Waterfowl Hunting: Duck, Geese, and Swan

Waterfowl hunting is by far one of the most popular types of hunting in the country, and for good reason. The three big species that are pursued are ducks, geese, and swan. So what are the differences between these birds and which one should you go after? Let’s talk about it!

Duck Hunting

Duck hunting is by far the most popular waterfowl hunting that takes place every year. There are plenty of different species of duck to pursue, and they are generally much more plentiful than either geese or swan. The most popular species that are hunted include mallards, wood ducks, teal, northern pintail, canvasbacks, redheads, and wigeons. 

The traditional method of hunting ducks involves hunting over decoys and calling them in, but hunters will also pass shoot, and jump shoot them as well. This can all be done in blinds over water or even in agriculture fields where the decoys can be spread out to attract birds. 

Puddle ducks are geared for shallow-water feeding, so they flock to marshes, swamps, lake shorelines, river backwaters, temporary wetlands, and similar areas (think puddles). Many, especially wood ducks and sometimes mallards, feed and loaf in small creeks or rivers.

Habitat preferences change with availability, too. Mallards that hatched in the Canadian prairie pothole region readily flock to flooded timber and rice fields when stopping over in Arkansas and points south.

Geese Hunting

Hunting geese are extremely similar to hunting ducks, and often they are both hunted at the same time. These birds are much bigger than ducks, although there are fewer species. The most popular species that are hunted are Canadian geese and snow geese, but blue and speckled belly geese are also often hunted. 

Geese are hunted similar to ducks. Most often they are hunted by spreading decoys out in their preferred landing areas and drawing them in. Calls can also be used to help fool them. Once they come in for a landing, you can start shooting!

The fall goose migrations are one of the most amazing spectacles that you can see, and seeing these birds flying south in the large V formations will get your blood pumping. Hunters look forward to this season every year, and when you find yourself in the proper area with the right calls, this can be the hunt of a lifetime. 

“As a professional guide, I hunt with a lot of different people. The number one thing I see that would make guys more successful would be spending a little more time practicing their shooting. When hunting is tough and opportunities are few and far between, you need to make every shot count. Go out and practice shooting in a natural hunting situation, shoot your normal waterfowl load, practice shooting coming out of a pit or layout blind, and get out on those wet and windy days and practice in some ‘fowl’ weather. All these things will make you more effective when you say or hear ‘take ’em!'” — Bill Saunders, Kennewick, Washington

Swan Hunting

Swans are not near as popular as ducks or geese, but they are every bit as fun and majestic as their other waterfowl cousins. They are often much bigger as well, making them a ton of fun to hunt and a majestic animal to see in flight. They can weigh up to 20 pounds and have over a 6-foot wingspan, making them very impressive to see in person. Swans are usually hunted by setting up a decoy spread and waiting for them to come to land. 

Hunting swans involves sitting in their preferred habitat and waiting for them to fly in and land. Once they are in range, hunters will then reveal themselves and shoot them. Swans can also be hunting by “pond hopping” which is more similar to spot and stalk hunting where you see the bird and slowly sneak up to it in order to harvest it. 

The most common type of swan that is hunted is the tundra swan. These birds live and breed in the Arctic, and travel south along similar migratory routes as other waterfowl. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of states that allow you to hunt swans, so these birds never receive the recognition that the ducks and geese do. If you ever want to experience a unique waterfowl hunt, swans might be the way to go. 

Final Thoughts

Ducks, geese, and swans make up the majority of waterfowl hunting, and every year thousands of hunters head to the field to pursue these amazing birds. You will not want to miss the next waterfowl season!

For more great ideas on how to fish and hunt from the experts, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Hunting & Fishing Blog for more great tips & tricks.