Green. It’s what true duck hunting fanatics crave…as in drake mallards. And there are so many locales across the four flyways to pursue a limit of our most beloved bird. So I’ll save the clichés of locked wings and feet down and get right to it. These are the 5 best states to snag a strap full of mallards.
The Grand Prairie is still king when it comes to killing green. In fact, Arkansas Game & Fish reported over a half-million mallards being harvested in 2015. The next closest state? Missouri, more than 250,000 birds behind. The vaunted flooded timber in Bayou Meto is the pinnacle for greenhead fanatics. But you can shoot plenty of mallards in rice fields and oxbows here as well. Your problem is going to be access. They put a stop to the boat races at Meto (at least in theory) for coveted duck hunting holes, but if you’re an out-of-stater on first-come, first-serve public land, it’s going to be tough. It’s best to go with an outfitter, but as always, do your own vetting before booking a trip. Mossberg contributing writer and producer, Jason Cruise, shares some tips on how to choose duck hunting outfitters here.
Yes, Arkansas is the pantheon of greenheads, but what I like about Missouri is a ton of the birds that will feast on Razorback rice and acorns are funneling through Mizzou. And you can actually get on some pretty darn good mallard shoots for next to nothing. Check out the public access at Swan Lake, Grand Pass, Fountain Grove and Four Rivers. It’s a bundle of work for someone who has never gone to these places, so your best bet is to start doing some research now. The best time to hit north-central Missouri for duck hunting is the month of December. Before that, you’re going to be chasing a lot of teal and gadwall on moist soil impoundments.
The wads of drakes in this state are nothing short of spectacular. I’ve been to Kansas the past two years and had two killer greenhead shoots (we chased geese the rest of the time). You don’t even have to pick out drakes, because they’re all green tops. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but in my duck hunting experience, you would have to try darn hard to pick out a brown duck in Kansas. More and more of this state is getting locked up by leases, but there’s still a chance to get on private land with a door knock and a smile. Look south of Kansas City all the way west past Wichita. There are some prime areas out there, including Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
Alright you caught me, I’m a little biased of the Mississippi and Central Flyways, but there are piles of mallards in here folks. Oklahoma hasn’t been let out of the bag quite yet. Yes, core duck hunters and outfitters who get to travel all over North America know it’s an awesome state for greenheads. But there’s still time to get in on the ground floor before the public parking lots start filling up with out-of-state license plates. Prime time is in January, and I hope to God when you go that the water tanks in the cattle pastures are still open, because that is some of the most fun shotgun shooting you will ever experience in the U.S. Take a look at the northeast corner of the state just south of Arkansas City, Kansas. There are some prime hunts to be had around that region.
Okay, get over it, I’m telling you a place known for its potatoes is a mallard mecca. Yes indeed, the Snake River is a duck hunter’s dream. Fat greenheads come bombing down off the cliffs into the spreads below, and once they commit…ooohhhh baby, is it ugly. They can’t get out of there. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen, unless of course you grew up hunting the Snake. It’s a different kind of duck hunting, and that’s why I like it—and you will too.
Best of the Rest
In an effort to curtail the angry emails I’ll receive from some of you passionate mallard men and women, here are a few more greenhead hotspots that didn’t make the big list.
Nebraska’s North Platte River:
Wide and shallow, the Platte is sick right around Thanksgiving as red-legged mallards migrate en masse.
Washington’s Columbia River Basin:
It’s one of the most underrated regions in the country to kill mallards, and you can shoot seven of them.
Devil’s Lake is legendary, but there is a ton of public land all over this state. If it’s not posted you can hunt it, and it’s in the Prairie Pothole Region, so it’s a no-brainer.
Last I checked they kill a few birds here, some of them are even mallards. The food alone will make your trip from boudin to shrimp stew. Eat, shoot, be merry.
Famed Beaver Dam near Tunica is a must see, and if it’s a dry fall and the birds are condensed it can mean quick limits followed by breakfast at the Blue & White Restaurant.
Joe Genzel has been a writer and editor for over 15 years. He grew up chasing mallards and Canada geese on the Illinois River with his father and continues to pursue his passion for the birds as the associate editor of Wildfowl and Gun Dog Magazines.