Each year thousands of special visitors flock to the Outer Banks. Arriving by air, these VIP travelers cluster around sounds, bays, ponds, pools, and open ocean. Like so many other “tourists,” they love those beautiful OBX waters!
We’re talking about wildfowl, of course – the countless ducks, geese, and other water birds that rest, nest, feed, and winter in the NC Outer Banks. No wonder this string of barrier islands is considered a duck hunter’s paradise!
Whether you’ve been hunting for years or you’re just getting started, you’ll be right in your element here. This is what you need to know.
Duck Hunting Seasons and Limits
Precise starting and closing dates vary from year to year, but according to the latest information, these are the OBX waterfowl seasons:
- Ducks, coots, and mergansers: October 2-5, November 16-December 2, and December 14-January 31. Daily bags are limited to six ducks total.
- Sea ducks (limited to special areas): November 23 through January 31. Each hunter can bag five sea ducks daily.
- Dark geese (including Canada geese and white-fronted geese): January 16-31, by permit only, within the Northeast Hunt Zone, which covers the entire Outer Banks. You may bag one Canada goose and one white-fronted goose daily.
- Light geese, including snow geese and Ross’s geese: October 8 through February 8. You can bag up to 25 a day, with no possession limit. Plus, with a valid permit, you can enjoy extended hunting between February 10 and March 31, complete with extra shooting hours plus unlimited bags and possession.
- Brant: December 28-January 31, with a daily bag limit of one.
- Tundra swans: November 9-January 31. You’re allowed to bag one per day with a valid permit.
Do your kids love to hunt? They’re in luck. Hunters under age 18 can participate in Youth Waterfowl Days (February 1 and 8). Regular bag and possession restrictions apply. Like adults, younger sportsmen must have valid permits to hunt tundra swans and Canada geese.
The same goes for military veterans and active-duty members of the armed forces participating in Veterans/Military Waterfowl Days (also February 1 and 8).
Other specific bag restrictions apply. For full details, contact a reliable guide or check the “Seasons and Limits” section of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website.
How Can You Reach Your Bag Limit? Let Us Count the Ways
The Outer Banks provide a wide array of waterfowl-hunting options. Here are just a few:
- Open Water — Launch out with a guide and/or buddies, have your duck call handy, and spread around plenty of decoys. Since you’ll be in a boat, you won’t need to wear waders, but you may wish to bring along a pair just in case.
- Duck Blinds — If you hire a guide, he or she will probably have several blinds to choose from. For best results, go with the types of blinds your guide suggests.
- Shore — Prefer to hunt from the shore? Opt for established field blinds. Hunting on dry land? Go with layout blinds that blend into the landscape, giving you excellent cover. Added bonus: These blinds are portable, so you can easily move them as needed.
Where Are The Best Spots for Duck Hunting?
You’ll find excellent sport throughout the NC Outer Banks, but certain areas are especially prime, including:
- Currituck National Wildlife Refuge — Rent a shallow-draft boat to access this gorgeous preserve’s abundant waterfowl.
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore — You’re pretty sure to find plenty of ducks along this protected coastline. Just make sure you stay within legal hunting grounds: Nearby Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is always off-limits to hunters.
- Northern Outer Banks — Famous for plentiful water birds, these barrier-island communities draw avid hunters from across America. Local guides and hunters love them, too!
Prefer a little more peace and privacy? Check out the miles of secluded coastline where ducks and geese abound. Breathe the bracing sea air and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Heavenly!
Should You Get A Guide?
If you’re new to duck hunting – or even if you aren’t – you may benefit from hiring a guide. Local guides know “the lay of the land.” They know which spots are closed to hunters, which areas teem with wildfowl, where to purchase gear, how to obtain permits, and so on.
Most guides also have established blinds known to yield good results. Plus, they can answer your questions, give you tips and pointers, and offer as much (or as little) hands-on help as you wish.
What Should You Bring?
Dress in neutral colors (brown camouflage is best). Wear warm clothing but don’t overdress. Layering is ideal: If you start to feel overheated, you can simply peel off the top few layers. For instance, you could layer a polar-fleece hoodie over a flannel shirt or sweatshirt. Plus, bring along waders and a waterproof jacket in case of rain.
Planning to hunt all day? Take along snacks and drinks… along with a sizable cooler for all the ducks you’ll be bringing home.
Need to Know Anything Else?
Local guides can fill you in. Or, you can go online to the helpful website for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Start planning today for an unforgettable hunting experience!