Our Best Northeast Region Waterfowl Hunts

Our Best Northeast Region Waterfowl Hunts

Excellent duck and goose hunting awaits Buckeye State hunters in northeastern Ohio. Here's the lowdown on where to find some great waterfowl shooting on public land this month.

By Greg Keefer

Northeast Ohio waterfowlers will find plenty of action as migrating geese and ducks arrive in the Buckeye State this fall.

Here's where to go for some of northeast Ohio's best bets for waterfowl this season.



"Wildlife areas in District Three can produce some great waterfowl hunting opportunities," said Geoff Westerfield, a wildlife research technician in District Three. For his first example, he offered Killbuck Marsh WA.

"Killbuck Marsh in Holmes and Wayne counties is an excellent choice for waterfowl hunting," said Westerfield. The area covers 5,492 acres and consists of ideal waterfowl habitat, most of which is flooded throughout the year. A large section of Killbuck is marshy or water-covered; Killbuck Creek flows right through the middle of it.

Killbuck is the largest remaining wetland in Ohio outside of the Lake Erie region. A no-hunting restriction on the area's wildlife refuge covers a section inside Killbuck Marsh bordered by Harrison Road on the south and Force Road on the north.

Wood ducks and Canadas top the list of birds available in the fall, followed by blue-winged teal and mallards. A wood duck nesting program adds about 4,000 ducks a year to the available population. A few years ago, Ducks Unlimited cooperated with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife to create Wright's Marsh, a 350-acre diked wetland off state Route 226. This area attracts ducks and geese drawn to the flooded emergent vegetation.

Another recent addition south of Killbuck is the 151-acre Lower Killbuck WA in Holmes County; generally mucky, it's known to draw waterfowl during wet weather.

Killbuck Marsh can be accessed from state routes 83 and 226. Several township and county roads provide access to the area and include Paint Valley, Force, Harrison, Valley and Kimber roads. Parking lots are scattered around the area. Small boats can be launched for a float trip from the bridges crossing Killbuck Creek.

The area is 55 miles from Cleveland, 35 miles from Akron, 80 miles from Columbus and 55 miles from Cleveland.

For more information and details on special regulations in effect, contact the Killbuck Marsh WA office at (330) 567-3390 or the District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

Photo by Tom Migdalski


The Mosquito Creek WA in Trumbull County, primarily a wildlife refuge and waterfowl management area, is another of Westerfield's top picks. Nearly 1,000 acres are open to waterfowl hunters, most of which is off of state Route 87 and includes several ponds. Over 300 acres of wetlands and nearby grain fields draw Canada geese in November. Much of the waterfowl area is under water, and a boat is needed to access it, but good walk-in opportunities are available along the shoreline between the buoy line on the lake and the town of Cortland. According to Westerfield, peak fall populations of Canadas have reached 13,000. The resident population has become well established due to a protected nesting area.

Wood ducks have also been courted at Mosquito Creek by placing wooden nesting boxes in marsh areas. Woodies are the most common ducks in the area, followed by teal, scaup and black ducks.

Hunters have done well on the newest section of the wildlife area west of the Penn Central Railroad tracks. According to Westerfield, there is good hunting to be had on the wetlands in this area.

Mosquito Creek WA covers 9,515 acres five miles south of Colebrook where state routes 46 and 87 intersect. The area is accessed by state Route 87 on the north, state Route 88 on the south, state Route 45 on the west and state Route 46 on the east. It borders the northern section of 7,850-acre Mosquito Creek State Park.

The area is 45 miles from Cleveland and Akron.

The areas wetlands are completely flooded, so there's plenty of room to set decoys.

There is ample parking throughout the area and small boats can be launched from the developed ramp on township Road 240.

Waterfowl hunting is allowed by special permit on the wildlife area and in some sections of the state park. Check for details on the daily drawing and on the availability of provided blinds and goose decoys.

The Mosquito Creek WA office can be reached at (440) 685-4776. The Mosquito Lake State Park office is at (330) 637-2856.

For additional information, contact the DOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2283.


The 462-acre Auburn Marsh WA is another top pick of Westerfield's for District Three waterfowl hunting.

"The smaller wildlife areas are often overlooked for waterfowling opportunities," said Westerfield.

