Duck hunting etiquette

by John McDougall

Please Note: This article was written in 2017, before the Game Management Authority changed the rules in Victoria. There was no intention by the author to contravene the new regulations. Hunters should always follow the regulations in their state/territory.

There are basic rules to observe when duck hunting. They are all commonsense and easy to follow:

  • Ensure you have taken the Waterfowl Identification Test so that you can be responsibly let loose on a public game reserve or other private property to hunt ducks.
  • Ducks will have had things quiet for weeks leading up to the season with occasional interruptions from avid hunters doing a pre-opening check to ascertain numbers. Don’t arrive too late after dark with car lights blazing or party throughout the night. This behaviour is likely to make resident ducks nervous and leave.
  • Avoid shooting protected species no matter how light the going is with legitimate duck species.
  • Camp sufficiently far enough away from the swamp so you don’t disturb birds.
  • Refrain from shooting until the legal starting time is reached.
  • Keep pre-season revelling down to a low conversation level to ensure a reasonable chance of a good opening morning.
  • Marking your shooting spot with a flag and decoy set is a good way of establishing your area for the next morning but do not be surprised if other shooters walk in on you. A safe distance is 100m but on smaller waters such a space can be difficult to maintain.
  • Always be mindful of the angle at which you are shooting. Never shoot below shoulder height and at all times be aware of what is in the background. 
  • Wear shooting glasses for eye protection   steel shot not only travels briskly it also penetrates at further distances as it does not lose its roundness as easily as lead shot.
  • Keep your shots high as birds decoy in.
  • Work a dog for the purpose of retrieving your downed birds. This is a highlight of the duck season, being a gun dog owner and being able to work your dog under control.
  • Do not shoot at birds further than you and your ammunition are capable of bringing down a duck humanely. I generally like to take my birds within 40m. When placing decoys or before shooting from your elected shooting position, pace out a few steps and mark trees at 40m.
  • Wait to collect downed birds if you do not have a retrieving dog. There is every opportunity that more birds will fly into your decoys and if you are out fussing over one bird at a time you will most likely miss the best part of your shooting.
  • Use commonsense when you are shooting. The best shooting will most often be taken first thing in the morning. Provided your birds are dead, then stay put and continue shooting until there is a lull before going out among your decoy set to retrieve your birds.
  • On a duck swamp it is absolutely forbidden to touch someone else’s property; whether it be interfering with another hunter’s decoy set, hunting hide, duck punt or going through their possessions in camp.
  • If decoying ducks with a caller, learn how to use it properly and employ the correct calls to bring ducks in.
  • Ducks should always be taken on the wing while flying – whether coming into decoys or pass flying.
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