Mississippi Flyway Missouri Waterfowl Hunting

Mississippi Flyway – Missouri waterfowl hunting overview for the traveling duck and goose hunter. None of this information will be new to local Missouri hunters.Mississippi Flyway Missouri Waterfowl Hunting Map

Missouri goose and duck hunting is a good as it is due to the combination of low elevations that collect a lot of water. The intent of what these maps should show.

This article builds down from the Mississippi Flyway into the Central Lowlands in Missouri. Or, that region that gives us good Missouri waterfowl hunting.

The Central and Mississippi flyway converge in the central mid-west due to the Mississippi River combining with the Ohio and the Missouri. Ducks following the Mississippi flyway are concentrated in the Missouri Central Lowlands where the watersheds flatten out into wide sub basins composed of thousands of streams. While at the same time the Mississippi Flyway proper along the upper Mississippi River and along the Ohio narrows to concentrated standing water structure.Mississippi Flyway Missouri Waterfowl Hunting Map

Missouri waterfowl hunting is good due to the confluence of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Unlike the coastal flyways that are clearly bound by the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and Appalachian or Rocky Mountain chains the two interior flyways share a common boundary assigned by man rather than natural geographically limiting obstacle. The interior flyways also contrast the ocean flyways in that the waterfowl migration movement is motivated by the region’s major water ways rather than the more linear north-south coastal and mountain lines.

The map above shows the major water ways that influence the central United States migration into Missouri. Highlighted in blue is the Central Lowlands that concentrates the waterfowl from the three major rivers. That area of the better hunting.Mississippi Flyway Missouri Waterfowl Hunting Map

Amongst these water way influenced migration patterns the the Central Flyway has the longest at 2,341 miles from Canada to St. Louis.

The Central Flyway is notable for the six dams and the largest overall reservoir system in the United States. This large amount of standing water structures continues thorough its length. Not only are there large reservoirs there exist an uncountable number of natural and manmade smaller wetlands, flood plain, marsh and other water based habitats that allow for vast breeding and hold layover populations of ducks during the migration.

Mississippi Flyway Missouri Waterfowl Hunting MapThis map of three national watersheds confluence within the Central Lowlands further demonstrates the value of the area highlighted by the blue circle in the map further above. Not only is the Central Flyway watershed the largest, as the ducks and geese migrate south they concentrate as the watershed constricts transcending from the Central Flyway to that of the Mississippi Flyway.

Knowing this is key to why this area has the good goose and duck hunting that it does within the greater region of the Mississippi flyway.

Sub-basins (above and below right).

Mississippi Flyway Missouri Waterfowl Hunting MapMissouri waterfowl hunting is best within the sub-basins with the Central Lowlands the most extensive in terms of types of water structures and quantity. The basis of the Association’s wetlands comes from this basin’s extensive network of streams and marsh.

Each of the the largest sub-basins broken further down they are composed of multiple watersheds.

All of this area is within the Central Lowlands.

The MDC does spot counts of ducks within each of the sub-basins shown above. The matrix below are representative duck counts (geese are not included) giving example of the migration flow over time.

A historical example of the migration.


Northwest Sub-Basin

Grand River Sub-Basin

hunting ducks and spring snow geese
Osage River Sub-Basin

Cold Season
October 10 3,000+ 14,000+ 7,000+
October 23 3,000+ 68,000+ 64,000+
November 7 38,000+ 44,000+ 46,000+
November 21 175,000+ 365,000+ 76,000+
December 5 100,000+ 351,000+ 33,000+
December 19 50+ 14,000+ 5,000+
January 4 no count no count 49,000+
Unseasonably Warm
September 25 5,247 3,740 2,100
October 11 22,311 30,005 22,150
October 22 30,150 52,875 26,600
October 29 77,656 150,178 46,300
November 12 77,334 118,800 68,050
November 26 337,674 261,820 99,900
December 10 130,943 257,855 93,700
December 17 30,550 241,387 37,000

The Three major Sub-Basin Composing The Best Missouri Waterfowl Hunting

Northwest Basin consists of the Tarkio, Nodaway and Platte Rivers.

The combined basin area has over 591 third order streams in addition to the rivers themselves.

