Places to Hunt Waterfowl

One of the hardest parts of waterfowl hunting is figuring out where to go.

For many waterfowl hunters, public lands in the Pacific Flyway are the relied upon destination. The good news is that Washington is home to nearly 20 million acres of public land, of which the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) provides active management for more than 1 million acres and over 500 water access areas throughout the state.

We recommend digging into online resources and using available tools including maps and reports to better understand the rules and regulations specific to each area. State, federal, tribal, and private lands are managed differently, so contact the respective refuge, wildlife area, or hunting area staff for more details.

An afternoon of waterfowl hunting with friends. Photo by Mac Graff.

Public land recommendations

State Lands

Many of the sites in these wildlife areas (WLAs) were enhanced through the state Migratory Bird Permit fund, which is one way your hunting license fees support hunters and wildlife conservation in Washington.

  • Johns River Wildlife Area: Includes 15 units that have various waterfowl hunting opportunities.
  • Columbia Basin Wildlife Area: Includes several units with waterfowl hunting opportunities.

Federal Lands

  • Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge: Located along the Lower Columbia River, this hunt program is run by a pre-season drawing system allowing hunters to know a date in advance that they have an opportunity before the season starts. All necessary details needed to plan your hunt are provided on their website.
  • McNary National Wildlife Refuge: This hunt program is run by a lottery. Hunters must show up at McNary Office an hour and a half before legal hunting time to be assigned a blind. All necessary details needed to plan your hunt are provided on their website.
Hunting lab getting the first duck shot of the season at Ridgefield Wildlife Reserve. Photo by Larry Wilson.

Other Opportunities

  • Private Lands Hunting Access — Waterfowl Habitat & Access Program: Sites allowing public access on private lands of the North Puget Lowlands including Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties provide various options of access, including Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, and Hunt by Reservation sites. See our hunting access on private lands page for more details.
  • Columbia River by boat: While not necessarily part of any wildlife area or refuge, stretches of the Columbia River can host large concentrations of diving ducks from Northport to Ilwaco. Be aware of local shooting ordinances or closure areas. Caution should always be used on big waters — be safe out there.
  • Tribal Land: Some tribes allow hunting by non-tribal members on their reservations and some do not. It is a violation of federal law to hunt or fish on tribal lands without permission. Contact the tribe for necessary permits and rules.

Check out our website for more places to hunt. Here you’ll find some valuable information, including county by county harvest comparisons, public and private land access, hunting prospects data, a hunting regulations web map, boat launch information, and more.

Good luck and enjoy your fall/winter waterfowling!

As always, we invite you to share your hunting experiences with us through social media on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or by uploading photos through our photo submission page. Who knows, your photos could be featured in a future WDFW social media post or publication.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Written by

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade