Pintail ducks

Hunting the Mississippi Flyway

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When hunting the Mississippi Flyway is brought up in conversation, often the avid duck hunters mind floats to images related directly to Stuttgart, Arkansas.  Stuttgart is the self-proclaimed duck hunting capital of the world, where the Mack’s Prairie Wing's mallard is cupped up waiting to land in an almost always busy parking lot.  The surrounding rice fields and flooded timber offer some of the best that duck hunting has to offer, but there is more to the Mississippi flyway than Stuttgart. 

The Mississippi Flyway consists of several states. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin make up the U.S. portion of the flyway.  It also includes the Provinces of Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Manitoba in Canada.  Some of the best waterfowl hunting in the world can be found in flyway if you know where to look. 

The best way to examine the Mississippi Flyway is to start from the North and make your way down south, the same way in which the ducks migrate.  Starting in Canada, ducks and geese make the treacherous journey from the fertile nesting grounds in Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan towards the continental United States.  

The Canadian Experience

There is something special about hunting in Canada, starting at the beginning of the migration offers unlimited opportunities to the duck hunter that is willing to travel.  It is hard to go wrong in any of these provinces, but Saskatchewan offers some the best Mallard and pintail hunting in the world September through October.  Much of the land is managed by Ducks Unlimited and provides the hunter with a world-class experience that is hard to match. 

Before traveling to Canada, it is important to break out some warmer clothing before the hunt.  The temperatures can dip below freezing in the early morning, but generally, work themselves back up into the mid 50’s by the afternoon.  Another thing to consider before flying to Canada is checking the local rules and regulations for taking a firearm into another country.  It is always smart to call ahead and check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to see what is necessary to take your firearm abroad. To fly with a firearm, you must have your firearm in a locked gun case.  TSA and the airport security will inspect the case to ensure that it meets all the regulations required to fly.  If Canada is a little too far, there are several excellent options within the United States.

Arkansas

The Mecca for duck hunters is Stuttgart, Arkansas.  While the duck hunting in Stuttgart is top notch, Arkansas offers premier duck hunting throughout the state.  Some of the best duck hunts in Arkansas can be found on  public hunting land.  The rice fields and the flooded timber provide ducks with the perfect habitat for their migration south.  It is difficult to have a bad hunt in Arkansas, and any route that you choose should provide excellent opportunities to limit out on green heads.

Mississippi

The Mississippi delta provides ducks with an abundance of food and habitat for them to thrive in.  The hardwood cypress bottoms of the Mississippi Delta have many public and private hunting opportunities.  Sitting back in the flooded timber watching the mallards work a spread and drop in from the heavens is one of those experiences an avid waterfowl hunter never forgets. 

To find this experience a hunter can go one of two routes, they can enjoy a guided duck hunt, or they hunt on the 1.6 million acres of public land.  If you lack a boat with a mud motor, you may want to try a guided duck hunt first.  There are several top-notch outfitters in Mississippi that offer reasonable rates for a guided duck hunt.  If you have a mud motor or want to walk back, it is recommended to get set up early.  Most hunters are likely to go to the honey holes well before the sun comes up.

Missouri

Missouri offers excellent duck hunting, but they also provide top notch late snow goose hunts.  Hunting snow geese is an experience on its own.  The law allows for an unplugged shotgun, no limits, and nonstop action.  The snow goose hunting in Missouri helps to extend the waterfowl season beyond the normal limit.  The Light Goose Conservation Order runs from February 7th until April 30th.  This is well past normal duck season which generally ends around January 31st.

Snow goose hunting requires hundreds of decoys and electronic calls.  It is best to do snow goose hunting through a licensed guide service.  They will have the background knowledge of where the snow geese have been and what fields they are feeding in.  There are several guides in Missouri that offer affordable rates for snow goose hunts and regular duck season hunts as well.

Gear

If you are planning to hunt the Mississippi flyway and experience the different hunts that are offered you are going to need to get the best gear.  Starting off, many of the hunts you will find in this flyway will require waders.  A good pair of waders can range from $250 - $300.  Once you have waders you will also need a shotgun; a decent shotgun can set you back anywhere from $500 for the pump action models to over $1000 for an expensive semi-auto shotgun.

Also investing in some nice decoys is always a plus.  Usually, they cost anywhere from $50 up to $150.  Most of the time though you won’t need to provide decoys if you are going to hunt with a guide service.  They will provide the decoys for the hunt. All the shooting you will be doing its also important to have quality gun cleaning equipment.  Good weapons maintenance is essential for hunting.  Ensuring your shotgun is properly cleaned will help you make the necessary shots when they present themselves to you.

Conclusion

Some of the best hunting opportunities in the world are in the Mississippi Flyway.  Whether you hunt the public or private land, your chances of having a successful hunt are high.  All hunters should take the time to experience the different hunting habitats that the Mississippi flyway offers. From hunting the tundras of Canada to the flooded rice fields in Arkansas or the cypress hardwood bottoms of Mississippi, there is something for all hunters regardless of skill to hunt.

Follow Jay Parks:
Jay Parks is an avid duck hunter and Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan.

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