Coots are sometimes mistaken for ducks by the non-hunting public, but they’re actually cousins of sandhill cranes and rails. They don’t have webbed feet, rarely and barely migrate (Like resident geese, coots will occasionally move short distances but never truly “migrate.”), and actively steal the food from ducks like redheads and cinnamon teal when not rolling canvasback eggs out of their nests.
Coots are able to be taken separately from the daily bag limit for ducks and geese, but many hunters refuse to waste a shell on the “inedible” birds. (They can be eaten, but the meat does require preparation first.) Cornell’s ornithology lab put the number of coots killed in the U.S. in 1999 at 720,000, but their populations are so high and widespread that you would never know that so many were taken on any given year.
Manitoba, where this research footage was shot by Delta Waterfowl, allows coots to be taken. In the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central Flyways, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows American hunters to kill as many as 15 coots a day; in the Pacific Flyway, a whopping 25 coots per hunter per day. By all means, build wood duck boxes and buy extra Duck Stamps each year, but be sure to shoot coots, as well. The benefits to your local duck population will surprise you.