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Waterfowl hunting tips:

If you can contribute information click here Submit information (tips, area suggestions, etc)

USGS Waterfowl ID link

Ducks Unlimited Migration Map site     Washington Pictures taken by HuntWashingtonState staff

Ducks Unlimited species id link

Snow Goose Tips click here for a devoted web page to just snow goose hunting

This hunting information is provided as advice only.  It is the duty of the hunter to ensure that he or she is complying with all current laws and regulations.

For this species there are a few basics you need to understand in order to hunt them legally with the proper licenses and tags.  The WDFW regulations have a number of exceptions to the information provided below, these are general statements meant to help point the beginning hunter in hunting this particular species.  It is also the duty of the hunter to ensure that he or she is complying with all rules and regulations put in place for that season, species, and area they are hunting.

Waterfowl  hunting occurs all over the State of Washington.  General seasons for ducks and Geese occur usually after mid October and into January.  A hunter must purchase a small game license, a state migratory bird endorsement (tag) and a Federal Bird stamp which must be affixed to the back of your hunting license and signed across the front of the stamp.   There is no weapon choice requirement as is for deer and elk. 

There is no single "right" way to hunt waterfowl... being flexible and paying attention to your surroundings will increase your success.


  • Do not be afraid to use brightly colored hunting supplies and gear as long as you stow them properly.  It is near impossible to locate a camouflaged item if accidentally dropped.  (And, why would you ever need a camouflaged wallet?) HWS staff
  • Use a discarded 5 gallon pickle bucket as a makeshift blind seat.  You can stow extra shells, food,  and whatever else in this completely waterproof seat. HWS staff
  • Go to an outdoor store such as REI and purchase an LED mountain climber’s headlamp.  These will keep your hands free when setting up decoy spreads, getting to your gear, and the like.  The “climber” grade headlamps are designed to be used in cold brutal environments.  It does not matter that they are not camouflaged, you don’t need camouflage when it’s dark. HWS staff
  • Bring back-up flashlights, odds are that your flashlight will go dead right in the middle of trying to find your blind or setting decoys. HWS staff
  • Purchase a wader belt.  Most of them have a built in bandolier to carry an additional box of shells.  This wader belt will help keep water out of the lower portion of your waders in case you fall in. HWS staff
  • Bring an inexpensive digital camera with you.  The pictures will prevent your hunting buddies from lying or for them thinking you are a liar. Hint: (You can use photo editing software later to either add or subtract details from your hunting pictures.) HWS staff
  • Purchase a hunting muff.  You can jam thick dry gloves and heating pads into it.  Then you can hunt in cold weather with gloveless hands. HWS staff
  • Purchase gallon Ziploc bags and put all of your hunting gear (pocket knives, hunting regs, food, extra gloves, et cetera) in the bags so they can all stay extra dry. HWS staff
  • Purchase a long wooden handle from the hardware store.  Screw a rubber coated hook into the end of it.  Use this hook to pull decoys out of the water, rather than using your hands. HWS staff
  • Before the first freeze, mosquitoes will be all over Eastern Washington.  Bring bug spray! HWS staff
  • Use earthy shades of spray paint on everything.  Paddles, motors, gas tanks, chairs, and the like all stick out if not painted.
  • Use drilled out railroad spikes for very cheap anchor weights.  (Use only when weight isn't an issue) HWS staff
  • New LED flashlights are very cheap and last a long time.  Buy them in the bulk packs from Home Depot or Lowes.  Stash the extra flashlights in coat pockets, backpacks, camper, you name it.  Having all these extra lights around helps when you may have forgotten yours at home or back at camp. HWS staff
