The Complete Guide to Waterfowl Hunting in Canada
Canada is one of the biggest and most beautiful places in the world, so it's fitting that Canadian waterfowling is some of the most bountiful on the planet.
If you've experienced Canada - or even if you've just heard a lot about it – that fact that we’re home to a rich tapestry of geography and wildlife will come as no surprise. In addition to dense boreal and Acadian forests, and vast expanses of tundra and towering mountain ranges, Canada boasts about 31,700 large lakes – a number that trumps any other country. In fact, Canada (the second largest country in the world) contains most of the world’s fresh water, making it a popular spot for various species of migratory waterfowl. We’re talking fresh air, wide open spaces, plenty of water and big, open skies. It’s no wonder waterfowl love to hang out here.
Of course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice. That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve designed it to streamline the process and help you create the ultimate Canadian waterfowling experience.
OK, obviously we’re going to be talking about waterfowl hunting in Canada, but – as we’ve already mentioned – Canada’s a big place. So where to go? While waterfowl abound in the Great White North, there are definitely some areas that have a more plentiful supply of these plucky birds. You can also find a host of quality outfitters and hunting lodges in these areas.
Waterfowl hunting in Canada doesn't get much better than this! In a relatively small space (a strip of land that runs along the core of the Great Lakes) you'll find a veritable smorgasbord of waterfowl including redheads, lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks, mallards, black ducks, canvasbacks, and Brant and Canada geese. October and November are your best hunting months in this primo location.
Check out our guide to Ontario hunting regulations to learn more. <Link to blog.>
Peace River Country, Alberta
This transition point between boreal forests and Arctic makes for a favourite feeding ground for waterfowl due to its long standing as one of North America's major grain-producing regions. Every September through October, a variety of geese (Canada, white-fronts, lesser snows, Ross’) and ducks (pintails, mallards, other dabbling ducks) grace these flat lands to gorge on wheat, peas, lentils and barley. Much like in the other provinces in Canada's Prairies, visiting hunters can get the green-light to hunt on private property by simply obtaining permission from the local landowners.
Find out more about hunting in Alberta.
No contest here: Southern Saskatchewan is not only one of the best places for waterfowl hunting in Canada, but it is also one of the best places on the continent. This is in large part due to the fact that the province is the most significant breeding ground for pintails, mallards as well as other dabbling ducks. It also serves as a staging area for waterfowl like Arctic geese, who are reared in the more distant northern regions of the north.
Your best time to hunt is from late September through October. You can snag an array of species in this waterfowl wonderland, including mallards, pintails, subspecies of Canada geese, as well as light and white-fronted geese. You can hunt publically in certain designated areas which are conserved by Ducks Unlimited and other partners in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Again, like in Alberta, you can also make arrangement to freelance if you have the permission of private landowners
Learn more about waterfowl hunting in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba's Prairie Pothole Region is located smack-dab in the centre of the Great Plains of North America - formally the world's most expansive spread of grassland. When the glaciers receded 10,000 years ago, they left millions of shallow depressions behind them. These depressions - known as prairie potholes - have created that wetlands that are not only home to flora and fauna, but they are also a popular breeding ground for various (and substantial) waterfowl populations. Focus on the interlake regions for the best hunting of a variety of ducks and geese. Your prime time is early September and, depending on weather, it can span right into December.
Find out more about hunting in Manitoba.
Prince Edward Island
Canada also has some incredible water fowl hunting out east. Prince Edward Island is a particularly solid spot, especially along the shores of beautiful Malpeque Bay. You can also enjoy some good hunting a little further inland (around 25kms). Here you can bag Canada geese and an assortment of ducks, including blacks, pintails, mallard, and teal from the first Monday in October to the second Saturday in December.
To learn more about hunting in Prince Edward Island, visit their Environment, Energy and Forestry department website.
Accommodations Tip: Call before you commit! We are all about the convenience afforded by the internet, but sometimes it pays to reach out and touch someone – or at least give them a call. We’ve been to some great hunting lodges and outfitters in our time. And we’ve been to some less than stellar examples of this noble pursuit. In our experience, we’ve found we never have a bad experience with an outfitter we have a friendly chat with before our trip. Before you book, it bodes well to give your destination a ring. Get a feel for who you might be staying with. Are they friendly? Knowledgeable? Ask questions to see if the information on the web is actually up-to-date. These are important things to ascertain before you front the cash.
Keep in mind word of mouth is by far one of the greatest endorsements of merit, so ask other hunters for their recommendations.
The Best Hunting Gear for Waterfowl Hunting in Canada
The exact laws for Canadian waterfowl hunting vary from province to province, and as such, it’s important do your due diligence and familiarize yourself with your destination’s governing regulations. (Hint: you can find them by following the links we provided in the previous section.) Knowing these stipulations is what will ultimately be your best guide on when you can go (i.e. open seasons) and what you are allowed to bring on the hunt. For example, in Ontario, you need to take and pass a federally firearm safety course to hunt with a gun or bow, whereas in Alberta, you require a special Bow Hunting Permit (in addition to the federally mandated firearms course) if you want to embrace your inner archer.
We know: it can seem like a lot of background work, and to a certain extent, it is. On the other hand, when you look at it in the light of personal safety and environment sustainability, spending some time educating yourself is a small price to pay in order to spend a LOT of time doing what you love.
Packing TIP: Bring a couple different calls. Different calls will work better in different weather conditions. Acrylic calls, for instance, are louder and sharper, so they are ideal for windy days and/or when you are trying to attract birds from a distance. (Check out our article on How to Use a Duck Call to find out more about different calls and calling techniques.)
The Best Clothes for Waterfowl Hunting in Canada
Much like all clothes, finding the perfect clothes for waterfowl hunting (and waterfowl hunting in Canada, specifically), comes down to a matter of taste and function. Yes, of course, there are many brands that are better quality than others, but as we said there are many of these brands (Drake, for instance, is a top-notch brand, as are Filson and Red Head). What you want to make sure is that you are investing in your hunt. You’ll get what you pay for, so don’t head out to the dollar store, pick up a pair of magic mittens and expect your digits to stay warm and dry when you’re crouched for hours in a marsh.
When waterfowl hunting in Canada, what you really need to account for is weather variety – and there’s a lot of it. In the prime waterfowl hunting seasons, you can encounter everything from balmy, sunny days to chilly, rainy drizzles and just about anything in between. This unpredictability means you need your hunting duds to:
- keep you warm (so don’t forget gloves in addition to warm hats, coats, boots and socks)
- keep you dry (and have the ability to dry, fast – oilskin is great)
- keep you comfortable
- allow you to move freely and easily
- allow you to take on/off layers as weather dictates
Unlike big game hunting, waterfowl hunting in Canada doesn’t necessitate that you wear hunter orange, so you can camo-up to blend in, or just wear darker hues in general. Just remember: this isn’t fashion week in Milan - your mission is to blend in.
It doesn’t get any better...
Canadian waterfowling is by far some of the best in the world. While living in Canada is only one of the reasons we love doing what we do, it’s the main reason we love where we do it. Just think about it: big skies, a bevy of birds, breathtaking surroundings and our best buds – it doesn’t get any better than this!
Feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions about how our products can help maximize your Canadian waterfowling experience. We’ve got the goods to help you bag your game.