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Updated March 2012

By John A. Vance, Environmental Eng. Tech., & Outdoor Writer (Member: Outdoor Writers of Canada, et al)

 Canvasback ducks are a very large birds relative to other migratory ducks, and are slightly larger than a mallard. These birds nest extensively out west on the Canadian prairies, and in most northerly sections of most Canadian Provinces. 

Their numbers were in decline over the past few years, owing mostly to several dry years, as well as loss of habitat. Lately though, they've rebounded with encouraging population growth, thanks IN PART (ONLY) to lower bag limits as a needed and successful conservation measure. The recent wetter breeding years and better breeding conditions have played a more important role in the (recent) growing canvasback numbers. Too, and hopefully(optimistically) the canvasback is becoming more adaptable to person made wetlands and staging areas, and that populations continue to grow. In 2012 as I update this page, the teeter totter of population dynamics for both canvasback and redhead ducks continues to teeter - some good years, some bad - but they appear to have levelled off and holding their own on the overall. 

The canvasback is primarily a solitary bird though, and doesn't like people's activities much, especially in breeding seasons. As well, they like larger water-bodies to nest near, and can't just nest in any small pothole like many 'puddle' ducks can. 

They are divers, and eat a lot of insect/animal life during the spring/summer season; though, they primarily eat vegetation such as water celery, coontail and other such aquatic life, and they eat this vegetable matter when a choice exists. Canvasbacks are truly awesome table fare. 

Once they start to migrate, you'll find them on 'big waters' and stage up most often with several family units; they don't usually cluster up in 'rafts' of more than about fifty to a hundred birds. 

In the Long Point area, where I hunted extensively as a younger fellow and when in my prime - one may find them rafted up in much larger groups, several acres in size, usually just before they 'pull out' to go south, often being 'frozen out'. Canvasbacks are a very hardy bird, most often having to be 'pushed' south by bad/cold/stormy/snowy/sleet/freeze-up weather. I now see them where I live in northern Ontario as an older waterfowlist. It seems that canvasbacks almost relish nasty weather. My now ( current black lab) companion and fellow waterfowlist 'Lupe' and I don't get out after canvasbacks too much, simply because of my age - canvasback hunting is truly gruelling - and for the younger folk in good health! Rather, Lupe and I will still 'do ok' with easier waterfowl. The point being that the harsh conditions you'll encounter whilst canvasback hunting can be savage and cold. The new lay-out boats are an excellent way to dupe them, though, for the hardy souls that wish to hunt them. If you are one of these younger fellows who wish to participate in hunting canvasback ducks, - do email me - I'd love to hear from you. I may have some 'pearls of wisdom' that you can learn from. Do email me.

A person has to be a rugged individual to be able to withstand the savagery of the elements needed to have consistent canvasback shooting. Most hunters regard this as the epitome of waterfowling though, especially when hunting from 'layout' boats in these bird's 'big water' haunts!
I too, must admit that to be good at canvasback hunting - is an adventure - and thrilling to say the least. The birds you take are truly trophy birds! I want to tell you that it would be wise for you to get LOTS of pictures and videos for you to enjoy when you get older, like myself, and you may not physically be able to participate at canvasback hunting any longer. Here where I now live in northern Ontario, I see a good number of them each fall - and wish them well - long live the canvasback! Again, I invite potential young canvasback hunters to email me - I'd love to hear from you! John A. Vance

I need to earn a living too! Please do visit my product page for some of my unique outdoor products available there.

New for 2012 – Audio Instructional CDs – for those who don't like to read books – but wish to learn at an advanced level!

These CDs are perfect for those who commute – so you can become more efficient at your time – learn, enjoyably while on your way to work!

New titles being added all the time!

Author: John A. Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A. Vance. . . 

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