  • Fill dixie sized cups with concrete and add a copper or brass hook imbedded in it.  Very inexpensive but heavy decoy weight (courtesy Jeff L. - Seattle)
  • Bring zip ties, parachute cord and bungee cords with you into the blind or hunting area.  Nothing works better in securing blind material than these items.  The supplies are cheap and very easy to use.  Make sure to pick up your debris at the end of the day (Jeff, Seattle)
  • Spray your waders with Armor All to help prevent them from drying out.  Hang the waders upside down in a cool dry place (garage) to extend the life of this important and expensive piece of equipment.  (courtesy Todd G. - Kenmore)
  • Look into purchasing the new waders with the waterproof zipper.  The extra money spent is well worth it when you no longer have to strip down to do nature's business.   (courtesy Todd G - Kenmore)
  • There is nothing more annoying than having to re-tune your duck or goose call. Take a sharpie and mark the reed after your have tuned it to your liking.  Then, when you go back and clean or service the call, you can simply slide the reed back to its original position and eliminate a bunch of the guesswork of where your reed was the last go-round.  (courtesy Jeff, Seattle)
  • Make your own bird refuge! If you have the extra money, time, hunting buddies, and space,  go to Craigslist and look for other people selling off their used decoy sets.  A group of guys could purchase and store 300-400 (or more) decoys easily and set them out on any body of water.  Such a large spread is a magnet for shy ducks.  Very few hunting groups have the energy to place that many dekes in one set, thus setting your spread out from the rest.  When placing such a large number of dekes, spacing between the decoys is less critical than trying to make the most of 7 or 8 dozen.  Ensure a decent opening in the middle of the spread so that the incoming ducks will think they have a safe place to land. (courtesy Jim F - Bellingham)
  • We've been all using ear protection and eye protection after shooting for years without them.  I hope we continue to have our hearing and most importantly, our sight. (courtesy Jim F - Bellingham)Take a kid hunting!  Ensure the future of the sport!
  • If you have a couple of banged up decoys where no amount of touch up will get them back in to shape.  Paint them flat black and make them into bufflehead decoys.  The flat black dekes really stand out in a decoy spread and could allow a uniqueness that will pull in decoy shy ducks. (courtesy Jeff, Seattle)
  • Want a cheap effective blind for man's best friend? Spray paint a camo pattern on you decoy bag and pick up  a $5  bendable acrylic rod from your local hardware store to keep the bag open. A lab will fit in almost any deke bag!  (Scott - Colville, WA)
  • Used milk jugs roughly painted the color of geese will nicely (and cheaply) fill in your field decoy spread.  Place them amongst your field dekes to resemble geese at rest.  This may only work on early season geese or migrants.  The jugs may flare educated birds. (Robert L, Sedro Woolley)
  • Used Kayaks are easy to find in Washington and relatively inexpensive.  Take some camo paint  and paint up a kayak to carry or paddle into smaller, more difficult to get into ponds and creeks.  The kayaks weigh under 50 lbs.  So, they are easy to pack in or launch.  Kayaks draw less than a couple of inches, therefore they can be used on basically any water source.  Drape netting over the top of the kayak for additional concealment.  Make sure to always use a lifejacket and a wader belt!  The kayaks also make good layout blinds for field hunting (they are inherently waterproof)  (Jeff, Seattle)
  • On those days in the blind where the migrant geese have come down, have everyone n your blind waving goose flags.  Get a ton of movement going in your blinds.  If they are not gun shy, they will come in fast if they think there are a bunch of active geese on the ground. (Jeff, Seattle)
  • Cold duck days are murder on our john boat's little two stroke motor.  We have found that running out all the gasoline in the fuel lines between uses eliminates frozen water lines.  We also carry a can of thrust (ether) to rapid start the motor on especially cold mornings.  These methods have saved skin from our knuckles many times.  (Art L. Seattle)



