2023-24 Georgia Duck Forecast

WMA waterfowl quota hunt deadline Oct. 15.

John Trussell | October 3, 2023

Macon DU member Mackee Paulk says duck hunting is a family affair around his house. Last year his sons Wilkes and Reid got in on the action and had a great time with dad.

Editor’s Note: After this article was published in the October 2023 print edition of GON, WRD announced that all Butler Island waterfowl hunting would be closed for the 2023-24 due to recent storm damage. See WRD Release.

I knew the ducks were roosting in the back of a local farm pond because I saw them flying in the evening before while I was fishing as the sun went down. Alrighty now! I know where some ducks will be in the morning.

I make it a point to never hunt in the evening because ducks have this uncanny ability to fly to roosting areas about 10 minutes after legal shooting time, which is legal sunset. I came back the next morning and set up in my small boat along the treeline where the ducks would probably follow as they left the pond. Just as the sun started to lighten up the sky, I heard the first squealing of wood ducks as they greeted the new day. I heard the rush of flapping wings and soon two wood ducks came by at 20 yards. I managed to drop one with my Remington 11-87 and No. 5 steel shot. I never get tired of seeing the feathers get knocked off a duck and watching it splash dead in the water.

That gun shot spooked the rest of the ducks, and within five seconds I was covered up with birds, some I could have hit with a boat paddle. A wealth of opportunity but only five seconds to cash in. The ducks flapped furiously as they were trying to gain elevation and escape, but I got lucky and dropped two more into the lake. So, in about one minute of shooting, I had my limit of three wood ducks, and my duck hunt was over. I collected my woodies and pulled out the fishing reel—so that was a good day of hunting and fishing.

Duck hunting in Georgia can be pretty good if you put some time in scouting and properly planning, and as a bonus, we get to hunt for one of the most colorful and tasty ducks in the wild, the wood duck. 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, 2023. Those quota hunts are listed on page 51.

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. Some quota hunts can take a number of years to earn a quota hunt permit, so start collecting those points now. If you do want to get selected on a hunt this year, check out the quota odds tables at

According to Kara Nitschke, WRD’s state waterfowl and alligator biologist, hunters should experience a good duck season for the fall and winter of 2023-24, with no notable changes from last year other than a slight change to sea duck bag limits. This season, hunters may harvest four total seas ducks, of which there can be no more than three scoters, three eider (one of which may be a hen) or three long-tailed ducks. Kara said that traditionally Georgia’s duck harvest is made up of close to 60% wood ducks, and the migratory ducks don’t usually show up until mid-November when cold weather up north drives them down.

Kara also encourages hunters to target the state’s abundant goose population whenever possible. She says the last goose population estimate put the geese at 300,000, but she says it’s probably slightly increasing every year. She says WRD will assist landowners who have an overpopulation of geese by advising them on effective strategies to reduce the population. Contact your WRD Game Management Region Office for more information.

Kara also encourages duck hunters to try the several youth duck quota hunts around the state. She feels that getting kids into a duck blind when they are young is the best way to instill in them a love for duck hunting that will follow them into adulthood.

Along the Georgia coast in WRD Game Management Region 6 is where some of Georgia’s best duck hunting can be found. As to the best WMAs for ducks on the coast, Kara said the quota hunts on Champney Island on the Altamaha WMA Waterfowl Management Area should provide good hunting this year. She says the recent damage from Hurricane Idalia was minor, but hunters will notice that some repair and cleanup work is still underway.

In spite of Butler Island on the Altamaha WMA Waterfowl Management Area being closed for the 2023 season, Champney Island will still offer quota hunts. On those quota hunts, hunters may bring up to two other hunters. On Champney, all waterfowl quota hunts decreased from 25 to 20 hunters. This was done to improve overall hunt quality.

Non-quota waterfowl hunting is allowed on Rhetts Island on Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and during state holidays during the state duck season. WRD Wildlife Biologist Robert Horan said Thanksgiving weekend is one of their best hunts because hunting is open from Thursday to Sunday.

For those who just want to hunt the coast, there are abundant marshlands that stretch 3 miles on either side on I-95 and can provide some good hunting. Just find a boat ramp and start cruising around to find a good place to set up your decoys. This type of hunting requires pre-hunt scouting, and you must be careful to watch for the outgoing tide and don’t get stuck on a marsh sandbar. Also, make sure you’re familiar with where you are hunting. You don’t want to be hunting the Altamaha WMA Waterfowl Management Area if you’re not supposed to be there.

Also in Region 6, duck hunters may want to consider the creeks and sloughs in Penholoway Swamp, Sansavilla  and Clayhole Swamp WMAs. Robert says hunters willing to put in the time looking around can find good locations to do some blind or jump shooting along the creeks and beaver ponds. A good place to start scouting is to carefully review the online WRD maps and look for large creeks, marshes and areas where roads cross the creeks, said Robert.

Robert also like the Altamaha River for duck hunting, but you’ll have to get out and investigate the backwater areas to locate the spots where the ducks hang out. During times of high water, the flooded shallow-water areas back in the oak trees can be very productive as wood ducks seek out acorns. He said just drifting in a boat in shallow areas and jumping ducks can be a productive way to fill your limit.

Deadline to apply for WMA quota waterfowl hunt is Oct. 15. To see how many priority points you will likely need to get drawn for a hunt, visit It takes a lot—so start applying with “points-only” applications.

