Hunting ducks & geese

Pheasant huntersWaterfowl hunting is special in Minnesota. Building a blind. Setting decoys. Embracing the wind and rejoicing at the sound of wings. It’s all so special. It is special because waterfowling is so much more than harvesting a feathered target. It is knowing the birds, their lives and their needs to survive. Moreover, it’s about reaching across time to the earliest hunters, living a tradition that bonds mankind and nature, and passing that tradition to the next generation.


When to hunt
Scroll table right to see more »

09/21/19 - 12/21/19

Canada geese - Season 1

North duck zone

09/21/19 - 11/19/19

Ducks - Season 1

North duck zone

10/05/19 - 12/26/19

Canada geese - Season 2

Central duck zone

10/05/19 - 11/24/19

Ducks - Season 2

Central duck zone

10/12/19 - 01/02/20

Canada geese - Season 2

South duck zone

10/12/19 - 12/01/19

Ducks - Season 2

South duck zone

Where to hunt

You can hunt on many types of public waters and lands including state Wildlife Management Areas, federal Waterfowl Production Areas, and within county, state and national forest. To view the locations of various types of public hunting land go to Recreation Compass. You can hunt on private land if you have permission from the landowner of if the land is forested and not closed to hunting. To learn about hunting on private land go to trespass law.

How to hunt

Duck hunting can be done several different ways. Four common styles of hunting include:

  • Jump shooting: This involves sneaking up on ducks and then “jumping up” to shoot at them when you are within range. This is typically done along small ponds, narrow rivers and other near-shore places.
  • Pass shooting: This involves hunting situating yourself in a traditional flight route or an area where ducks have been flying recently. This can be a point that juts into a lake, a narrow throat of water between two larger bodies of water or some other place as they fly between feeding and resting areas.
  • Water hunting: This involves setting decoys in a lake, river or pond and concealing yourself in nearby blind. Water hunting typically involves calling to ducks and trying to get them to land or fly over an open space between you and the decoys.
  • Field hunting: This involves setting decoys in a grain field where ducks have been feeding, and concealing yourself in a flat ground blind.
Goose hunting is commonly done in large grain fields and involves both calling and decoys. Canada goose decoys come in several styles including full-body decoys, shell decoys, rag decoys, silhouettes and motion decoys. When hunting a large field it is good to use a variety of decoy styles to draw the birds’ attention. Early in the season small decoy spreads – one or two dozen – can work just fine. Later in the season bigger decoy spreads tend to be more productive. Make sure to set your decoys prior to sunrise so that you are ready when the geese start to their feeding areas.
Gear

Waterfowl hunting can involve a lot of gear, especially when hunting on water. At a minimum you’ll want:

  • Decoys to lure ducks close.
  • Shotgun for shooting, preferably a 12 gauge.
  • Shells that contain non-toxic pellets rather than lead. Duck hunters often shoot No. 4 shot while Canada goose hunters often use shot sizes 1, BB, BBB or T.
  • Duck call to attract ducks to your decoy spread. Most calls are designed from wood and they have a small reed inside.
  • Camouflage clothes so that you will blend in with cattails, tree lines or other natural habitats. You want your camouflage to blend in with the surroundings so that you don’t look like a dark sport or light spot from above
  • Rubber boots or waders so that you stay dry and warm
  • Binoculars for scouting.
What’s important to know
  • A federal Duck Stamp is required for all persons age 16 and older. An electronically-issued federal stamp is valid for 45 days. Pictorial stamps, when received by mail, must be signed and in the possession of the owner.
  • HIP certification is required for waterfowl hunting. You get your HIP certification when you purchase your license. It is free.
  • A Minnesota state waterfowl stamp is required for residents age 18 to 64 and nonresidents age 16 and over. (The 72-hour license includes the state waterfowl stamp).
  • A special goose permit (residents age 16-64 and all nonresidents) is required for the September goose season. Cost is $4.
  • Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979, must have a Firearms Safety Certificate, Apprentice Hunter Validation, a previous hunting license with a firearms safety indicator or other evidence of successfully completing a hunter safety course to obtain a license to take wild animals with firearms in Minnesota.
  • It is unlawful to take geese, ducks, mergansers, coots, moorhens or sandhill cranes with lead shot or while having lead shot in your possession.
Basic biology
  • Minnesota has 23 species of ducks and geese. Ducks are divided into two groups: puddle ducks and diving ducks.
  • Puddle ducks live in shallow marshes (puddles) and rivers and feed by dabbling. You can often see their bottoms tipped up as they feed in the shallows. These ducks also feed often in grain fields. Puddle ducks are able to lift off from water or land immediately. Minnesota puddle ducks are the mallard, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, pintail, gadwall, wigeon, shoveler, wood duck, and black duck.
  • Diving ducks spend their time in large, deep lakes and rivers. They feed on fish, shellfish, mollusks, and aquatic plants by diving, often to deep depths. They can swim long distances underwater by kicking their large paddle feet. Diving ducks can't launch from water straight into the air like puddle ducks can. Instead, they patter along the water surface for several yards before becoming airborne. Minnesota diving ducks are the canvasback, redhead, ringneck (also called ringbill), scaup (also called bluebill), goldeneye, bufflehead, and ruddy duck.
  • There are several species of geese that can be hunted in Minnesota. The largest is the Canada goose. Those that nest in Minnesota are called the "giant" subspecies and can weigh up to 16 pounds. Those that migrate through in spring and fall are the Eastern Prairie Population subspecies. These smaller Canada geese (6 to 8 pounds) breed in Manitoba and fly south through western Minnesota in the fall to winter in Missouri.
  • Minnesota also sees some snow, blue, and white-fronted geese. The blue goose, which is gray, is a color phase of the snow goose, which is white with black wing tips. White-fronted geese, also called "specklebellies" or "specs" are the same size as snows and blues and are often found flying with these other geese in massive flocks of up to several thousand birds.
Helpful information