturbance, particularly hunting, and clearly realize when they are in “safe” zones, such as parks, in town, etc. To find more undisturbed birds, you’re likely going to have to look further afield. I like to start with maps of the areas I hunt, looking for hidden or out-of-the-way wetlands that can hold birds. A little exploration in the weeks before the season opener often pays off. Another source of reliable information can be your provincial wildlife department or the local Canadian Wildlife Service office. Between them, they should have a pretty good idea of  key staging wetlands in your region—lakes that are important sources of food and rest for migrating ducks. The mallards and Canada geese will often fly out to field feed when agricultural crops are available, while the remainder of the ducks will generally find all of their food on the lakes themselves. If you can identify these key staging wetlands, which tend to be relatively large, you’ll again find that preseason scouting pays big dividends by identifying access points for hunting, and key use areas by ducks on the lake.

Local Wildlife Federation clubs are another good source of information–undoubtedly there are other waterfowlers in your area, and most are pretty good about passing along tips and ideas to fellow hunters. Try stopping in at one of their meetings and see what you can dig up.

Last of all, don’t give up. Locating game is one of the more rewarding challenges of hunting. When you do find a new duck hunting spot or two—and with persistence you will—your success will be that much sweeter.

Best of luck,

Ken