Canada’s Smallest Province Offers Big Trophy Potential
A fistful of greenheads might be the prize in flooded Arkansas timber, but along the Atlantic Coast, nothing beats a brace of black ducks. And there might be no better — or more overlooked — trophy duck hunting opportunity than tiny Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Picturesque golden aspens amid backdrops of dense conifers and the swirl of river currents pushing decoys tantalizingly in tidal bays of rust-red sand await. Adding the exclamation point to a supreme experience, hunters have the shot at bagging big, beautiful pure-strain American black ducks that respond to calls and decoy willingly — a far cry from the commonly wary birds to the south.
Saddled by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, PEI is Canada’s smallest province. It can be reached via air or courtesy of the Confederation Bridge, an 8-mile long engineering marvel that attaches it to the mainland. As a natural waterfowl staging ground, PEI harbors hundreds of thousands of migrating ducks and geese each fall.
At just a bit more than 2,000 square miles, locating PEI’s black ducks isn’t too challenging. Our hotspots were tidal marshes adjacent to main-river channels and sandwiched between farm fields. A few early morning birds graced the decoys, but the action really heated up later, after the ducks returned to loaf from gorging on waste grain.
The PEI regular waterfowling season begins Oct. 1 and runs through December. While the island produces local birds, the best hunting is enjoyed by those who can time the migration. The truly bulbous, full-feathered black ducks — locals refer to them as “northern redlegs”— come through from their Newfoundland and Labrador breeding grounds just ahead of the winter freeze.
Don’t plan on freelancing in PEI, however. Laws require all nonresidents to hunt with a licensed resident or registered guide. Unless you’re one of the lucky few with a hunting buddy among PEI’s 140,000 inhabitants, enlisting the services of an outfitter is your only option. Licenses are reasonable, but make sure you have your state-issued Hunter Safety Certificate, otherwise you’ll be sidelined while your buddies are filling their game straps.
And if you limit on black ducks — recently updated regulations allow four black ducks or mallard-black duck hybrids daily per person from Oct. 1 to Nov. 7, when it then drops to two daily for the remainder of the season — definitely take advantage of the island’s plentiful opportunities for Canada geese or sea ducks. Combined with customary Canadian hospitality and some of the finest seafood on the East Coast, a trip to target black ducks in PEI has all the ingredients to satiate the appetite of any worldly waterfowler.