The 132,500-plus acres of Lake Mille Lacs with its bays and surrounding river and wetland habitat areas are home to several duck species, including mallards, teal, canvasbacks, bluebills, ring-necked ducks, and wood ducks.
The Lake Mille Lacs area has abundant nesting areas for ducks and other migratory waterfowl as they return in the spring. Ducks can be seen throughout the warm days of summer and then in larger numbers in the fall as they gather for migration.
Popular duck hunting areas include the bays found on Lake Mille Lacs, the Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area, and the Aitkin Wildlife Management Area. The varied habitat found in these areas includes wetlands, bogs, and forest openings, which are preferred by ducks and other migratory waterfowl. River hunting areas include the Rice River, which runs through the north side of the Aitkin WMA, as well as the Rum River flowing from Lake Mille Lacs. Along the north shore of Lake Mille Lacs, you’ll also find hunting areas within Wealthwood State Forest and Ripple River Wildlife Management Area, which covers nearly half of the state forest. Other lands available for hunting include state lands and hunting preserves.
Mallard: Minnesota doesn’t have a state duck, but if it did, it would likely be the popular mallard. Mallards prefer lakes, swampy areas, and flooded grain fields, and have a wider range than other ducks.
Teal: Teal are early migrators—late September and early October—getting a head start on other Minnesota ducks. Teal favor wetlands, small lakes, and back bays of rivers.
Canvasback: The canvasback population has increased and is now 1–3% of all ducks harvested in Minnesota. They prefer large lakes, potholes, and rivers.
Bluebill: These fast-flying, diving ducks prefer large lakes and can be found in flocks numbering 10,000. They are late-fall migrators.
Ring-necked ducks: The ring-necked duck is a diving duck that prefers smaller, wooded potholes. It is also called the ring-bill, due to its bill marking.
Wood duck: Look for colorful wood ducks (or “woodies”) in forested areas near water, where they nest in hollow trees or man-made nesting boxes. Their strong grip even allows them to perch on tree branches.