2022-23 Georgia Duck Forecast

Federal and state public land waterfowl quota hunt deadlines draw near.

John Trussell | September 9, 2022

Georgia’s duck harvest is normally made up of more than 60% wood ducks, which tends to smooth out the ups and downs of the national flyway fluctuations. Specifically this is good news this year since national duck numbers are down overall.

Every Georgia duck hunter knows that duck hunting can be boom or bust. You can scout out a location, set up your decoys and at the crack of dawn be covered up with ducks and have a limit in a few minutes.

But unfortunately, there are days when you do everything right and the ducks don’t cooperate. The few that may show up are out of range. You may even get a shot but watch a wood duck fly right through a load of No. 4 steel shot like you never even fired.

Good and successful duck hunting calls for proper planning, and in this article, we will take a look at duck hunting in each region of the state, with special emphasis on the available Georgia WRD quota hunts that have an application deadline of Oct. 15, 2022. Those quota hunts are listed below for your review. Even if you don’t plan on duck hunting this year, go ahead and apply so that you earn a priority point to be accumulated for a future hunt.

According to Kara Nitsche, WRD’s state waterfowl and alligator biologist, hunters should experience a good duck season for the fall and winter of 2022-23. Kara said that traditionally Georgia’s duck harvest is made up of more than 60% wood ducks, which tends to smooth out the ups and downs of the national flyway fluctuations. Specifically this is good news this year since national duck numbers are down overall. More on that a little later.

Wood ducks are mostly Georgia born and bred, thus their population numbers are fairly stable. However, some wood ducks will migrate up and down the east coast as far north as Canada, says Kara.

As to the best WMAs for ducks, Kara said Butler Island and Altamaha are looking good this year. She says that flood damage from the recent hurricanes washed out a lot of the water-control devices, but those have been repaired, with special thanks to Ducks Unlimited working closely with DNR. Butler Island consists of 3,154 acres of old colonial-era rice plantations with primitive water-control gates that were replaced with more modern water-control devices, along with many other land improvements. Plans for next year are to concentrate on letting the water down at the appropriate time to seed in many varieties of plants to attract ducks, so the future at Butler Island is bright for duck hunting.

Starting in northwest Georgia in Region 1, WRD Biologist Brent Womack said the region is generally a poor duck hunting area, but some wood ducks can be found on Conasauga River WMA. It offers 338 acres of hunting along the river and adjacent to some wetlands, but it’s quota only.

Brent said some woodies can also be found along the Coosa and Etowah rivers and around Carters Lake, but the best access is often through private properties with permission. Brent said the best duck hunting is often found on beaver ponds on private lands.

In northeast Georgia, Region 2’s WRD Biologist Ryan Watts out of Gainesville said that as far as public lands, one of the best WMAs for ducks is Redlands. This large 37,000-acre WMA in Oglethorpe, Oconee and Morgan counties has the Apalachee and Oconee rivers, plus Fishing, Sandy, Harris, Rose and Falling creeks that can hold ducks, but you must do local scouting to be productive, said Ryan. He said the best methods are to scout out beaver ponds where ducks are holding up and searching for dropping acorns. Another good hunting method is to quietly ease along the creek banks and jump shoot ducks as they take to the air, but you have to be quick!

He said you can find ducks on the big reservoirs of Lanier, Oconee and Hartwell, and on the smaller lakes like Lake Burton, Lake Seed, Lake Rabun, Tallulah Falls Lake, Lake Tugalo and Lake Yonah. However, on all of these lakes, waterfowl can be very sporadic and scattered around, and you’ll have to search for the best spots. No hunting is allowed within 300 feet of boat docks, houses, marinas or boat ramps. On Lanier, the no hunting safety margin expands to 600 feet.