Auburn Marsh is a natural wetland area because of poor drainage and the activities of beavers. Hunting success has improved in recent years but goes on a year-by-year basis.

Westerfield recommends scouting the area to see if the water level is up, which normally happens when beavers have dammed the creek. Poor soil drainage has resulted in sections of permanent wetlands, which attract plenty of migrant ducks and geese.

Auburn Marsh is on the east side of Auburn Road a half-mile north of Auburn Corners on Washington Road. From state Route 44, travel a mile west on Stafford Road to the area. Auburn Marsh is in Geauga County 25 miles from Cleveland, Painesville and Kent.

Parking is somewhat limited at Auburn Marsh. Lots are provided on Stafford Road, which borders the wildlife area to the north, Auburn Road which borders the west side, and on Messenger Road on the east side.

A map and more information can be obtained by calling District Three at (330) 644-2293.


"A sometimes overlooked area is Shenango Wildlife Area in Trumbull County," said Westerfield. "It can be a great place to find ducks, especially if the creek is flooding. It's good for mallards and wood ducks earl

y on."

This 4,845-acre area has several areas of wetlands with the Pymatuning Creek flowing through the middle of it. An exceptional marsh is north of state Route 87 along the creek.

In Trumbull County, 22 miles north of Youngstown, the area extends from Orangeville northwest along Pymatuning Creek, nearly to the Ashtabula County line. Most of the area is paralleled by state Route 7 on the west and Orangeville-Kinsman Road on the east, and is intersected by state Route 88. Numerous secondary roads also provide access to the area.

Goose hunters typically do well setting up blinds near the grain fields in the area, while duck hunters take birds while floating down the creek in canoes or small boats.

Local hunters often take advantage of the float opportunities, launching at bridges where township roads 87, 88 and 252 cross Pymatuning Creek. Decoy spreads can also produce in this area.

Additional information may be obtained from the District Three office at (330) 644-2293.


With bogs and wetlands that attract woodies, mallards, geese and the occasional teal and black duck, Grand River WA is an excellent waterfowl destination. Covering 6,993 acres, over 600 of which are wetlands, it winds along the Grand River, and so affords the option of a float trip. The area's wetlands are interspersed with creeks and are ideal for the thousands of geese and ducks that visit the area every year.

The Greentree Marsh is a major hotspot for waterfowl hunters. This marsh lies north of state Route 88 on wildlife area's east side can be accessed by township Road 236.

Dillon Pond is another popular stopover for migrants and provides productive jump-shooting opportunities in the northeastern section of the wildlife area. Dillon Pond is accessed off of township Road 304.

The Grand River WA is in Trumbull County and is accessible from state routes 88 and 534 via several secondary roads. The wildlife area is a mile north of the junction of state routes 88 and 534.

Several parking areas accommodate hunters, most of who hunt above state Route 88.

For a map and information, contact the Grand River WA office at (330) 889-3280 or District Three at (330) 644-2293.


"Highland Wildlife Area can be good for mallards and wood ducks early on," said Westerfield, who recommends targeting the low-lying pockets of wetlands. Highlandtown is eight miles south of Lisbon and three miles northeast of Salineville in Columbiana County. The area is accessed by state routes 39 and 164. It covers 2,265 acres, encompassing 170-acre Highlandtown Lake.

Almost 20 parking areas are provided throughout the area for hunters frequenting the manmade and beaver ponds. Setting up near the various ponds for jump-shooting is recommended.

Highlandtown WA is 93 miles from Cleveland, 37 miles from Canton and 30 miles from Steubenville.

Westerfield recommends using either a dog or a small boat, since most of the area is open water.

Additional information and a map of the wildlife area can be obtained by contacting the District Three office at (330) 644-2293.


Berlin Lake WA covers over 8,500 acres in Portage, Mahoning and Stark counties with nearly 5,000 acres open to public hunting. A lot of wildlife management activity goes on at Berlin Lake, much of which benefits waterfowl. Crop rotations, open fields improved for nesting and grain food plots all attract migrating birds. The ponds and beaver marshes already provide excellent habitat for ducks and geese, and as biologists continue to work on additional habitat improvements, waterfowlers can expect increased success rates.

