Here's a sampling of proven public hunting areas where you'll find some excellent gunning for ducks and geese this fall. (November 2008)
How good will the gunning be for ducks in New England this fall?
That depends on how productive eastern Canada's "duck factories" were last spring. This fall and winter, mallards, gadwalls, teal, widgeon and black ducks from Quebec and New Brunswick will be flying south through New England.
From 2006 to 2007, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there was a 14 percent increase in the Northeast's total duck population. In 2007, that population was estimated at a little over 41 million birds, compared to 36 million in 2006. Mallard and blue-winged teal populations both indexed at 14 percent above the previous year, while gadwalls and northern shovelers also topped the previous year's numbers by 19 percent and 24 percent, respectively. American widgeon numbers were 29 percent higher, and estimated abundances of green-winged teal, redheads, and canvasbacks also went up.
What does all this mean to waterfowl hunters in the Northeast?
More duck-hunting action in 2008 -- especially for hunters who are adept at calling and know how to set out a decoy spread!
The following public hunting areas should provide great shooting this season. Grab your steel shot and decoys, and let's go gunning!
Massachusetts' waterfowl hunting areas are divided into the Berkshire, Central and Coastal zones.
In the Berkshire Zone, try Fisk Meadows Wildlife Management Area near the town of Chesterfield. Expect this 580-acre area to have a gentle to moderate slope into the 100-acre meadows that form the headwater of Dead Branch Brook. Beavers have flooded the upper section, creating excellent waterfowl habitat.
To get there from the town of Chesterfield, travel east on Route 143.
In the Central Zone, the Barre Falls WMA in the towns of Hubbardston, Oakham, Barre and Rutland has over 10,500 acres of steep hillsides dropping to level fields and marshlands, where ducks will stop off on their journey south.
The Ware River and a number of other streams border the area. Along the Ware, there are three access sites where cartop boats and canoes may be launched.
To get there from the town of Barre, travel southeast on Route 122 to Coldbrook Springs, where there is a canoe launch area.
In the Coastal Zone, the Burrage Pond WMA offers 1,625 acres of open water, marsh, cedar and maple swamps and former cranberry bogs near the towns of Hanson and Halifax. Most locals know this area as Great Cedar Swamp.
To get there from the town of Witman, travel south on Route 27 to South Hansen and Pleasant Street, which crosses the railroad tracks and leads to a parking area.
The Bay State's 2008 season dates and bag limits will be posted on the MassWildlife Web site in September.
For more information, call MassWildlife at (508) 792-7270, or visit www.mass.gov/wildlife.com.
For visitor information, go to www.massvacation.com, or call 1-800-447-6277.
Maine's waterfowl seasons are divided into North and South zones. In the South Zone, the Bog Brook Flowage WMA covers 924 acres in the towns of Beddington and Deblois.
Expect the habitat to be impounded wetland and riparian buffer.
To get there from the town of Cherryfield, travel north on Route 193. Look for secondary roads on the right before you reach the Narraguagus River.
In the North Zone, try Dwinal Pond WMA, which covers 1,985 acres near the towns of Lee and Winn. More than 1,700 acres of this area is impounded freshwater marsh.
To get there from the town of Lee, travel Route 168 north to access the northern tract of this area.
Or to access the southern edge, travel east on Route 6.
Maine's North Zone season runs from early October through early December. The Southern Zone offers an early season in the month of October and a regular season from mid-November to late December.
A small-game license, plus state and federal migratory bird-hunting stamps are required for waterfowl hunting. Licenses and waterfowl stamps are available for purchase online.
For updated regulations, season dates and to purchase licenses and the various duck-hunting stamps, log on to www.mefishwildlife.com, or call (207) 287-8000. For visitor information, go to http://www.maine.gov/portal/travel/.
The Big River WMA's nearly 8,400 acres include wetland areas, ponds and the Big River, which meanders through the WMA.
To get there from the city of Warwick, travel west on Route 95, which cuts through Big River's northern section. Numerous secondary roads provide access to the area.
Waterfowl season details will be posted on the state Department of Environmental Management's Web site at www.state.ri.us/dem, or call (401) 789-0281.
The Ellis R. Hatch Jr. WMA in the towns of Brookfield, Middleton and New Durham has nearly 1,500 acres of mixed stands of hardwoods, hemlock and white pine.
It also has several ponds and streams that create a network of wetlands, including the 20-acre Jones Pond, which is a popular resting site for migrating ducks and geese.
To get there from the town of Farmington, travel north on Route 153 to Kings Highway, which abuts the WMA. There is limited parking off Kings Highway that provides access to Jones Pond. Farther inland is the Leonard WMA, which covers 900 acres with fields, marshland and stands of fir and hardwoods, including some beaver ponds.
To get there from Concord, travel northwest on Route 89 to Couchtown Road, which leads into the WMA.
In the towns of Enfield and Grafton is the 3,062-acre Enfield WMA, which contains hardwood forest along with marshlands, beaver ponds and numerous ponds ranging in size from nine acres up 96 acres.
Routes 4A and 89 border the areas.
The New Hampshire waterfowl season is divided into a Coastal Zone -- which runs from mid-November into January -- and an Inland Zone, which runs the first and last two weeks in November.
Daily bags limits varying according to species. For more details, visit www.wildlife.state.nh.us, or phone (603) 271-3211.
The Franklin Swamp WMA has about 700 acres of marshy wetlands fed by McCarthy Brook. Travel northwest from the city of Norwich on Route 32. The southern tip of Franklin Swamp is at the fork of Route 32 and Baltic Road.
A mix of hardwoods and floodplains best describes the 885-acre Kollar WMA, which abuts the Willimantic River. To get there, travel east from the city of Rockville on Route 84 to River Road or Babcock Road north of Route 84.
For season dates and bag limits, go to www.dep.state.ct.us, or call 1-860- 424-3011.
Some of the Green Mountain State's best waterfowl hunting is in the Champlain valley, as well as in the northeast part of the state along Lake Memphremagog and its tributary rivers. Two of those tributaries, the Willoughby and Barton rivers, form the western boundary of the 443-acre Willoughby Falls Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
The area features wetlands and beaver ponds that are popular feeding and loafing spots for wood and black ducks, mallards, teal, mergansers and Canada geese.
The WMA lies north of the village of Orleans. Travel north on Route 91 to Orleans and Maple Street, which skirts the eastern edge of the WMA.
In the Champlain valley, try the Fairfield Swamp WMA, a 1,376-acre tract in the town of Fairfield. This area has a large wetlands complex with adjoining upland cover. Hunters can expect to find wood and black ducks, mallards and mergansers.
The swamp may be accessed from the parking area east of the causeway on Route 36 in Fairfield, where there are a canoe launch and a wildlife viewing area.
Additional information may be found on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com, or call (802) 241-3700.
For tourism information, visit www.travel-vermont.com.