You can find some geese on these lakes, said Ryan, but they are often in locations where they can’t be hunted. Pay special attention to specific rules that can apply to duck hunting, such as no duck hunting is allowed on the Oconee River between Wallace Dam and Highway 16, and duck hunting ends on most WMAs at noon. It’s a good idea to carry a hard copy of the DNR regulations with you or have the e-regs bookmarked on your phone. If you have a specific question about duck hunting, call the WRD Region office before you go hunting.

In Region 3 in central Georgia, Biologist Bobby Bond out of the Fort Valley office said that some good duck hunting can be found, but you’ll have to work at it. That means scouting the back ends of farm ponds, creeks and rivers where ducks seek refuge and acorns. They often drop into these areas at the last light of day, usually after legal shooting hours, so you’ll have to be there at the crack of dawn as they fly out. Then the shooting can be quick, often only lasting a few minutes, but you can often get a limit of three wood ducks. He also recommended stalking slowly down many of the creeks on the region’s WMAs and jump shooting ducks. I’ve often hunted along Camp Creek in Macon County and eased along the bank, surprising a few ducks along the way. Shooting the duck is only half the drill since finding them can be a challenge, and some wading is often required.

Also, don’t overlook the Dan Denton Waterfowl Area on Oconee WMA. It’s only 100 acres, but it’s a quota hunt with a history of good success rates.

Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge near Macon has good duck hunting, said Deputy Refuge Manager Carolyn Johnson, but it is quota only, and the deadline to apply is Sept. 21. There are no designed duck blinds, so this is a DIY hunt in the many sloughs or along Tobesofkee Creek.

Bond Swamp waterfowl hunts have a quota of 20 per hunt and will take place Dec. 10-11, 2022, Dec. 23-24, 2022, Jan. 6-7, 2023 and Jan. 20-21, 2023.

Contact the Piedmont Refuge office to obtain applications, permits and refuge specific hunting regulations. For more information, call 478.986.5441 or email [email protected]. Please check the refuge webpage or call the refuge office for updates.

In Region 5 in southwest Georgia, prime duck hunting can be found around the big waters of Lake Seminole, said duck and fishing guide Nick Jeter, who was raised near the lake and hunts and fishes there every chance he gets. He said the duck numbers have been down in the last few years and the hunting pressure has increased, so you have to work a little harder to be successful. However, good duck hunting can still be found, particularly if you avoid opening weekend and look for out-of-the-way locations that get overlooked by the average hunter. Most hunters congregate around the mouth of Spring Creek and the islands, which may require an air boat to access the better shallow backwaters. Another hot spot is the area called the Hole In The Wall, which is behind the Indian Mounds near the mouth of the Chattahoochee River, said Nick. He said most ducks harvested are woodies, but later in the season canvasbacks, ring-necks and pintails can be often found in the bag. Nick and his guide service can be reached at 229.220.0227.

Don’t overlook Silver lake WMA, which has the main body of Silver Lake and numerous small backwater ponds that are walk in and mostly hold water only in the winter wet season.

Also in southwest Georgia, try hunting in the Chattahoochee or Flint rivers and the many large creeks that flow into them.

Don’t forget about the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, which has a number of quota duck hunts, but the deadline to apply is Sept. 15. If you miss it this year, put it on your calendar for next year. Refuge Manager John Earl said that duck numbers have been down the last three or four years, but they have had some good hunts. He said they get ducks off both the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, and after a quota hunt, it’s not unusual to see 15 species of ducks in the bags. They have two hunt units. The Bradley Unit on the Georgia side is mostly wooded with dead trees, and the Kennedy Unit on the Alabama side is more open. Most of the water areas can be accessed with chest waders, but a small kayak can come in very handy, says John. All hunting is quota with no standby slots. User fees must be prepaid ($20 per hunter), and a waterfowl permit holder may bring up to two guests (no more than 3 individuals/blind). For more information, call 334.687.4065.

