Experts Pick Hottest Waterfowl Spots in America

Experts Pick Hottest Waterfowl Spots in America

We asked veteran waterfowlers across the country to pick the top hot spots from flyway to flyway. (Photo courtesy of Tony Vandemore)

We asked veteran waterfowlers across this great country to pick the top locations for productive and unique waterfowl hunts. We got more than we asked for and a fascinating look at the classic and upcoming waterfowl destinations.

Pacific Flyway | Bill Saunders

Bill Saunders Calls & Gear / billsaunderscalls.com

“Saunders”
(Photo courtesy of Bill Saunders)

Born in Colorado and raised in Wisconsin by walleye fishermen until moving with his family to Idaho and most recently to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State, Bill Saunders is an institution not only throughout the Pacific Flyway, but across the nation as well. Now 46, Saunders began building waterfowl calls in ’99 and entered his first calling competition, best he can recall, around 2001. Since that time and during the half dozen years he competed professionally, Saunders entered — and won — prestigious contests from coast to coast. Today, Saunders continues to produce high-quality calls, including his best-seller and personal favorite, the nationally recognized Traffic short reed. His Big Guns Waterfowl Outfitters keeps him busy from mid-October through late January; after that, as he’ll tell you, he’s gone (walleye) fishing!

Saunders’ Best Bets
  • Columbia Basin, Washington – With year-round open water, including the Columbia, Snake, Yakima and Walla Walla rivers and cropland as far as the eye can see, the Basin holds hundreds of thousands of puddlers and divers at the peak of the migration. Diver-duck enthusiasts will find plenty of cans, redheads and bluebills; dabblers include mallards, sprig (pintails), wigeon, teal and gadwall. Choose to hunt one of many great public access areas, or hunt with a pro guide.
  • Willamette Valley, Oregon – Incredible numbers of Canada geese, seven subspecies in all, winter in The Beaver State’s Willamette Valley. Sauvies Island, a traditional waterfowler’s haunt, is here, too.
  • Treasure Valley, Idaho – A “hidden gem,” says Saunders, with nearly infinite public opportunities situated along the Snake, Boise and Payette rivers. You’ll find moderate hunting pressure, and lots of birds, especially during the late season.

Central Flyway | Drew Palmer

Owner, Mile North Outdoor Company / Milenorthoutdoors.com

“Palmer”
(Photo courtesy of Drew Palmer)

Drew Palmer first started duck hunting with his family in Kansas pretty much as soon as he was old enough, about 5 or 6 years, to safely hold and shoot a .410 shotgun. These days he owns and operates the Mile North Outdoor Company, which he started as a freshman in college to help local small businesses with digital marketing on social media platforms. Today the company’s many facets include developing social media accounts for national brands, a branding and marketing studio and managing recreational properties for landowners in the area. Palmer is involved with photography, videography and editorial content production, and his extensive travels have taken him from Canada to Texas on projects related to hunting waterfowl, turkey and big game. He’s been lucky enough to hunt a wide variety of incredible and unique waterfowl hunting areas, but to this day Kansas still remains his favorite.

Palmer’s Best Bets
  • Flint Hills, Kansas – Hunt with the guys at Kansas Hurt Locker in the Central Flyway, Palmer recommends. “They run a hand-picked client list and have hundreds of miles of territory to cover in the Flint Hills of Kansas,” he says. “They’ve developed a system for killing little geese that puts most snow goose hunters to shame — big spreads and huge decoying flocks of Lesser Canadas and specks to inside 20 yards, not sky busting into big wads with 15 guns flock shooting. [It’s] a big difference.” He calls it “an honest operation with no fluff” ... or egos.
  • Northern Oklahoma – Bag big numbers of mallards on small cow ponds or during evening bean-field shoots with the folks at Red Rock Outdoors. The area hosts one of the last big winter concentrations of hard-migrating mallards, with big bunches of mostly greenheads. He calls head guide Blake Toews a “mallard madman” with a great grasp of migration tendencies and connections with a number of local landowners.
  • Quanah, Texas – Hunt a mixed bag with Tornado Country Outfitters out of Quanah. “They are the Wild West in a bottle,” Palmer says, and offer diverse hunting for crane, little geese, mallards and bonus pintails. He says “big smiles and big piles ... ” are normal for these trips.

