Be A More Ethical Duck Hunter

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Anyone who has pursued waterfowl for any length of time will have certainly crippled and lost birds.  It is a simple fact of waterfowling.  However, I am seeing a growing trend of people who make a minimal effort or no effort at all to retrieve downed birds.

It all boils down to respect for the game.  Yes, we are there to shoot, kill and eat the game we pursue.  We are not there to take wild shots and cripple birds beyond our weapon and load capabilities.

I have hunted places like Bayou Meto in Stuttgart, AR that have a 15 shell restriction.  I have seen with my own eyes, “hunters” that would knock down a bird and let it swim off just because they didn’t want to “waste” a shell on a crippled bird.

I sent my lab Chief after a drake mallard another hunter had shot at Bayou Meto and didn’t make ANY attempt to retrieve.  Upon Chief coming back, we noticed immediately that the bird was double banded!!  It had a green $50 reward band and a regular www.reportbirdband band on the other leg.  I resisted the deep urge to let the other hunter know what he had just lost.

I tell people every duck you lose is banded.  Think about it…..you have no way to prove otherwise.

That scenario is however not the norm.  The norm is you will look for your cripples after the hunt is essentially over.  People will gather up the decoys and gear, then go looking for the birds they crippled during the early morning action.

This year I carried a friend of mine and his 14 yr old son on a public duck hunt with me.  We shot into a large group of teal and wound up knocking 7 out of the flock.  However 2 were very much alive and swimming for the hills.  The 14 yr old pointed out that more teal were coming right down the pipe.  I had to tell him, I didn’t care how many were coming in, we had to get those 2 teal FIRST.

Now, I know there are exceptions to every rule in waterfowling.  Losing crippled birds WILL happen to all of us.

The TEXAS Parks & Wildlife states the following about Wanton Waste “ A reasonable effort must be made to retrieve any killed or wounded bird and any wounded bird must be immediately killed and made part of the daily bag limit.”

There are several ways to greatly reduce your amount of cripples every year.

  • Hunt with a dog. A dog can smell out ducks that have hit the bank and try to conceal themselves from our eyes.
  • Take more ethical shots. Don’t try to be Annie Oakley and impress your friends with how high you can knock down a bird. Instead, try to take shots at 50 yards or less.
  • Know your gun & loads. If you have patterned your gun with the loads you hunt with, you have a good idea of where you are hitting and the pattern densities at different ranges.
  • Think like a duck. If you are pursuing a crippled duck, they will bury up in root wads, levees, fallen trees, stumps or anything else that they can hide their body. Don’t look for the whole bird, but rather a feather or drop of blood.

Listen guys, I know this isn’t the coolest or most awesome subject out there.  But after taking my friend hunting, I really felt the need to put it out there on how important it is to find crippled birds.

G’ Luck Texas Nation

Shane Smith

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