Along the Georgia coast, Robert Horan, wildlife biologist in Region 6 at the Brunswick office, said that the Altamaha River has some good duck hunting, but you’ll have to get out and investigate the backwater areas to locate the spots where the ducks hang out. During high-water times, the shallow-water areas back in the oak trees can be very productive, but they are also very scattered. He said just drifting in a boat among the shallow areas and jumping ducks can be a productive strategy. He cautions hunters to be careful along the river, especially during flood times as it can be easy to get lost and most areas have no cell service. Low-water times tend to concentrate the ducks along the main river channel and adjoining slews and makes for a little easier hunting.

The Altamaha WMA Waterfowl Management Area (11,402 acres) is a prime location for ducks, said Robert, but it is mostly quota only, so apply by Oct. 15.  Hunting is allowed on Butler and Champney islands, but check the regulations for details. Quota hunters may bring up to two other hunters. Limited standby hunters are allowed on Butler Island for no-shows on the quota hunts. That takes place at 5 a.m. Hunting is also allowed on Rhett’s Island on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday during state season.

Robert said that good hunting can be found in the tidal marshes that stretch 3 miles on either side on I-95. Just find a boat ramp, drop in your boat and start cruising around to find a good place to set up your decoys. The backs of coves and basins are good spots to hold ducks, but watch for the outgoing tide and don’t get stuck.

Duck hunters often seek out the advice and camaraderie of other hunters and one of the best places to gather is a Ducks Unlimited banquet, which are often held just prior to the hunting season. According to Brice Crawford, a DU Regional Manager, the DU organization hosts 70-plus DU banquets around the state of Georgia each year. If you are a duck hunter, you are invited, so check out Georgia DU for more information.

Clement Barnes, the DU banquet coordinator for the Warm Springs area, says they have a core group of avid duck hunters who often gather to hunt the local beaver ponds, but then they also plan trips to duck hunting hot spots around the country, which is a lot of fun, said Clement. DU had been strongly involved with supporting duck hunters and duck habitat in Georgia and the nation. Go to for more information.

Clements Barnes, of Warm Springs, the local Ducks Unlimited chairman, often teams up with buddies to hit the local beaver ponds or take an out-of-state trip, like this one.

“One notable change to the migratory bird regulations this year is a change to the waterfowl hunting season. The second split for duck season will begin the first Saturday after Dec. 5 and end on the last Sunday in January,” said Tina Johannsen, assistant chief of the WRD Game Management Section. “This change avoids starting the season on a day other than Saturday, thereby maximizing hunters’ weekend opportunities each year.”

In 2018, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service gave states the option to end waterfowl season on Jan. 31. Georgia is  allowed no more than 60 total days of hunting, and no more than one split. In accordance with hunter desires, Georgia has traditionally had a nine-day season around Thanksgiving, which leaves 51 days. Ending the season on the last possible day (which is strongly preferred by Georgia duck hunters) means the opening day of the second split may fall on different days of the week in order to allow hunters the full number of days that can be offered. The first season (in November) will always be the Saturday before Thanksgiving to Sunday after Thanksgiving for nine days. The opening and closing days of the week for the second split will vary each year.


You might be wondering, how are the ducks doing on the national scale. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last USFWS duck breeding population survey was released in 2019. However, a new report was issued in August 2022, and it revealed that duck numbers are down. Total populations were estimated at 34.2 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, 12% lower than the 2019 estimate of 38.9 million and 4% lower than the long-term average since 1952.

“Although the beneficial effects of timely precipitation during late winter and spring were evident by high pond counts across the eastern prairies, the total duck estimate in the Traditional Survey Area was the lowest in nearly 20 years,” said DU Chief Scientist Dr. Steve Adair. “The drop in duck numbers reflects the consequences of low production caused by multiple years of prairie drought, including 2021, which was one of the most severe and widespread in nearly four decades. But the survey revealed some bright spots for duck populations and provided optimism for good production this summer and carry-over of favorable pond conditions into fall and winter.”

The full Waterfowl Population Status, 2022  report is available.

Back home, Georgia will have some good duck hunting this seasons, but it sounds like homework will help and many of us will be looking to the reliable wood duck for consistency in our game bags.

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