Although in former years I hunted extensively in the Fairbanks flyway region (#2), I now hunt the Bethel Flyway (#3) Outlined in yellow. My hunting area at the Matanuska Hay Flats requires no plane travel and the birds come to me. Number 2 and 3 Flyways probably pull the most heavy concentrations of Alaska wildfowl. but will see few hunters before leaving the state. South central Alaska in the Matanuska valley where the flats are located has a long duck and goose season with mild weather compared to other areas north and west. As I get older this is increasingly important.
In an area like this, no special waterfowl gear is needed. As long as you have a good wind and waterproof top coat waterfowl jacket with breathable undergarments a gunner will do just fine. Of course a good pair of waders is important, the tougher the better just like any other waterfowl marsh. A wind proof hat and face mask will come in handy, and another waterproof or water resistant Gore-Tex type hat is a godsend at times. Wool is making a comeback for fowlers in the know, as it can still provide warmth if a gunner gets wet and this will happen to most sooner or later. Any modern up to date shotgun will help a fowler secure a limit here, I especially recommend and favor a Benelli or Browning A-5 auto. (both non-gas guns) but many other makes and models of auto, pump or double guns will do yeoman's work on a Alaska hunt. I favor as an all around shot load # 3's of moderate speed with a heavy load of shot as possible. (more on this in the shot shell section).
Our guided hunt are traditional hunts using unique Alaska school hollow wood decoys. No spin wing or other types of non-traditional decoys. We hunt only traditional marsh and diver ducks. We follow the traditional pecking order of duck discrimination seldom seen today. This means we put ducks we hunt on a scale of traditional desirability as to sporting accomplishment and table fare.
We rate our ducks like this:
1.Canvasback, the traditional fastest flying, tough to kill, best tasting duck. King Can.
2. Mallard, smartest, large, good tasting duck. A North American favorite.
3. Northern Pintail, one of the worlds most beautiful and graceful birds, fast flying and sporting, great to eat. Many of Alaska plentiful Pintails migrate and are hunted in California.
4. Gadwall. the last few years a numerous Alaska duck, large and good tasting and fairly sporting.
5. Widgeon, a medium sized duck very plentiful in Alaska. Can be smart when pressured.
6. Redhead, fairly lager diver, in the old days considered second to Canvasbacks for table desirability. Sporting fast flyers.
From here the list starts to get slim and we target the above species most of the time. Blackheads, Bluebills or Scaup, (the same bird) are fine fast flying sporting birds that well, do not taste like Cans or Redheads. Teal are fast flyers but fly low over the marsh a lot and are small and hard to make a good
meal out of a limit. Tasty.
Below you will find a larger version of the Alaska Flyway Map that is explained at the bottom of the WHY HUNT ALASKA PAGE. The reason I am going over this map is because to know where the waterfowl you hunt in Alaska is very important to the basic understanding of this great sport.
Awareness of where your birds come from gives you knowledge of what you may expect of some of their behavior. Where I mostly hunt, the Matanuska Palmer Hay Flats for example, a hunter can at least form a theory of why some species of wildfowl behave like they do in the area you are hunting.
If I am hunting Widgeon for example, that are not usually very smart after a summer on remote western Alaska tundra lakes, that seem real smart at the flats, I can assume that they have probably been shot at on or near the Susitna flats directly west of the Matanuska Hay Flats.
Is this that important? Well, it just may give you an advantage of how to rig your decoys to make for a Widgeon set and decoy rig that will lure smarter birds, that was not necessary most of the time for normally unwise fresh migration Widgeon.
The 4 Major Alaska Flyways:
1. Northern Coast and Fort Yukon Flyway
4.Outer Island and Costal Flyway
Shoveler aka (spoonbill), Goldeneye, Ring-neck duck, Bufflehead, various Merganser aka (fence post pheasant), and most other North American Marsh and Diver ducks. Most species of North American Geese including rare Tule and semi-rare Aleutian.
Teal to us seem hard to justify when the top 6 species above are available. Likewise other ducks that may be hunted at times or at the request of a gunner. Some will disagree with our bird assessment and that is their right. Remember, discrimination is the foundation of civilization and could not have been built without it.