Wyoming Duck And Goose Hunting – The Complete Guide
Nestled in the heart of the American West, Wyoming is a state renowned for its rugged landscapes, pristine wilderness, and abundant wildlife. Among the various outdoor pursuits that draw enthusiasts to this captivating region, duck and goose hunting stands as a cherished tradition and a thrilling adventure. Wyoming’s diverse ecosystems make it a prime destination for hunters seeking to enjoy being covered up in birds. In this comprehensive guide, we will embark on a journey through the world of Wyoming duck and goose hunting, uncovering the secrets of the trade, exploring the state’s rich waterfowl heritage, and equipping you with the knowledge and tools necessary to have a successful and ethical hunting experience. Whether you’re a seasoned waterfowl hunter or a newcomer to the sport, Wyoming offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Wyoming Waterfowl Species
In Wyoming, waterfowl enthusiasts can pursue a diverse range of duck and goose species during different hunting seasons. These avian species not only offer thrilling hunting experiences but also contribute to the state’s rich wildlife heritage. Among the prominent species available for Wyoming duck hunting are the Mallard, easily recognizable by their striking iridescent green heads; the Northern Pintail, known for their slender necks and pointed tails; the American Wigeon, distinguished by their white crown and forehead; the Northern Shoveler, named for their unique shovel-like bills; and the Gadwall, characterized by their mottled brown plumage.
In addition to ducks, Wyoming also provides opportunities for goose hunting, with the Canada Goose being the most well-known. These geese, with their black necks and white cheek patches, are found both in migratory and resident populations within the state. Other goose species like Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Greater White-Fronted Geese, and Cackling Geese can also be encountered during migration. Understanding the habits, habitats, and unique characteristics of these waterfowl species is crucial for a fulfilling and ethical hunting experience in Wyoming. It’s equally important for hunters to stay informed about specific regulations and seasons, which can vary depending on the species and location, and to engage in responsible hunting practices and habitat conservation efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of waterfowl populations in Wyoming.
In order to learn more about the rich opportunities Wyoming offers duck and goose hunters, we sat down on a recent episode of the Huntin’ Land podcast to talk with Peyton Spires from 157 Outfitters. Peyton has years of experience guiding in Wyoming and has the information you need to be successful if you’re planning a trip out west. According to Peyton, many hunters who haven’t been out west don’t fully understand just how many birds Wyoming can hold. While you may think of Stuttgart or Catahoula Lake before you think of Wyoming, you may be missing out.
“People that have never been to Wyoming don’t understand just how many birds we have, ” says Peyton. “Everyone thinks of antelope and elk, the red desert, the High Plains…but Wyoming is unique in the United States because the waterfowl hunting is so consistent for the majority of the season. Most of our hunting takes place in the eastern section of the state. And there’s only one major water source: the North Platte River. It’s warm water, so it almost never freezes. And this really consolidates the birds and keeps them relatively easy to pattern. So, at the peak of our migration, we might have 300,000 birds in the area at one time. What basically happens is that there are a lot of little water sources up in Montana that freeze over with the first cold weather, and that pushes them into our warm waters and cornfields around the river. We’ll keep them there from the beginning of the season, all the way until the end. They really hang around the area for a long period of time, and it’s something that’s more consistent than most states have in the US.”
Waterfowl Hunting Wyoming Public Land
Many waterfowlers (Great Days Outdoors editors included) enjoy the satisfaction of putting together a DIY waterfowl hunt on public land. This can be challenging, but if you’re up for an adventure and willing to put in the work, it’s definitely possible to do some successful Wyoming duck hunting on public lands.
“Eastern Wyoming is largely private land, just because of all the agriculture,” says Peyton. “So, the public land hunting is limited. However, there are definitely some opportunities if you look into it. Wyoming has a walk-in hunting program where farmers will put their farm fields into the walk-in program and you can legally go on those and hunt waterfowl. You’re not allowed to drive a vehicle on those parcels, but there are some very good fields for Wyoming goose hunting that are in the walk-in program.”
“There’s also a few management areas in eastern Wyoming. Springer/Bump Sullivan and Table Mountain Wildlife Management Area are two that come to mind that allow waterfowl hunting, and they’re well-managed for waterfowl numbers. There are also various other small pieces of state land and Bureau of Reclamation land that are on the river where you can go out and toss a spread if you want.”
“I don’t think Wyoming is necessarily the best option for public land hunters,” Peyton confided. “If you’re coming from out-of-state, chances are you’re driving past some better public land on the way. However, if you find yourself in Wyoming, there are definitely some public land options you can take advantage of. You just have to really get into it to have a shot at success.”