  • Be careful with your body movement in the blind.  Ducks will flare if they see your movement. HWS staff
  • Pay attention to the back of your blind.  Ducks will see you from 360 degrees.  It is not enough concealment if you are only covered up in the front. HWS staff
  • Resist the urge to follow and watch ducks as they are checking out your spread.  Unless your face is completely camouflaged, your skin stands out and will easily flare interested ducks. HWS staff
  • Make a laminated check list for your hunting gear and use it.  There is nothing worse than forgetting an important hunting item (like a shotgun or license). HWS staff
  • Buy a pair of heavy duty pruning shears and bring them with you.  The shears will make quick work of gathering blind material or sprucing up a natural blind. HWS staff
  • Never set up decoys and your blind with the wind in your face.  Ducks land into the wind and almost always from a direction where there is water.  Ducks typically do not like rough water and will seek out calmer water.  When the wind is in your face and coming off of the water, you have placed yourself in the roughest part of the water.  HWS staff
  • For decoys set on water, always set up in the lee side of a peninsula or pond.  Real ducks move towards calmer water. HWS staff
  • Dozens of decoys on absolutely calm water does not look natural to real ducks.  Create movement in the water (toss pebbles, rock your boat, kick your foot back and forth in the water). HWS staff
  • On windless days you can add movement to your spread.  Join 3 or 4 decoys together in a line, by using the weight end of your decoy string.  Take the first decoy weight and run it out to the furthest point of your spread.  Then attach a line from the nearest decoy and bring it back to the blind as a quick and handy jerk string.  The movement of a few decoys will liven up your spread and make it more appealing to decoy shy ducks. HWS staff
  • When hunting heavily hunted land, leave your duck call back in the truck.  Ducks get readily accustomed to duck calls of hunters. HWS staff
  • For a recent cold snap that turns your pond into ice overnight...  Break the ice into chunks and slide them under the existing ice.  The birds need open water and will see your "homemade pond" and come in like on a string. HWS staff
  • When hunting the North Puget Sound, do not be afraid to add a few snow geese decoys to your spread.  Snow geese and Swans are numerous in the area.  It is not uncommon to see these big white birds intermixed with other species. HWS staff
  • When hunting water which varies in depth, attach a single brass hook to the keel portion of your decoys.  You can easily modify your decoy anchor depth by tying off your desired decoy cord to the length you need.  These hooks make for quicker pulling in of your decoys. HWS staff
  • Use lots of decoys in the beginning of the season when local ducks are not yet decoy shy.  (10 dozen decoys at minimum)  Once the shooting starts, ducks tend to try to find the areas where big flocks of ducks have moved to. HWS staff
  • When hunting decoy shy ducks, use only a half dozen or so decoys. HWS staff
  • Use lots of decoys when it is apparent that the new migrant ducks have flown in.  They will feel more comfortable coming in to a large flock, rather than a few dozen sitting on the water. HWS staff
  • Don’t be too disturbed by the hunters setting up across the lake from you, as long as they are well outside the range of your shotgun.  Their decoys will keep real ducks more interested in the body of water you are hunting.  The other group of hunters will also keep real ducks from just sitting on the water in their area.  We have also found that other groups who are in the same area who are shooting will scare up ducks in the area and sometimes push ducks into looking at your spread. HWS staff
  • Keep your decoys painted and touched up.  Nasty looking decoys do not look natural to real ducks.  Use the whitest white, the orangest orange, the blackest black all in satin or flat finishes.  This is what real ducks look like.  Avoid glossy looks, real ducks do not shine in the sun. HWS staff
  • Use other species of decoys other than just mallards in your spread.  Congregate your “other” species together a bit away from the concentration of mallards.  This scenario looks very attractive to real ducks. HWS staff
  • You do not have to have all of the hunters in your party hunt from the same exact blind.  Individual smaller blinds provide greater elbow room from which to hunt. HWS staff
  • Cruise sites like Craig's list for opportunities on fire sales for decoys and hunting gear.  There are a lot of bargains out there. HWS Staff