Definition: The smallest permanently flowing streams are first order ranging up to 12 which is considered the Amazon. When two first order streams come together they form a second order stream and so on. That means taking the 591 third order streams listed above means there are 1182+ second order streams and 2364+ first order streams. The ‘+’ symbol means that if a first order stream flows into a second order stream the first order stream remains a first order stream, it takes two first order streams to come together at one juncture to make a second order stream. Compare these numbers of streams to any other part of the United States to surface area and Missouri out counts per square mile any other spot for flowing water. That flowing water does equate to still water collection as well. The focus on third order streams is due to that first through third order streams are Headwater Streams, or the upper reaches of the watershed, or that area most likely to contain a higher density of wildlife area.

Within this basin is the Squaw Creek Waterfowl Management Area, a regionally well known duck and goose habitat with significant surrounding private wetlands to include Mid-America Hunting Association wetlands of flooded crop. Other nearby waterfowl Conservation Areas include Bob Brown.

This basin is the migration entry point into Missouri from the Central Flyway following the Missouri River from the north west.

The Nodaway River has a watershed area of 1,820 square miles. The Nodaway watershed is bound by the Platte River watershed to the east and the Grand River and Des Moines River watersheds to the northeast. The area is about 115 miles in length. It averages 12 miles in width. The flood plain width varies between one-half and two and one-half miles. The waterfowl value is this basin is prone to extensive flooding. That extends to benefits and consequences for the waterfowl hunter as flooding or the lack of it concentrates or diffuses migrating flocks. During warm migration weather layover it is the difference between seeing thousands of ducks to seeing hundred of thousands of ducks.

Platte River watershed contains 1,633 square miles. There are 435 third order and larger streams within the watershed and major tributaries include the 102 River, Third Fork, Honey Creek, Castile Creek, and the Little Platte.

Tarkio River watershed is heavily covered my numerous streams and wetlands. This area greatly flattens allowing for numerous wetlands both of controlled water level and uncontrolled flooding.

These three rivers (Nodaway, Platte, Tarkio) while separate watersheds collectively make for a significant basin that combined with the Grand River Basin in north central Missouri makes for one of the most stream congested watersheds in Missouri.

Grand River Basin is the largest prairie river in Missouri that is relatively unaffected by impoundments or canalization. Much small acreage manmade still waters in this region hold the bulk of the waterfowl.

This basin covers about 1/3 or better of north central Missouri.

It has 8 major tributaries and several extensive large flock waterfowl holding marsh areas to include the Fountain Grove Conservation Area, Swan Lake and many smaller wetlands. The Grand River Basin has an uncounted number of third order streams in excess of 1,000 making it the most extensive network of headwater streams of any of the sub-basins in Missouri.

This is the basin where we have our best marsh wetlands and the most consistent, not to always be equated with best, Missouri waterfowl hunting.

Osage River Basin has 2,364 streams with a combined length of approximately 3,586 mi, of which 276 are third order or larger (1,168 miles).

While the largest river in this sub-basin is the Osage, it would be remiss not to mention the South Grand River as it has significantly more marsh lands. This is one of the historic waterfowl market hunting localities.

Since the construction of Truman Dam, flooding has increased in the lower portions of streams within the flood pool of Truman Lake. These flooded areas provide a variety of wetlands habitat supporting year round duck populations.

Within the Osage Basin we exist on the western region with our best slough, flooded timber, timbered potholes and open water on crop field hunting.

Missouri Waterfowl Hunting Areas

These abundant sub-basins have not been ignored by government goose and duck conservation efforts.

This map is of state and federal wetlands and conservation areas showing clearly where the government effort has been placed. Some are for hunting and some are not.

These efforts have been greatly received by the waterfowl hunting community.

To hunt a state controlled waterfowl area requires the hunter to appear early morning, place his name in a competitive lottery and see if he gets drawn for hunting access. This is the Missouri Department of Conservation doing what it does very well. That is, develop wildlife hunting habitat and then manage it to prevent over hunting the land. Those that do draw for a hunt typically have a good hunt, those that do not draw, go home. Hence the birth of the private waterfowl hunting wetlands as MAHA provides.

MAHA Waterfowl

With our Association no waterfowl hunter is ever denied the chance to go hunting when he desires to hunt and do so without competition. In terms of our Missouri wetlands and our unguided waterfowl hunting no one is disappointed by the wetlands or blinds. Weather and migration remain the uncontrollable elements. MAHA also gives the waterfowl hunter the flexibility for choosing when and where to hunt. That added choice allows for more season long success to hunt where the ducks are rather than go somewhere and hope the ducks show up.