Central-Mississippi Flyway | Tony Vandemore

Owner, Habitat Flats / Habitatflats.com

“Vandemore”
(Photo courtesy of Tony Vandemore)

To countless millennials all across the nation, the name Tony Vandemore is as synonymous with waterfowl hunting as the seventh-inning stretch is with baseball. Originally from Illinois, Vandemore currently — as he has for several years — makes his full-time home in Sumner, Missouri, part of the famed Golden Triangle located in the central portion of the Show Me State. A one-time pitcher for the San Diego Padres farm team, Vandemore built his reputation some 20 years ago on the backs of hundreds of thousands of snow geese. Today, his Habitat Flats hunting operation, now with lodges in Saskatchewan and Arkansas, takes up the vast majority of his time. He is a very talented photographer in addition to being an exceptional “fowler.” Vandemore is joined at home by his wife, Kate, and their two daughters, Vivian and Victoria.


Vandemore’s Best Bets
  • Northern Missouri – “There’s no place like home,” Vandemore says, with no shortage of pride evident. With intensively managed public and private areas, staggering numbers of ducks (and geese) make the stopover here in the Golden Triangle. A variety of habitats — including flooded fields, moist-soil marshes and buckbrush sloughs — does nothing but increase the opportunities, as have the recent mild winters, allowing both ducks and geese to stage in the region longer before continuing their southward migration.
  • North Dakota – “With a little windshield time and some door knocking,” Vandemore says, “North Dakota still offers plenty of [opportunity] to get off the beaten path and enjoy the prairie, while meeting some great people along the way.”
  • Arkansas– While Stuttgart claims to be the duck capital of the world, it’s not just about mallards anymore. Exceptional snow goose and specklebelly (white-fronted goose) hunting can be found across much of the Natural State.

Atlantic Flyway ­| Sean Mann

Sean Mann Outdoors / Seanmann.com

“Mann”
(Photo courtesy of Sean Mann)

Sean Mann grew up in Chesapeake Bay Country on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Mann began guiding waterfowl hunters in 1976, making goose calls in ’84, and won his first World Goose Calling Championship in ’85. In ’95, Sean became the first-ever World Goose Calling Champion of Champions. To date, his Eastern Shoreman World Champion Goose Call has won more World Championships than any other call. Mann’s guiding has taken him from coast to coast in the U.S., and from Canada to Mexico. He currently resides on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, guiding waterfowl hunters and making calls.


Mann’s Best Bets
  • Kent County, Maryland – Kent County has more huntable agricultural land than any other place in the Atlantic Flyway. It’s perfectly situated near the famed Chesapeake Bay and has several large rivers and creeks that serve as roosts for a variety of waterfowl. Canada geese reign supreme here; however, there are plenty of puddlers and divers available, including mallards, pintails, wigeon, bluebills and the king himself, the canvasback.
  • Susquehanna Flats at Havre de Grace, Maryland – “Body booting” with the Jobes family should be on every serious waterfowler’s bucket list, as should a visit to each of the brothers’ decoy shops.
  • Chesapeake Bay, Maryland – A sea duck hunt with Captain Jeff Coats of Pitboss Waterfowl makes the (East Coast) experience. He carves and hunts over his own decoys and makes some of the best Maryland crab soup ever.

Recommended for You

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it. Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of defense is insect repellent with DEET to keep chiggers at bay. But when you do get a few chigger bites, use Chigarid to treat them. Hunting How-To

How to Treat Chigger Bites

Lynn Burkhead

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of...

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat. Guns

MidwayUSA Pro Series Shooting Mat

G&F Staff

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

See More Stories

More Waterfowl

Put the odds of tagging a big buck inSouth Carolina by hunting this four-county area. Waterfowl

Ground Zero: South Carolina's Record Bucks

Terry Madewell - February 14, 2019

Put the odds of tagging a big buck inSouth Carolina by hunting this four-county area.

It can be frustrating when a dog just can't be guided to a downed bird, which is why you need to try to see things from its point of view. Waterfowl

Waterfowl Lessons From a Hunt Dog's Perspective

Tom Dokken - November 23, 2018

It can be frustrating when a dog just can't be guided to a downed bird, which is why you need...

From waterfowl to upland, check out these shotguns for bird hunting. Guns

Find Your Next Bird Gun Here

September 03, 2019

From waterfowl to upland, check out these shotguns for bird hunting.

See More Waterfowl

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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