banded mallard

  • Sand bars/islands in rivers are very effective places to set up blinds and decoys.  Get as low as you can to create a low profile either by digging a shallow pit or using layout blinds.  Surround yourself with decoys (particularly geese) HWS staff
  • Lengths of  PVC pipe can make for very inexpensive, long lasting, and light blind posts. HWS staff
  • Use an 8 foot section of 3 to 4 foot tall horse fence as a quick and inexpensive base in which to build your blind.  Use metal barbed wire stakes to firmly attach the fencing material into the ground.  From there, weave blind material into the fence.  This provides for a windproof solid blind from which to hunt out of.
  • Do not crowd your duck decoys.  Real ducks move closer together when they are nervous.  If in doubt about the spacing of your decoys… add another 2 feet to the spacing.  This increased spacing also helps when errant winds blow decoys in different directions.  Decoys should never touch! HWS staff
  • Creating a “J” pattern in your decoy set is a tried and true method to effectively bring in ducks.  Place the low end of the J in front of your blind no closer than 15 yards. HWS staff
  • Placing your decoys into two distinct groups set apart from each other is an effective way to bring in ducks.  Hunt the space between these two groups. HWS staff
  • Do not scare off undesired ducks or coots which have landed in your decoy spread.  These birds will add significant realism to your spread. HWS staff
  • Use confidence decoys such as herons, crows, or even seagulls to make your decoy spread look realistic. HWS staff
  • A really good trick when hunting small ponds or rivers is to put decoys in areas that you don’t want live ducks to land.  Live ducks will not land really close to other ducks on the water. HWS staff
  • For very small water like creeks, hunt over only 3 or 4 decoys.  If incoming birds want to land, they will see the 3 or 4 birds and think it will be a safe place to land.  They may flare if they see too many decoys set up for so little water.  HWS stafff
  • In really cold and windy weather, look for ducks in small wind blocked pockets in lakes and rivers.  They don't like the constant pounding of wind or precipitation any more than you or I do.  They will move into these areas to keep warmer and conserve energy. HWS Staff
  • If birds are working your spread without you blowing on a call..  Don't!  They are already interested at what you have to offer and let them come in on their own. (Mike L, Mount Vernon)
  • Get to your favorite blind area in the Spring and do some brush clearing and native grass/tree planting.  By the time the season rolls around, all you will need to do is some light trimming on your established brushy areas. Forget having to go around to look for plants, branches, etc the morning of opening day.  It is also a great idea to bring any blind building material out with you during this time as the brush will grow around the material.  But... remember it is illegal to place a permanent blind on WDFW lands. (Mike L, Mount Vernon)
  • If the call of nature happens during your morning shoot, always bring your shotgun along with you.  As you are moving to and from your "rest area" you may have an opportunity to pass shoot. (Mike L, Mount Vernon)
  • If you have the room or the ability, nothing attracts waterfowl better than an insane amount of decoys.  We set out 350 dekes in our spread (and growing every year.)  Even very decoy shy ducks will come in to that many decoys as they never see that many in a typical decoy set.  The more decoys you can place, the better. (Mike L, Mount Vernon)
  • Heavy rains will flood out more land.  Go to areas which are normally dry to find fresh pockets of flooded land.  The ducks come into these spots to browse on the newly provided feed.  (Tim G)
  • Lot's of really good hunting can be had on either the public shorelines of the puget sound or on the banks of the large rivers.  Use driftwood piles as your blind.  It is natural, cheap and very easy. (Tim G)
  • It is common knowledge that waterfowl will migrate North and South throughout the winter.  They simply follow the weather and need available water and feed.  like in 2009, The birds may move out in November due to freezing temperatures, but will come back if it warms up like it did in December this year. Don't put your sweet blind spot into retirement for the year until the season is officially over. (Rick N, Spokane)
  • Talk to your deer hunting buddies if they have recently seen waterfowl.  Some of the fields, creeks and ponds in deer areas can be awesome duck spots often overlooked by most waterfowlers.  Your big game hunting friends won't mind telling you the spots. (Rick N, Spokane)
  • Waterfowl need open water. Period.  If the entire area you are hunting is completely locked up in ice, find another area. (Rick N, Spokane)
  • Float the rivers like a steelhead fisherman, except float smaller and bendier rivers and camo up your boat.  Pay attention to laws concerning shooting from a boat, but, there is nothing easier than simply floating a river and jump shooting and pass shooting at waterfowl.  Always wear a life jacket and be especially careful of weapon use in a moving boat. (courtesy duckblind266)
  • Spot and stalk methods work very well in achieving limits.  Whether you are in an area with lots of small ponds or if you are simply walking along a creek.  Put the sneak on the birds like you would deer hunting. (courtesy duckblind266)
  • Calls are deadly when the fog rolls in.  The ducks need a place to land and their only reference points are the quacks of other ducks.  When all of EWA is fogged in, we start calling all the time.  When the fog is extra thick, we always have one guy ready to shoot at all times.  The ducks will appear out of nowhere. (duckblind266)
  • When jump shooting ducks, you should always come in with the wind at your back (opposite of deer hunting.)  Ducks will naturally fly into the wind when taking off.  You will want them to take off over you presenting a breast shot rather than away from you which only allows for a shot at the tougher back feathers. (Robert L, Sedro Woolley)
  • Use a tried and true deer hunting method for ducks and geese.  Use another hunting buddy to flush birds to an awaiting hunter.  Waterfowl will attempt to fly directly away from a threat.  Post the hunter in the anticipated flight path of the birds.  Watch your zone of fire and be aware where your shot will land! (Robert L, Sedro Woolley)
  • Sometimes we use fewer than a dozen decoys in our spread if absolutely nothing is coming in to our 8 dozen block spread.  Later season ducks are already pairing up and spreading out.  A large spread may be spooking the birds. (Nick J, Kenmore)
  • When you camouflage your blind, we believe that more is always better.  Add material to your blind at every chance.  Pile it on when coming back from duck retrieval, in the morning, after going to the bathroom, always bring more blind material back with you.  A heavily stocked blind becomes virtually invisible and windproof. (Nick J, Kenmore)
  • We hunt flooded fields around Chehalis.  For shallow flooded fields we make a makeshift "pond" by stamping the bunch grass below the water line.  We then surround the entire "pond" with our decoys.  This simulates exactly what flocks will do in these fields.  We also use plastic sleds to both transport our decoys and to lie in to keep dry. (Ron, Puyallup)




