Can I Shoot Ducks On The Water?


Humans have been hunting since time immemorial. Hunting and gathering was the primary source of survival and food security for early human. This characteristic urge to hunt for survival is still present in modern and evolved human beings. Even though one is not directly dependent upon a successful hunt to secure food, people find hunting a pleasurable and challenging sport. It is an adrenaline-inducing activity that challenges one’s response to a stimulus.

It is a respected and renowned sport worldwide. Many people disregard hunting as a sport because it involves killing voiceless animals. However, other people justify hunting as a sport because it is not just an activity of ruthless killing but an activity with ethics that provides delicious and necessary food and the sport’s thrills.

Hunting has its code of conduct and ethical values that every hunter is expected to follow. However, the hunting community has differing opinions about many ethical principles. One such bone of contention pertains to shooting ducks on the water. Whether it is ethical to shoot a duck on the water is debatable. Different hunters have different opinions regarding this issue.

Why do some hunters consider it to be unethical to shoot ducks on water?

Hunting has transitioned from an activity essential for sustenance to an exercise of pleasure, which has changed people’s perceptions about it. For many people, hunting waterfowl is to kill the duck, secure it, and consume it as food. For them, it does not matter whether the duck shot was sitting on the water or flying because, in either scenario, the bird is dead and cooked. For other people, it is a major faux pas of hunting because ducks on the water are more vulnerable than flying ducks, so much so that the English phrase sitting duck means an easy target. The vulnerability of sitting ducks makes them an easy target, and killing them is not challenging enough for an armed hunter. People who do not support hunting sitting ducks believe that the duck should get a fair chance to get away and save itself, and this is only possible when it is flying.

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Moreover, humans are higher up in the food chain than ducks and have evolved scientifically to produce weapons. Therefore, many hunters believe that these advantages make shooting sitting ducks an unethical activity. Another principle of hunting is that one should never leave an animal injured. The shot should be clean, and the death should be quick and painless. Shooting a sitting duck can disturb other ducks and cause movement, which may cause non-fatal injuries and prolong its pain and suffering. Such a shot is seen negatively within the hunting community and does not reflect the sportsmanship hunting is expected to possess.

Many hunters question these justifications and ask that if shooting ducks on the water is unethical, how is the practice of setting up decoys ethical. Decoy is a bait that one uses to lure the duck and increase the shot’s accuracy. Therefore, they question the ethical parameters of deception in hunting. Ethics are personal to people, and different individuals can see the same issue differently, so some hunters consider shooting ducks on the water unethical, while others do not. People differentiate between duck hunting and duck murder, where the former needs a certain level of marksmanship and skill, and the latter is simply murder.

Can I shoot ducks on the water?

Ultimately, whether to shoot ducks on water or not boils down to one’s subjective position on the matter. However, hunting sitting ducks is highly frowned upon in the hunting community. It is seen as an unfair exercise of power and an unchallenging way of hunting. Comprehensive ethics should be followed to be recognized as an ethical and competent hunter. An unsaid code of conduct must be maintained; however, one can choose not to follow it and hunt in their way. Therefore, one can shoot ducks on the water.

Despite the ambiguity of the argument, many people do not consider hunting ducks on the water to be the safest way. It is so because hunting ducks on the water can endanger other hunters on the opposite side. A pellet may be unfortunate enough to hit them, causing life-changing injury, which may be fatal. Pellets that land on the water’s surface can skip like a stone, increasing the danger for fellow hunters. It also increases the risk of injury and death for the dogs accompanying the hunters. The shot pattern often gets deflected, missing its mark. It may unknowingly cause grave injuries and even death. No man would want their best friend to die during a sport; therefore, even though it is legal, many people do not prefer shooting ducks on the water for safety reasons.

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Is shooting duck on water illegal?

Technically it is not illegal to shoot ducks on the water. Most states in the United States of America and most parts of Canada do not have laws that prohibit the hunting of ducks on the water. Therefore, the law of most states allows the hunting of sitting ducks. However, laws of ethics may command differently. Ethical hunting laws prefer to shoot a duck when it is flying. It is in stark contrast with the ethics of hunting turkey, where it is almost blasphemous to shoot a turkey in the wing. One must shoot the turkey in the body while it is stationary and not while it is moving. Codes of conduct like these are expected to be followed by the hunter even when hunting alone. It becomes a matter of principle and integrity. However, a breach of these codes is not enforceable in a court of law. Shooting a duck to eat is acceptable and permissible by the law, whether sitting on the water or flying in the sky.

Also read: Duck Hunting in Florida

Should you shoot ducks on the water?

Shooting ducks on the water has been considered dangerous as it poses a threat to other hunters and the canine companion one may bring along. It would be foolish to endanger someone’s life to secure easy targets. It is also true that the lack of challenge while shooting a duck on water eliminates the core purpose of the activity of hunting. For the modern human being, hunting is not the primary food source; it is a source of thrill, adrenaline, adventure, and pleasure. Hunting a sitting duck may not be as adventurous as hunting a duck that is moving. The movement multiplies the difficulty level and brings satisfaction to a successful shot. It also reflects one’s marksmanship and commands over their response. If one is hunting only to secure the meat, they can purchase it from the market instead of hunting. It would be significantly cheaper than curating the appropriate hunting gear and making a trip to the hunting site.

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However, none of these reasons should stop one from hunting a duck on the water if they want to. It is legal, and one should not be coerced to hunt in a certain way. There is no singular and absolute way of hunting, there are only conventions, and one can stray away from them if one finds it necessary and desirable.


All the discourse boils down to one fact hunting is subjective, and whether one should shoot a duck on the water or not is a matter of personal preference. Shooting sitting ducks is legal, and therefore, everyone is allowed to practice it. However, one must always hunt at certified hunting grounds with proper permits and ensure safety around firearms. As long as one is hunting with due permission, it does not matter whether the duck is sitting or flying. Ultimately, the duck would be shot and cooked, and how it is shot should not be made a basis to pass judgment. Even though hunting ducks on the water may be frowned upon, it is one’s preference and needs to be respected.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>