Here’s a look at where the best goose and duck hunting is located in the Buckeye State each fall.
As with the waterfowl that ride the weather, Ohio’s top duck and goose hunting action moves south with the season.
Wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese and other resident waterfowl provide steady hunting opportunities from opening day until weather or hunting pressure moves them along, but the best of the Buckeye State’s waterfowl hunting opportunities target the waves of birds that are migrating from points north.
These flocks stay ahead of each cold front, seeking open water for roosting and open grain fields for feeding. The southbound geese and ducks to our north often end up in the marshes of western Lake Erie, staging for an eventual push south and offering world-famous waterfowl hunting action in the meanwhile.
When weather prompts those migrants to make a move, the birds follow traditional flyways south across Ohio, including the Maumee, Scioto, Great Miami and Muskingum river watersheds.
When the weather is fickle and not too foreboding, the waterfowl may puddle-jump down the state, offering good shooting for weeks as the birds fly from open water to feeding areas and back with no need to move farther south to find open water.
Reverse migrations are not unheard of, where the birds are forced south by frigid weather earlier in the season, only to flock back north to the Lake Erie shoreline when the temperatures abate and the marshlands thaw.
In temperate years, the mass of ducks and geese may never make their way farther south than Ohio’s Great Lake, frustrating inland hunters but delighting those with leases or the savvy to set up at some of the wildlife areas along the coast that can offer excellent public hunting opportunities.
WESTERN LAKE ERIE
Those opportunities include Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, about 10 miles east of Toledo and a mile east of Bono off Bono Road north of SR 2. This is a popular November waterfowl hunting destination that remains productive until ice-up and is wide-open for walk-ins.
With 30 acres of land and 500 of marsh, it’s one of the most popular destinations for waterfowl and the hunters who pursue them on public land. To access most of Metzger’s best waterfowl honey-holes, a boat is required, which can be powered by outboards up to 10 horsepower.
Nine miles west of Sandusky on the shore of Lake Erie, Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area is another popular public hunting area for waterfowlers. Encompassing some 3,500 acres, much of it in marshland, “Pick Creek” provides some outstanding goose and duck habitat. All the areas are accessible by hunters donning chest waders and willing to do some slogging. However, according Jim Schott, wildlife area manager, a boat is handy to reach a few of the more distant zones. Lucky hunters are chosen during morning lotteries conducted at 5:15 and 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through the hunting season at the Pickerel Creek area headquarters, located at the end of county Road 256 off US Route 6.
Magee Marsh, about 17 miles west of Port Clinton along state Route 2, also offers select daily lottery hunts and some walk-in opportunities for duck and goose hunters as well, on 2,200 acres of marshland in Lucas and Ottawa counties.
The first two weeks of the season, controlled hunts are conducted. During the second split of the waterfowl season at Magee, explains Schott, morning drawings for walk-in hunting are conducted at 5:15 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Call Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area at 419-547-6007 to confirm the days and times of the drawings this season at that WLA; dial 419-898-0960 for Magee Marsh waterfowl hunting information. For maps and more information on waterfowl hunting opportunities at all Lake Erie area WLA’s, visit wildohio.gov.
NORTHEASTERN OHIO INLAND
WATERFOWL HUNTING DESTINATIONS
The central basin shoreline of Lake Erie hosts a similar waterfowl movement pattern, with migrating ducks and geese often congregating in open waters, bays and marshes on the Ohio shoreline. Until cold fronts drive the migrating birds south, some productive gunning for geese and ducks, especially divers, can take place. But the best action in Northeast Ohio comes when the waterfowl are forced to move south and occupy inland waters and farm fields.
Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area has a healthy population of resident ducks and plenty of local Canada geese, and serves as a primary stopover for migrating waterfowl winging their way south once the Lake Erie waters get a layer of ice. The 9,500-acre public hunting area is one of the most popular among good hunters, who enter pre-season lotteries to win the right to occupy blinds set up by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
The Trumbull County wildlife area offers walk-in opportunities as well, three days each week during the waterfowl hunting season, on select Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, when there are two drawings for half-day waterfowl hunts in 18 locations on the area.
The early drawing, which takes place about 5:15 a.m., offers hunters action from a half hour before sunrise through noon. An 11 a.m. drawing awards winners the option of hunting on those same spots from 1 p.m. until sunset.
The walk-in waterfowl hunting areas at Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area don’t include a pre-built blind, so hunters may move around to find natural cover or set up portable blinds from which to target the area’s ducks and geese.
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Most of the walk-in areas are adjacent to 7,850-acre Mosquito Creek Reservoir and offer pass shooting over a mix of marsh land and crop fields the geese use for loafing and feeding.
Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area is located along state Route 88 at Mecca and state Route 46, five miles northeast of Warren. Maps and more information about the public waterfowl hunting opportunities are available by calling the Mosquito Creek Waterfowl Management Area at 440-685-4776 or the District Three Wildlife office at 330-644-2293 or visiting wildohio.gov.
Hunters also can take advantage of more than 400 acres of marsh seasonally flooded specifically to attract and hold puddle ducks and Canada geese at Beach City.
Jointly owned by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) and the ODOW, Beach City Wildlife Area, with 1,300 acres in northwestern Tuscarawas County, is another popular stopover for migrating waterfowl in northeastern Ohio and is known for offering excellent opportunities.
That’s especially true for diving ducks, as the wildlife area includes the open waters of the flood control reservoir which often hosts rafts of ducks as they migrate south.