Wyoming Private Land Waterfowl Hunts
What about the private land opportunities? According to Peyton, the private land hunts are where it’s really at in Wyoming, particularly when it comes to goose fields.
“There’s definitely advantages to private land hunting,” he says. The first one that people really overlook is that if you can hunt on private land that allows you to drive a vehicle into a field, then you can really easily bring in a lot of gear. And that really helps you put out a more convincing decoy spread. The private land also doesn’t get hunted nearly as much. A private field might only get hunted three or four times a year during the three-month season. So if you can get on a private field, those birds are not used to being decoyed or called to, and they’re more likely to land.
For DIY hunters looking to knock on a few doors to gain permission, Peyton offers the following advice
“Knocking on doors for hunting access is definitely something that you can try to do. If you go that route, you’ve just gotta be very big on respecting the landowner. Promise to pick up your trash, don’t rut up the fields, treat their land like you’d want yours treated…that sort of thing. And if the landowner says, “No!” then you’d best just smile, say, “Thank you for your time,” and move on to the next prospect. Because all the farmers talk to each other and the first one you’re rude to is going to let all of his buddies know. Being rude just will not work out well for you.”
Wyoming Waterfowl Season
If you’re an avid hunter, then you know that some parts of the hunting season are better than others. Many hunters in my home state of Alabama are bursting with excitement on opening day of gun deer season, but experience has taught me that the hunting doesn’t really pick up until much later in the year. According to Peyton, a similar phenomenon occurs in Wyoming.
“As an outfitter, I do not book any hunts until the December 10th time frame,” he confides. “By December 10th, we’re almost certain that there’s going to have been a cold front to push Montana birds down to us. So we book hunts from December 10 to January 23 for Wyoming duck hunting, and then for goose hunting we’ll go from December 10 all the way to February 18. The way the seasons work, they don’t totally match up. They overlap a lot. But that late goose hunting can be some of the craziest hunting we have all year here in Wyoming. We’ll be seeing 50,000 birds a day by then.”
Wyoming Duck And Goose Bag Limits
At the time of writing, Wyoming has generous bag limits. While regulations can change from year-to-year and it’s important to clarify regulations with local authorities, Peyton advised us that hunters can shoot plenty of waterfowl without going over the allotted limits.
“So on a guided goose hunt, the limit is five geese a day, per person, with 15 bird possession limit. So you can do a three-day hunt without eating any and stay legal. On the duck side, it is six birds a day. Five of those can be mallards, and of those five mallards two are allowed to be hens. So, usually, if you get a duck limit, you will shoot five mallards and then a “bonus duck” to get your six. We have lots of diving ducks like goldeneyes and mergansers, and some other puddle ducks like wigeon or a pin tail that you can potentially turn into your bonus bird.”
Wyoming Waterfowl Permit Requirements
If you’ve hunted out-of-state before, then you’re probably familiar with how frustrating it can be to make sure that you’ve checked all of the boxes required to keep you legal in the field. Some states’ regulations are definitely easier for outsiders to understand than others. Luckily for waterfowlers, Wyoming is pretty straightforward when it comes to license requirements for private land hunters.”
“It’s super simple. No matter where you hunt waterfowl in the US, you’ve obviously got to have your Federal Duck Stamp,” Peyton says. “Besides that, the only thing you have to have in Wyoming is a daily bird small game license. For a non-resident hunter, that comes in at just over $20 a day. So, for a three-day hunt, you could buy three days worth for just over $60. So, less than $100 total for a three-day hunting license. You can log on, make an account in about three minutes on the Wyoming Fish and Game site, buy your licenses, and print them out. And there’s really nothing else to it. It’s very simple here.”
While hunters should bear in mind that regulations can change and public land access often requires a little extra paperwork and possibly a small increase in license costs to access that land, nothing about Wyoming should be new to experienced hunters.
Choosing The Best Wyoming Waterfowl Outfitters
While it’s definitely possible to go the DIY route for a hunt, your odds of success skyrocket if you leverage the knowledge and experience a good outfitter can provide. While a guided trip may seem expensive, it can be a bargain when you factor in time saved planning the trip. On a DIY hunt, you’re responsible for everything. Procuring food and lodging, understanding regulations, scouting, setting your spread, cleaning your birds, transporting them back home, and dealing with any gear malfunctions or other problems are all squarely on you. At best, it’s a lot of work. At worst, it can devolve into a frustrating and unproductive waste of time, money, and vacation days.
According to Peyton, a really good outfitter does way more than just put you on a few birds.
