Can You Shoot Geese On The Water?


Hunting geese in water might seem like a good idea. There are usually fewer hunters around, while the water is a natural, relaxing location for geese to go. However, you might have some concerns about its legality.

Is it illegal to shoot geese on the water? It is legal to shoot a goose on the water. However, from an ethical point of view, there are some concerns, such as if it’s unfair to roosting and sleeping geese who are vulnerable.

This article features what you need to know about shooting geese on the water. We’ll explore if hunting geese on the water is ethical and what to consider before going ahead.

Is It Legal To Shoot Geese On the Water?

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s legal to shoot geese on the water. However, there is an important rule that you need to follow when shooting geese and ducks on the water: you’re prohibited from hunting from a sink box or other low floating devices that enable you to hide beneath the water surface.

The rules pertaining to hunting waterfowl can also vary from one state and region to another. For example, in Delaware it’s considered unlawful to hunt waterfowl in some parts of the Drawer Creek. Therefore, it’s important to check your local laws regarding waterfowl hunting before you grab your hunting gear.

If you’ve heard of the law prohibiting people from hunting animals that are seeking refuge in water, this mainly applies to larger animals. For example, a report states that it’s unlawful for anyone to shoot, wound, or kill deer that’s taking refuge or swimming in water.

Ethics Of Shooting Geese On the Water

There are some important ethical concerns that you should consider before shooting geese on the water.

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It Increases the Risk of Wounding Geese

If you shoot a goose and don’t manage to kill it, the goose could manage to swim away, but it will be hurt, bleeding, and suffering. While you could try to shoot it again to kill it, it might be difficult to do this if you’re hunting on open water.

It’s more difficult to shoot a goose’s vital organs when it’s in the water. This is particularly problematic if you’re shooting waterfowl from behind. Their vital organs are protected by bones in their back, thighs, and hips. Unless you manage to break both of the goose’s wings, you won’t be able to make a clean kill.

It Pushes Geese Out of the Area

If you’re hunting roosts, geese might not return to the same location. They won’t view it as a safe place where they can sleep and recharge, which means that they could move out of the area in general. This isn’t just upsetting for the geese, but it also restricts your hunting opportunities.

It Increases the Risk of Shooting Multiple Geese

Geese sometimes huddle together in the water to stay warm when it’s cold. If you try to shoot a goose on the water when there’s a flock of geese around, this could cause you to injure multiple geese. This can be disastrous and cause a lot of pain and suffering to the birds. It just doesn’t seem humane to target geese in these situations.

It Gives You an Unfair Hunting Advantage

Since geese like to sleep on the water, hunting them when they’re in this vulnerable state might seem unfair and unethical. At least when you’re hunting geese on the ground, such as if they’re feeding, they are alert and awake, which can give them a chance, however slim, of surviving the hunt. On the water, geese don’t have as much of a chance.

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Why Some Hunters Refuse To Shoot Geese On the Water

Besides the previous points made about the ethics of shooting geese on the water, there are other reasons why some hunters choose not to engage in this hunting activity.

It Doesn’t Provide a Challenge

As you know if you regularly hunt waterfowl, the biggest satisfaction involves having a challenge and overcoming it.

You engage in various activities to try to get waterfowl closer to you, such as by setting up decoys or using goose calls, and all this effort hopefully works. When it does, it results in greater satisfaction when you manage to kill the geese.

If there’s no challenge and you’re simply shooting a goose that’s sleeping on the water, this can feel like a copout. This is why shooting geese when they’re on the water is sometimes seen as anticlimactic.

It Doesn’t Require Many Skills

When you set up decoys to try to lure geese to your hunting location, this takes effort, practice, and skill. You have to scout the area beforehand.

For example, when hunting geese in the morning, you can take advantage of how they’ll be leaving their roosting areas in search of food. By learning their feeding routes, you can increase your hunting success.

If you’re shooting geese that are sleeping on the water, you don’t need much in terms of skill. Of course, you want to be able to make a clean kill which is difficult, but there’s not much else that goes into it, which is unappealing for some hunters.

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Instead of merely shooting roosting geese, it’s more effective to set up decoys. You can find various water-friendly goose decoy setups, such as the double V spread.

How this works is that you set up your first “V” spread of decoys upwards where the wind is blowing parallel to the river bank. The second “V” set should be set up about 10 yards behind the first “V” to lure more geese into the spread so you can shoot them.

Related Questions

What shot sizes are effective for shooting geese?

Large shot sizes, such as #2, BB, BBB, and T shots, have fewer pellets but this provides more energy to your shot so that you can increase your chance of making a clean, instant kill.

Is the Canada goose protected?

Canada geese are protected by federal law, which states it’s illegal to harm geese, their eggs, and their nests in the U.S. without permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You need to follow your state’s hunting regulations to ensure you shoot geese legally.


If you want to shoot waterfowl on the water, you might wonder if it’s legal and ethical to do so. In this article, we’ve explored everything you need to know before your next goose-hunting trip.


  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The Meat Eater
  • Split Reed
  • Delaware Government
  • DecoyPro
  • DecoyPro
  • DecoyPro
  • Humane Society