In Region 5 in southwest Georgia, prime duck hunting can be found around the big waters of Lake Seminole or nearby Silver Lake WMA, said WRD biologists Brent Howze and Brian Vickery. They say Lake Seminole offers good duck hunting, particularly if you avoid opening weekend. Hunt on weekdays, and look for out-of-the-way locations that may get overlooked by the average hunter. They say most ducks harvested are woodies, but later in the season, some canvasbacks, ringnecks and pintails are often found in the bag.

They say some of the region’s WMAs, like Mayhaw,  Chickasawhatchee and Flint River, have some ducks, but you’ll have to work to find them. They say Chickasawhatchee may have the most ducks due to its large size, but you’ll need to study the online WMA map and find the best areas to wade around in the flooded timber. Don’t overlook Silver Lake WMA, which has its namesake Silver Lake, plus 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. Ducks often fly down the creeks, so the junction of a creek and the river can be very productive for pass shooting.

The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, which lies in both Georgia and Alabama along the Chattahoochee River, has some good duck hunting, according to Refuge Manager John Earle. The deadline to apply was Sept. 15. If you missed it, put it on your calendar for next year. John said they get ducks from the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, and it’s not unusual to see 15 species of ducks bagged during hunts.

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. For some unknown reason, he said the Alabama side was much more productive in the number of ducks killed in the 2022-23 season. To hunt the Alabama side, you must have an Alabama license, in addition to the usual refuge permit and proper duck stamps.

Most of the areas can be accessed with chest waders, but a small kayak can come in handy, said John. All blinds are assigned by lottery. Unconfirmed and unclaimed blinds may be filled by random draw the morning of each hunt. Hunting is permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to noon local time, except the last hunt of the season when hunting is permitted until sunset. Hunters are limited to 25 shells each. For more information, call 334.687.4065.

In Region 4, Biologist Theron Menken recommends hunters try River Bend, Big Hammock, Tuckahoe and Beaverdam for decent duck hunting. He says River Bend has a 60-acre waterfowl pond that always attracts a few ducks. He says the beaver ponds in these WMAs usually hold a few ducks, especially after good rains.

In Region 3 in central Georgia, Biologist I B. Parnell says that some good duck hunting can be found on some of the WMAs or in private ponds and streams. Scout 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.

I.B. did offer up Fishing Creek WMA as a good place to try. Two creeks feed into the area, Fishing Creek and Morris Creek. Both creeks have impoundments on them. The impoundments will be flooded this winter.  Since the impoundments are for moist soil management, don’t look for rows of planted crops there. There is a decent stand of barnyard grass that will begin to be flooded soon. These impoundments are open Wednesdays and Saturdays during waterfowl season only until noon.

The quota-only Dan Denton Waterfowl Area on Oconee WMA has a history of good success rates. However, expect to break the bank on priority points. It’s a very popular area, but for many, well worth the wait.

Tommy Shover, Ocmulgee WMA area manager, says hunters can find ducks on Shellstone and Magnolia creeks. He says Magnolia Creek has a lot of backwater areas that run up into hardwoods that holds a lot of wood ducks and is just right for a small boat or canoe to travel around.

On Oaky Woods WMA, hunters may find some ducks along Big Grocery Creek and the sloughs near the Ocmulgee River.

Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge near Macon has good duck hunting, said Deputy Refuge Manager Carolyn Johnson. The area is quota only, and the deadline to apply was Sept. 20, so keep it in mind for next year if you missed your chance.

There are no designated duck blinds, so hunt in the many sloughs or along Tobesofkee Creek. Hunting is only allowed on certain quota-hunt dates from 30 minutes before sunrise to 12 noon. Permit holders may bring up to two additional folks who are allowed to hunt, but they all must hunt and remain together as a group.

WRD Biologist Ryan Watts in Region 2 in northeast Georgia said that Redlands WMA is probably top pick in his region. This 37,500-acre WMA in Greene, Oglethorpe, Oconee and Morgan counties has the Apalachee and Oconee rivers, plus Fishing, Sandy, Harris 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 beaver ponds where ducks are holding and search 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. A good strategy is to hunt with a buddy and ease down a creek on opposite banks.

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.

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.

In Region 1 in northwest Georgia, WRD Biologist Brent Womack said the region is a tough place to duck hunt, 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. It offers three non-quota youth hunts, four general quota hunts and is open for non-quota hunting on Saturdays in January through the last day of the season.

Brent also mentioned the Pleasant Valley VPA as a promising location for ducks. It is 934 acres, and it’s open for general duck hunting on Saturdays during the duck season.

Brent said the best duck hunting is often found on beaver ponds on private lands, but don’t overlook drifting down the Etowah or Coosa rivers

The remaining Canada goose hunting seasons are Oct. 7-22, Nov. 18-26 and Dec. 9 – Jan. 28. Hunting season for ducks is Nov. 18-26 and Dec. 9 – Jan. 28.  A complete summary of migratory bird hunting season dates and bag limits is online at

Ducks Unlimited has the 2023 Duck Population Numbers published online. Overall, total duck numbers are raising some eyebrow. Across the board, duck numbers dropped 7% from 2022 and are 9% below the long-term average.

When you look at the Eastern Survey Area, mallards dropped 4%, but black ducks climbed 7% and green-winged teal numbers rose 17% from 2022. The full list can be found at

There’s also a DU podcast discussing current duck numbers at

If you want to talk duck, consider attending a Ducks Unlimited banquet this fall and share information with other duck hunters. DU is a wonderful friend to the duck hunter, and they have assisted with 38 projects across Georgia, with 19 of those areas being open to duck hunting. For more information, go to

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