  • First rule!  Know what you are shooting at !!!  There is no excuse for accidentally shooting something you did not intend to. HWS staff
  • Work on shooting from a sitting position.  Sometimes in the process of jumping up, hunters can easily flare interested ducks. Shooting from your chair or seat allows you to better set up your shot. HWS staff
  • Keep your gun clean and well lubricated, nothing will spoil your waterfowling more than a gun that won’t work. HWS staff
  • When shooting steel duck loads, keep a few more-expensive tungsten goose loads in an easy to reach location.  When you notice geese coming in, you should be able to have enough time to change out your shells. HWS staff
  • When moving in your boat, ensure that all of the guns are unloaded.  Keep the breaches open so that anyone handling the weapons can easily see that they are unloaded.  It is illegal in Washington State to hunt and shoot from a moving boat. HWS staff
  • When using makeshift blinds, check and verify your shooting lanes with your other hunting buddies with unloaded guns.  Agree beforehand of who gets the shots and where.  There is no excuse or anything more terrible than shooting your hunting buddy.  Blind safety is not optional. HWS staff
  • Shot shell size is a personal choice and considerations.  Use a size and shell appropriate to the type of hunting you do and the type of hunter you are.  #8 shot will not perform very well at longer distances and #2 shot will vaporize a teal at close range.  Experiment with different shot sizes and shell manufacturers to really hone in your preferred shell. HWS staff
  • When shooting in to a flock of incoming waterfowl, resist the urge to shoot at the bunch.  Pick individual birds.  If possible, shoot at the rear ducks and move your way forward into the flock. It will be much easier to pick up your double or triple if the second and third ducks are closer to you. (courtesy Mike R .[Yakima])
  • You may have ducks land near your spread, but land outside of the decoys or just a ways out on another bank.  Resist the urge to flare them.  Gently call at them and try to get them to want to "trade" over to your decoys.  It's a sure bet that they aren't flaring at your spread, just that they need some coaxing to come over to you. (courtesy Jeff L - Seattle)
  • Use proper shooting technique when shooting at incoming birds.  If you are seeing any part of your barrel except for your bead/sight, you will shoot high.  Fix this by moving your cheek lower down on the stock. (courtesy Bob H, Ravensdale)
  • If you are hunting on a budget (who isn't?) keep with the steel shot and forget the more expensive tungsten/bismuth blends.  Work on getting your birds closer rather than trying to reach out farther. (courtesy Bob H. Ravensdale)
  • Don't "aim" your shotgun like a rifle (a very common mistake)  Successful shooting of a shotgun at incoming ducks requires a fluid shooting motion.  If you try to aim and then shoot, you will surely miss. (Bill D)
  • Keep your shotgun clean!  Wipe down your gun after each hunt and break it down regularly.  A dirty gun will not perform well for you.  (Tim O, West Seattle)


  • Purchase a Neoprene vest for your dog.  It will keep him warmer and more buoyant. HWS staff
  • If possible, remove your dog's collar before going a field.  A collar can easily get snagged on brush and parts of a boat and could harm your dog.  HWS staff
  • This may sound simple.. but, don't forget to bring dog chow for your pooch when going out to hunt.  HWS staff
  • Check your pup for ticks after every hunt.  Eastern Washington has tons of ticks. (Bob K. Spokane)


