Some 4.7 million ducks winter annually where the Mississippi meets the Gulf, the nation’s largest coastal tidal marsh. It’s no wonder that Louisiana waterfowlers consistently bag nearly twice as many ducks as hunters in any other state.

To find Louisiana’s famous duck hunting, follow the Big Muddy. Upriver, winter rains push waters beyond their banks, creating fabulous hunting for greenheads and other puddle ducks in potholes, flooded timber, and soaked agricultural fields. Downriver, 600,000 acres of ricefields border 3.5 million acres of fertile coastal marsh, drawing a tremendous number and variety of wintering ducks, including mallards, pintails, teal, gadwall, wigeon, and mottled ducks.

Hotspots: For the best mallard hunting, target the backwaters of the Mississippi and its tributaries, notably the Boeuf, Ouachita, and Red Rivers, in northeastern and central Louisiana. “The Chafalaya River is another tremendous freshwater system,” says Robert Helm, waterfowl program manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “Good public areas here include the Ouachita and Russell Sage Wildlife Management Areas in the northeast, Boeuf WMA just south of there, and Catahoula Lake in central Louisiana.”

The ricefields and coastal marshes in the south are mostly private, and you can find excellent guided hunting. However, Helm notes that the Sabine and Lacassine National Wildlife Refuges in the southwest are large public areas that provide great late-season action along the coast.

Insider Tip: “Muddy up the water,” says waterfowl guide Larry Shuff of Louisiana Hunting Adventures (337-526-2961; “Walk through the water to make it look like there’s been a lot of waterfowl activity around your spread. Also, mix up your decoy placement from hunt to hunt, and do less high-balling on the call.”

Season Dates: Late duck: West Zone, Dec. 13¿¿¿Jan. 18; East Zone, Dec. 13¿¿¿Jan. 25.