We have a lot of good outfitters here in Wyoming,” he admits. “All the outfitters I know of can kill birds, and all of them have the ability to give you a pretty good hunt. But hunters should pick an outfitter that provides exactly what they want out of a hunt, not just a hunt. First of all, have a clear idea of what you want to hunt. Some outfitters specialize in just ducks. Some specialize in geese. We do a mixture of both. We’re goose first, just because they’re the most consistent and that’s what our clients have the most fun with. But if we think we can hunt ducks…we’re gonna hunt ducks!”
“Creature comforts are another factor to consider when picking goose hunting guides. We run all heated, underground pits in the fields, and then blinds on the river. Some outfitters are going to go out the day before, look for birds, and throw up layout blinds. That works fine, but it’s gonna be a whole lot colder when you’re out there the next morning!”
“Some outfitters are also gonna just have you meet at a gas station somewhere and then take you out to hunt. You get done with the hunt, and you just go back to your motel until the next morning. The way we operate is; we provide pretty much everything. You show up, you stay in our lodging, use our guns, our ammo, and then once the birds are taken for the day we take them to a bird processor. Once they’re cleaned, we give them back to you, vacuum sealed and flash frozen. That way, you’re not left trying to keep a wing attached to a breasted bird and trying to get all of that back home. We tell people to pretty much just show up with warm clothes and a good attitude, and we’re gonna make sure you have a great time.”
You may not think much of it if you’re new to hunting out-of-state, but there’s substantial benefit to not having to bring your own arms and ammunition.
“A lot of people just don’t want to check guns at an airport or fly with ammo. It’s just such a headache!” Peyton chuckles. “And we found that a lot of guys who weren’t really used to hunting geese showed up with chokes and ammunition that really just weren’t ideal for what we were doing out here. So now, we just stay setup with guns that are properly choked and that have a good supply of our own favorite loads. We’ve got years of experience doing this, so we can just hand you a gun that’s properly set up for this type of hunting and we both know you’re set up properly and ready to go. It’s just easier all the way around.”
Duck And Goose Hunting Gear
Speaking of shotguns, chokes, shells, and (most importantly) those warm clothes Peyton mentioned, what are the essential items an experienced Wyoming duck hunting guide recommends newcomers to bring?
Peyton’s recommendations are pretty basic.
“Any shotgun will work, as long as it’s capable of reliably cycling in the cold,” he states. “We like to shoot 12 gauges with 3” shells for geese, just because the goose shot is big and a 12 lets you hold more BB shot, but we keep some 20s for smaller framed shooters. As far as clothes go, people really overestimate how cold it actually gets in Wyoming. Down here where we’re at, the lows only dip down to around 15-20 degrees, and it’s a pretty dry cold. You’ll want to layer up because it’ll be cold in the mornings setting decoys, but I’m usually in the blind in just a t-shirt by 9 or 10 o’clock. It’s really not any worse than most other hunters’ duck season conditions, at least in southern Wyoming”
What about decoys? For geese, Peyton is a believer in big spreads, good calling, and pit-style or layout blinds.
“Most of our techniques center around goose hunting and goose spreads. And that is usually a dry land hunt. So we will go out and arrange large spreads of decoys( between 30 and 80 dozen decoys) in a field that birds have been using. Then, we set up in either pit or layout blinds. And you arrange your decoys in a way that the birds hopefully will come and land right next to your pits or layouts. So you start out all these decoys in the morning, the birds will start flying, the geese will come in, and then you just have to have good callers, a good hide, and some good shooters.”
Oftentimes, since they will both feed on the corn fields Peyton hunts over, ducks will start working into a spread. While perhaps no duck-hunting topic generates more controversy than spinning-wing decoys, Peyton is a believer.
“If we start having duck action coming in the field, we’ll throw out some spinning wing decoys as well,” Peyton says. “Whenever those ducks see those spinning wing decoys, they think that there are ducks feeding with the geese, and you can decoy ducks right on top of the pit blind just like you do geese.”
Final Thoughts On Wyoming Duck And Goose Hunting
As our journey through the world of Wyoming duck and goose hunting comes to a close, we hope this comprehensive guide has enriched your understanding and appreciation for this timeless outdoor pursuit. Wyoming, with its breathtaking landscapes and bountiful waterfowl populations, offers a unique and rewarding hunting experience whether you choose to DIY or go with a proven guide service.
Whether you choose to hunt in the wetlands of the North Platte River Valley, the high-altitude lakes of the Wind River Range, or any of the countless other waterfowl-rich regions in the state, remember that Wyoming offers not just a hunting adventure but an opportunity to connect with nature, forge lasting memories, and foster a deep appreciation for the wild places that make our world so remarkable. So, as you prepare for your next duck and goose hunting expedition in the Cowboy State, may you find success, camaraderie, and an enduring connection to the great outdoors.