"Early-season waterfowl hunting can be productive," said Westerfield. He recommends targeting Berlin Lake's small coves for sheltered birds. As the lake is drawn down for the winter, he notes, mid- to late-season hunting on the lake is not as productive as that in the early part of the season.

A half-mile-long marsh is on the east side of state Route 225 between township Road 53 and W. Reserve Road.

The central section of Berlin Lake WA can be reached from state Route 14, the eastern portion from U.S. Route 224 and the western part from state Route 225. Berlin Lake WA is only 30 miles from Akron.

Waterfowlers have access to the water from boat launches on the Deer Creek Reservoir section off township Road 3; on township Road 57, along Berlin Lake's south shore off West Reserve Road; on township Road 14, and at the DOW's Area headquarters off county Road 75.

Plenty of parking is available.

More information and an area map may be obtained from the Berlin Lake WA office at (330) 654-2392 or from District Three in Akron at (330) 644-2293.


Sugar Creek meanders through Beach City WA, another often overlooked waterfowl hotspot. Over 400 acres of marshland are featured in this 1,912-acre Tuscarawas County public site.

Beach City is an area where a dog and a boat can come in handy. Much of the area is open water, according to Westerfield.

Beach City WA is on state Route 93 about a mile south of Beach City. U.S. Route 250 intersects the area along with various secondary roads.

Parking areas are found on county Road 96 and on the access road off county Road 96 north of county Road 94.

Contact District Three at (330) 644-2293 for additional information and a map.


Pickerel Creek is on Sandusky Bay and covers 2,814 acres west of the District Three boundary and a great place for northeastern Ohio waterfowlers.

"It's a great area," said Tim Plageman, wildlife management supervisor for District Two and an avid duck hunter. "The hotspots are always Sandusky Bay and the Lake Erie marshes."

According to Plageman, the area's wetlands are a natural staging area for both ducks and geese as they begin their southward trek through Ohio. To imitate this natural ebb and flow of water over low-lying marshes, the DOW has dammed thousands of acres to create additional wetlands throughout the region. Though this is an expensive process, pumping water onto the diked areas has succeeded on a grand scale.

A boat is a must in this area, as walk-in hunting is virtually non-existent. A same-day drawing requires hunters to be pres

ent, and if not drawn, hunters are welcome at the Willow Point WA public hunting area, which is about a mile away.

According to Plageman, the average harvests at Pickerel Creek WA are among the highest in the state.

Pickerel Creek WA can be reached off state Route 6 west of Sandusky in Sandusky County.

Additional information and a map can be obtained by calling the Pickerel Creek WA at (419) 547-6007 or District Two at (419) 424-5000.


"The crown jewel of our waterfowl public hunting areas is Magee Marsh," said Plageman. "We try to keep the old waterfowl hunting club flavor. We take you out to your blind, drop you off and pick you up."

This is the almost courtly manner in which the area's duck hunting clubs operated in bygone years, and the hunters of this harried, hurried era love it. Thousands of waterfowlers apply for this hunt in July by accessing the DOW's Web site at www. dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife.

Magee Marsh covers 2,000 acres on the Lake Erie shoreline in Lucas and Ottawa counties and borders the east edge of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. There are marshes and ponds everywhere that attract Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, widgeon and green-winged teal. Pintails, blue-winged teal, wood ducks, canvasbacks and scaup are also harvested here.

The wildlife area is 17 miles west of Port Clinton on state Route 2 and about 95 miles west of Cleveland.

For details on the hunt drawing and a map of the area, contact the Magee Marsh WA at (419) 898-0960 or District Two at (419) 424-5000.

Contact the wildlife area you intend to hunt for current regulations. Hunters will need a hunting license, an Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp and a signed federal migratory bird-hunting stamp to hunt migratory waterfowl.

Additional information can be found on the DOW's Web site at www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife. The 2004 waterfowl season general regulations, bag limits and dates will be published online and wherever hunting licenses are sold.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Web site at www.npwrc. usgs.gov provides helpful information on identifying ducks in flight. Click on "biological" and then on "waterfowl" to find Ducks at a Distance - A Waterfowl Identification Guide.

Help in planning a trip can be found by contacting the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-282-5393.

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