Beach City Wildlife Area is west of SR 93, south of US Route 250 a mile south of the town of Beach City. For a map and more information about waterfowl hunting on the area, call the District Three wildlife office at 330-644-2293 or the MWCD headquarters office at 330-343-6647.
Shenango Wildlife Area near Kinsman follows Pymatuning Creek and offers some 5,000 acres of prime duck and goose hunting opportunities. Located about 20 miles north of Youngstown, Shenango is accessible via state Route 7, but you may need waders or a boat to get back to the best waterfowl hunting “holes” on Shenango.
Hunting regulars realize the effort is worth it for how good the shooting can be in these remote pockets of open water.
Many hunters launch their boats right along the side of the road at bridges that cross Pymatuning Creek like those along state and township routes 88, 252, and 87, which are shown on the wildlife area map.
A map of Shenango is available at the wildlife area headquarters at 8303 North Park Avenue, just south of US 87 near North Bloomfield. You’ll need it, or some study of Google Maps, to lead you to the best off-the-beaten-path public hunting opportunities the areas have to offer.
Maps of Mosquito Creek, Beach City and Shenango wildlife areas, showing the best wetlands for waterfowl hunting and where to park, are available from the ODOW District Three office in Akron by calling 330-644-2293 and at wildohio.gov.
NORTHWESTERN OHIO INLAND WATERFOWL HUNTING DESTINATIONS
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area is a famous stopover for migrating ducks and geese flying south from Lake Erie. Located a couple of miles southwest of Harpster in southern Wyandot and northern Marion counties, Killdeer offers an 8,600-acre waterfowl refuge that attracts migrating ducks and geese and supports a large population of resident geese.
Killdeer offers controlled waterfowl hunts and some walk-in opportunities. Hunters here mostly see mallards, as well as early season migrations of wood ducks and greenwing teal, with some pintail and gadwalls and plenty of Canada geese.
To the south, 5,700-acre Big Island Wildlife Area attracts migrating waterfowl as well, which pick up the Scioto River flyway system that begins in the area.
“Big I” is located five miles west of Marion along SR 95 and its tanks of flooded marshland get significant pressure from waterfowl hunters who flock to the area on alternating mornings to take advantage of some of the region’s best action on ducks and geese.
For maps of Killdeer and Big Island wildlife areas, as well as information about the days each are open to walk-in hunting, call the ODOW District Two offices at 419-424-5000 or visit wildohio.gov.
SOUTHERN OHIO INLAND WATERFOWL HUNTING DESTINATIONS
Some of the best duck and goose hunting in southwestern Ohio is found on rivers. Many rivers remain clear of ice and attractive to waterfowl when area lakes and ponds are ice covered and unavailable to waterfowl seeking a place to loaf and feed.
The Great Miami River can be productive to float and hunt for ducks and the occasional goose. Waterfowlers may launch their boats at several public ramps in riverfront towns upstream of Dayton, including Sydney, Piqua, Troy, and Tipp City.
South of Dayton, a popular public launch area for waterfowl hunters is located at the SR 73 bridge just east of Trenton, owned by the Miami Conservancy District. When float hunting make sure you follow the local laws regarding discharging of a firearm while atop the waters of the Great Miami — or any other river in Ohio that flows through urban areas.
In addition to area rivers and streams, most state parks that include lakes managed by the Army Corps of Engineers allow waterfowl hunting from boats or portable shore blinds on a walk-in basis as well as the blind locations awarded by lottery, according to Brett Beatty, wildlife management supervisor for Wildlife District Five.
These include Caesar Creek State Park, East Fork State Park, Paint Creek State Park and Buck Creek State Park. In addition to those Army Corps-managed lakes, said Beatty, Acton Lake in Hueston Woods State Park, Lake Loramie State Park and Grand Lake St. Marys also offer waterfowl hunting opportunities, including blinds sites awarded by lottery back in August, as well as walk-in hunting. Clark Wildlife Area and Spring Valley wildlife area also offer drawings for blinds and walk in waterfowl hunting, Beatty adds.
For more information on access areas and hunters’ rights on waters in southwest Ohio, as well as maps of public hunting areas, contact the ODOW District Five office in Xenia at 937-372-9261 or visit wildohio.gov. For details on state park waterfowl hunting areas and dates, call the park directly or visit parks.ohiodnr.gov.
The Scioto River offers productive drift hunting for waterfowl in South-Central Ohio. Hunters launch or load where state routes 665, 762, 752, and 361 cross the Scioto south of Columbus and either float and jump shoot or set up along the shore to decoy late-season ducks and geese. To the east, the Muskingum River hosts its share of waterfowl and is often overlooked by all but a handful of hunters who realize the river’s potential.
They launch boats at ramps available at most of the lock and dams along the Muskingum’s route south of Zanesville to where it enters the Ohio at Marietta. A map of the Muskingum River Parkway State Park showing all the access areas is available by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE, visiting parks.ohiodnr.gov or at wildohio.gov.
South of Zanesville, the AEP ReCreation Lands include hundreds of lakes and ponds that hold ducks and geese on some 37,000 acres of property across Noble, Morgan, Guernsey and Muskingum counties.
Located between McConnelsville to the west and Caldwell to the east along both sides of SR 78, the reclaimed mining lands are open to hunting, fishing and camping to holders of a free permit, which can be obtained by calling the AEP offices at 740-962-1208.
Unfortunately, as of press time these lands were up for sale with no word on whether the ODNR is in a position to purchase them and keep them open to the public.
Until then, the AEP lands are wide open to hunting, and like most public hunting areas across Ohio that include any water features, are likely to harbor huntable populations of migrating waterfowl.