Is There Such a Thing as Trash Ducks?

pair of ducks

A good number of the bold hearted and adventurous hunters would scoff at the idea of non-mallard making it to the dinner table—or even mounting.

That’s the true hunter spirit, they’d say. It has been so since duck hunting immemorial.

Occasionally, a new companion, a stranger to their woods, gets excited when they bag a Northern Shoveller. His companions may laugh at his exhilaration or the desire to take his “trophy” home.

Weirdly, some newcomers do not understand the obsession with the Mallard. And the belief that a non-mallard is not a duck worth shooting. And this behavior spills over to the Canadians.

Perhaps, the negative connotation makes it harder for anyone to come out strongly and defend “trash ducks.” Of course, you come across a few written pieces defending them, but the majority choose to continue the tradition.

The choice of duck hunting species in the woods is relatively subjective to social construct and personal experiences.

Is there such a thing as trash ducks?

The truth is that trash ducks exist—all duck hunters agree on this, even those that vigorously defend them. As the defenders of trash ducks would say, “one man’s trash duck is another man’s trophy.”


Why Do Some People Call Non-Mallards Trash Ducks?

mallard landing on lake

Saying “some people” is an understatement. Let’s say that duck hunters are choosy, American, and Canadians too.

But even before we get down to the reasons why they call them, it’s good to understand where they’re coming from.

Any form of game hunting is first, a competition of sort, competing with the ducks and your companions. Hunting is a team sport; at least, it’s more fun that way. The most prized possession in any sport is the trophy.

Ordinarily, you do not get to choose the trophy; it is set by the organizers who also set the rules. When it comes to ducks, the Mallard has earned the top spot as the most prized possession over the years.

It offers a great meal and much deserved respect. If you hit the limit, you know you deserve to immortalize the moment. It becomes the right winning warrior moment, and you are proud of your accomplishment.

The fanfare isn’t courteous or exceedingly euphoric when you down a ruddy duck, or let’s say, some mergansers in different circles.

The prestige ranking stems from the long history of duck hunting. The Mallard is considered the most prestigious, followed by pintails, canvasback, woods, and black ducks.

These ducks are considered delicious and have a long historical attachment of prestige and hunt-worthy status. The list itself is short, considering we haven’t mentioned gadwalls, spoonbills, or even northern shovelers.

For hunting prestige that matters, the list should be shorter and only retain the purest of them all, the mallards. The perception, or if you like belief, has been passed on from one generation to another.

And since there’s little opposition (not that there should be), it is widely accepted. The belief that non-mallards are trash ducks is even accentuated on the interwebs on national or state-based duck hunting forums.

In the past, the prestigious birds free-flowed into hunting territory in irresistible number, abundantly beckoning for a sweet kill. Besides being in awe numbers, people were willing to pay for them.

An opinion was formed around the other less desirable ducks, which has persisted over the years. Mallard purists have taken it a notch higher, even swearing they’d never shoot anything else besides a greenhead.

There are semi purists who would shoot ruddies, sponnies, or even buffleheads for the fun of it, especially if they travel a lot. Back home, where mallard storm during the season, they’ll revert to default—only gunning down this species.

Is it Just A Stereotype, Or There’s More To It?

Mallard male

The answer to this question is not clear cut because taste is subjective. Personal choices are also hard to measure.

We won’t get down to its science because duck hunting isn’t so much about that.

But if we do, we might dismiss that as a stereotype. If we state that some non-mallards as less tasty than the Mallard, some people know that some ducks like spoonies and scaup smoke well and make great gumbos.

The general rule in duck hunting remains “if you shoot ’em, you eat ‘em.” It’s widely believed that vegetarian ducks tasty better than their carnivorous counterparts.

Ducks like ruddy are considered trash ducks but are principally plant-eaters but supplement their diet with some crams or larvae here and there. Does it mean they taste horrible? On the contrary, they would form a feast for a substantial number of people.

The trophy mentality is also fueled by the belief that if hunters gunned down more mallards within the season, they’d become scarce. In such a scenario, adding one to your strap become the epitome of this adrenaline-filled affair.

The younger breed of hunters are excited for a kill—how do you stop them from downing a sponnie when they see one? In the information age, they’d do more and more research to prove a point.

In our case, a ruddy, bufflehead, or spoonbill might be great as a mallard. There may throw in a piece of science or anecdotal evidence to support the point.

The most challenging thing is to convince the “mallard purists” to hunt other ducks with much enthusiasm as they do with the Mallard.

Some have even gone to the extent of isolating the drake mallard as the only duck worth hunting.

Some have been hunting for so many years and keep winning every time. If it’s a matter of basing the argument on facts—the notion is merely a stereotype.

Nevertheless, if you get into the heart of it, the Mallard has characteristics above the rest. Heck, it might even be tastier than the rest.

Conversely, each bird might have a unique feature that means it is cut above the rest. The truth is that hunting choices are not based on scientific evidence or complex scientific studies.

It’s purely based on the ducks’ availability and personal choice or belief. Is your strap full of trophy worthy bucks or edible catch? The choice is dependent on the location you’re hunting and your preferences.

Interestingly, some people still scout for mallards during their hunting spree but still shoot any other duck when opportunity beckons. Others want to believe that there’s nothing as trash ducks; that all ducks are equal.

Are the Other Ducks Any Different?

whistling duck

In essence, there’s no single species similar to the rest in terms of general disposition, breed cycles, appearance, taste, etc.

But the central question in our context is whether “other” ducks are significantly different from mallards to enjoy trash duck status.

What’s the Difference Between Mallards And “Other Ducks?


As far as sizes are concerned, the Mallard is regarded as one of the larger ducks, not the largest duck. Other ducks are larger such as the Muscovy duck and trumpeter swan.

But when it boils down to the best waterfowling choices, the Mallard and the canvasback are both large ducks. Some people will choose Mallard as a great pick because of its size.

On the other hand, wood ducks, scaups wigeons, teals, and gadwalls are some of the smaller birds generally on the plate of hunters.


pintail duck

Taste is a subjective measure because it boils down to personal preferences. While the Mallard is a worthy sporting trophy, it might not be the best tasting duck, at least, according to most ranks.

However, it is easily ranked among the top five tastiest ducks. We’ll refrain from creating another duck taste ranking. That said, there are other ducks we feel might equally challenge the Mallard in a culinary competition or even emerge as outright winners.

Some of the tasty ducks worth mentioning include:

  • Pintail
  • Wood ducks
  • Canvasback
  • Spoonbill
  • Teal

Again, these ducks may taste different depending on what they eat and their inhabitants. You can also change the list depending on your taste buds.


The debate surrounding trash ducks may rage on for a while because of the social construct.

It’s somewhat a healthy banter referring to the other duck species as trash ducks while placing the Mallard on a hunting pedestal.

The truth is that it all boils down to how the hunter views his gaming experience and what he has learned along the way. The discussion is not about right or wrong. As it is, there is a group that will defend Mallard as the purest duck breed.

Also, there’s another group that will defend the “others” in equal fervor. Ultimately, the hunting experience is made great when we choose to immerse ourselves in the game. Whether you manage to hit a mallard limit or some gadwalls, your strap will boost your confidence because it was your target choice.

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