2020 Georgia Duck Hunting Forecast

Conditions good for woodies; migratory forecast numbers an unknown this season because of COVID.

GON Staff | October 29, 2020

The conditions in Georgia were very good for wood ducks this spring and summer as tropical weather patterns and storms filled up the beaver swamps across the state. Woodies are the main event for most Georgia duck hunters, so that’s the good news. An unknown, however, is how the flocks of migratory ducks will look this season.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no breeding waterfowl surveys this year, so we don’t have current numbers to make predictions for this fall,” said Greg Balkcom, WRD state waterfowl biologist. “However, we did have a nice wet spring, so hopefully our wood duck brood survival was high this year. Our staff had a tough time catching and banding wood ducks this summer, which typically means good water conditions and ample food across the state made it hard to get them on bait.

“Between 2001 and 2019 we have averaged about 16,000 active adult waterfowl hunters, and that trend is slightly increasing,” Greg said. “We have averaged harvesting about 130,000 total ducks, and that trend is slightly increasing. Harvest averages about 60% wood ducks, 10% mallards and 10% ring-necked ducks. The ring-necked portion is stable, the wood duck portion is slightly increasing, and the mallard portion is slightly decreasing.”

Many wood ducks that spill into Georgia beaver swamps are local birds, but some are migratory, and our reservoir hunting and “big duck” potential comes from birds that head south for the winter. That migration can be impacted by the weather.

“I recently saw a long-term weather forecast that predicted a warmer and drier winter than usual for the southern portion of the U.S.,” Greg said. “Warm and dry usually doesn’t mean a good waterfowl season. However, given the good conditions for wood duck production this spring, the importance of wood ducks to our total harvest, and the recent hurricanes that filled our wetlands and beaver ponds, we can hope for a good year, even if it is a little warmer and drier than normal.”

Repair efforts continue at Altamaha WMA on the coast, Georgia’s premier public duck hunting area. “The Wildlife Resources Division continues to work with Ducks Unlimited on our major renovation project at Altamaha WMA replacing water control structures, bulkheads and re-working dikes on Champney and Rhetts Islands,” Greg said.

The latest report on Champney Island recommends “continuous scouting” as work on West Champney, Old Snipe and New Snipe could change water levels from week to week. Repairs are also ongoing at Rhetts Island, and flooding of the impoundments may be delayed past the opening of duck season. Also, access to Rhetts is a challenge because the crossover areas were destroyed during Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Work continues at Champney and Rhetts islands on Altamaha WMA, and duck hunting on those areas could be impacted.

“Dike restoration is ongoing, so replacement crossovers cannot be installed at the current  time,” the WRD website says. “While some waterfowl hunting opportunity does exist on Rhetts Island, the issues with access will be extremely challenging to hunters not familiar with the area.”

The Butler Island impoundments on Altamaha WMA are in good condition for the quota-only hunts this season. For updates on current conditions at Altamaha WMA, visit

WRD is also currently replacing the water control structure at the Blanton Creek waterfowl refuge area, and engineers are currently designing plans for the water control structures at West Point WMA to be replaced next year on Daniel’s Pond and Pond 1.

For the general statewide regulations, a big change for this season was the addition of two extra days of hunting for active duty and military veterans, who will be allowed to hunt during the early weekend Youth Waterfowl dates. Those dates were Nov. 14-15, 2020.

DNR Commissioner Mark Williams said, “Georgia is the best state in the nation for our active duty military, veterans, and sportsmen and sportswomen alike. We are proud to give back and say thank you to those men and women who put everything on the line to serve our country. By expanding duck hunting opportunities for these brave heroes, this shows our gratitude through action and words together. Good hunting in November!”

The general Georgia hunting season for ducks is Nov. 21-29 and Dec. 12 to Jan. 31.

Some other need-to-know dates and details for waterfowl season are the September Canada goose season, which will be Sept. 5-27, and the early September teal season, which is Sept. 12-27. Canada goose hunting has three additional seasons: Oct. 10-25, Nov. 21–29, and Dec. 12 to Jan. 31.

A complete summary of migratory bird hunting season dates and bag limits is online at

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