  • Hire a guide for one season.  Chances are, that guide will teach you more during your hunt than you would learn from years of "trying to figure it out on your own."  Guides are willing to teach and are getting paid to give you all their attention.  Most guides will be flattered if you continually pick their brains for information. 
  • If you don't have a dog... After you've shot your duck and need to retrieve it with a boat, have one of your hunting buddies keep an eye on the location of the bird, especially if it is still treading water.  Have the person in the blind note where the bird was last seen (if it dove) or where it went into shore.  Work out hand signals to allow for easy communication between the spotter and the retriever.
  • If you are from the westside of Washington and are going to hunt the eastside or vice versa, pay attention to the pass reports.  Pulling a boat over a pass which has a couple of feet of snow on it, makes for a miserable drive. HWS staff
  • Make and bring a couple of extra copies of your vehicle keys.  Inform your hunting buddies of their location.  This will keep you from being locked out of your truck if your keys get lost or if something disastrous happens to you. HWS staff
  • Double check your vehicle before going out for your hunt.  A dead battery or keys in the ignition of a locked vehicle will greatly aggravate you. HWS staff
  • Layer your clothing. This will make for more efficient body heat regulation.  Hunting Eastern Washington could provide a hunter with freezing temperatures in the morning and 60 to 70 degree temperatures by lunchtime. HWS staff
  • When using a boat, always wear your life jacket, even if you are only going out to retrieve a downed duck.  Waterlogged clothes and waders provide no buoyancy and will cause you to drown.  Putting on a life preserver only takes a few seconds.  In addition, on bitter cold days, the life preserver adds an additional layer of insulation and will help keep you warmer. HWS staff
  • Keep alcohol back at camp or the hotel.  Guns and booze never mix. HWS staff
  • Root Beer is a good accompaniment to a fine cigar. HWS staff
  • When packing up your gear and heading back to the truck, unload your weapon.  This will prevent accidental discharges when stowing your gear. HWS staff
  • Flagging for geese is very effective.  Have all of the hunters in your blind flagging aggressively when the geese are well out of range >400 yds.  As the geese come closer, fewer hunters should flag and the flagging should become more conservative.  As the geese are coming close but still shy of the spread, one hunter should lightly flag to pull them in that last 50 or so yds. HWS Staff
  • When nature calls, walk significantly away from your blind and find a concealed spot so that you do not flare incoming ducks so that your hunting buddies can continue to hunt.  Use rapidly biodegradable toilet paper.  Attempt to bury or cover your waste.  Other hunting parties may have a dog who may attempt to roll in this stuff. HWS staff
  • When hunting an area with other hunters, notice what they are doing.  Don’t be afraid to do the exact opposite of what they are doing if the shooting is slow.  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and talk over the day or your experience.  You may meet a potential new hunting companion. You’d be amazed at the stuff you’ll be able to learn by striking up a conversation with a fellow hunter.  This support is the reason for  HWS staff
  • Be careful itching your nose or picking that booger while in the duck blind.  Avian flu is a real possibility and directly handling ducks can lead to a hunter getting sick.  Regularly wash your hands or use antiseptic wipes.  HWS staff
  • 405,415 ducks were harvested in the 2006-2007 season (54% were Mallards)  WDFW Game Status and Trends Report
  • 53,517 geese were harvested in the 2006-2007 season (88% were lesser and greater Canadians) WDFW Game Status and Trends Report
  • We are all hunters, but not all of us use guns. Or bows. Unknown to most people, there are hundreds of people in Washington practicing the ancient sport and art of falconry. The Washington Falconer's Association has a website at if you would like to check it out. Admittedly, this is a relatively small audience compared to the many, many deer hunters out there, for example, but it's fascinating and unusual enough that I thought you might want to add it to your site. I know it sounds very 13th century, but falconers are still out there, and its very beneficial for us to have other hunters know this. Last thing anyone wants is someone's raptor shot by accident. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have. It's my job and pleasure to answer them.
  • Bird Cleaning Tips

Duck Boat Checklist: (print this, cut it out, and laminate it.)


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