CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

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CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby cdahunter » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:36 pm

The last two days have been my first-ever solo waterfowl hunting (just me hunting, not being a pack mule or retriever for my boys). Like the old hunting books I'm reading told me to do, I put out a dozen magnum goose shells on one side of of me, a dozen duck dekes 30 yards on my other side, and me right in the middle (camo'd in a white painter's suit and laying flat on white bedding to blend in with the frozen lakeshore). Both days, no birds -- and there weren't many -- flew into my dekes. However, a few buffleheads swam within 15 yards of me, and a couple of greenheads appeared out of nowhere on the shoreline about 35 yards from me: VERY tempting to pull trigger on them, but it seemed kind of marginal with 12-gauge 3" #2 Hi-Speed steel, so I refrained and hoped they'd come closer, but they flew off instead. All this got me really thinking about ground shooting ethics:

ETHICS QUESTION #1: If range is close enough to ensure a clean kill, is it ETHICAL to pull the trigger on a grounded bird? If not, then why is it ethical (and apparently encouraged) to shoot at stationary big game vs. moving game? What's the difference? (I'm also a brand-new deer hunter who didn't get a single shot.)

ETHICS QUESTION #2: If it's not ethical to shoot birds on the water surface (e.g. a diving duck when it surfaces), does it become ethically OK if I jump up, wait until they lift off, and then shoot? If so, how much time and/or yardage are the birds ethically entitled to?

Incidentally, I've got a partial disability in my non-trigger arm, so I'm a terrible shot to begin with; these late-season birds mostly seem to congregate out in the lake, or at least on the other side; even the buffleheads kept their distance if I wasn't frozen on the frozen ground; the Fish & Game rules don't appear to prohibit ground sluicing; and I'm more inclined to hunt from a meat hunting perspective. On the other hand, I don't generally believe in situational ethics, and the phrase "it may be legal, but it's not right!" comes to mind.

I realize this may be a controversial subject, but will carefully consider all responses.

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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby Snapshooter » Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:18 am

For a well-reasoned discussion of 'fair chase' and ethical methods, check out the "Hog Blog" web site for the opinion piece on the subject. Just Google it.

As the author states, the ethical methods of take are highly individualized. On a scale, it probably starts with legal methods at one end (legal methods are presumed by the public to be ethical) and ends at who-knows-where.

Over the last 40 plus years I've wounded and lost some birds as a result of my 'no-ground-slucing' rule. If I had shot them on the water, it would have been a sure kill vs. a slow agonizing death due to wounding. Ethically for me, fair chase and fair take has its place but not at the cost of game waste. So, I always try to never shoot any bird that gets up from the water beyond 20 yards. Why? My experience tells me steel 3's are only effective (kill) up to about 43 yards and then you must also have pattern density. Butt shots beyond 30 yards fail the test primarily because the target aspect is so small given the vital spots are unavailable.

So far my 20 yard rule has only resulted in 1 wounded bird getting away this year and that is out of 80 plus birds taken. I have lost about 4 birds that were hit while flying into/away from the decoys...again, too long a shot I think. And that is with a great dog that lives for cripples.

Make good decisions and you will make good clean kills. In the end, the ethics of the hunt is your choice to make.
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby cdahunter » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:00 am


Thanks so much for your reply which was very helpful for me. In fact, I was blessed to score my first-ever geese earlier today!!! :beer:
happy hunter.JPG

The first was an instant kill, the second was wounded and dropped at borderline range where I put a couple more shots into him which still didn't finish him off (I felt bad about that). The good news is that I'd optimistically brought my "retriever" canoe along, so I was able to retrieve both of my birds. (A nice surprise for my family who probably figured that I'd go scoreless this season and freeze to death trying.) With my first-goose milestone now accomplished, my next objective will be to graduate to the ranks of those who have shot birds coming into decoys. Again, thanks for your advice, and I'm really impressed with your outstanding kill-to-loss ratio obtained with your hunting ethics.

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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby waveslider » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:16 pm

Congrats man. I know you wanted to shoot a goose this year.

In response to your questions about ethics, you're off to a good start by making sure you have a way to collect cripples in any situation.

Many people, myself included, judge the success of their season on the low number of cripples vs the high number of ducks killed. I can tell you that I've lost 5 cripples this year and that's a great ratio for me.

In terms of the ethics of ground sluicing and other fair chase questions, it truly is a personal choice and one persons acceptable behavior may be objectionable to someone else even though both are technically legal.

Ill share with you my personal ethics choices. Not as a means to force them on you but rather to give you food for thought as you develop your own framework of decisions.

The beauty of the discussion is that you really don't have to defend or justify your choices because they are personal (as long as they are legal and some even argue that). So you might get a wide variety of what people consider ethical and all you have to do is sift through it and make the choices that allow you to look in the mirror.

This was discussed on a thread earlier but a quick recap of things I personally will/won't do in the field water fowling:

The situation where I consider it acceptable to shoot a duck on the water is one where I have called it in and it finished in the decoys or basically landed in the spread. I will shoot that bird straight off the water and do not see any need to flush it, yell at it, give it warning or any of that. In my eyes I did it all exactly right and I maintain the choice to shoot it or not.

I personally do not consider it acceptable to shoot ducks (off the water or otherwise) that have landed in the decoys before shooting time and then shoot them when the clock rings shooting time. I don't make a practice of jump shooting but I also wouldn't shoot a duck off the water that I snuck up on while jump shooting. If a duck floats downstream on the river and comes in range, I'm not shooting it.

The discussion of "in range" is something that is consistently debated and argued in the context of sky busting. I will say that it's important to understand the effective killing range of the combination of your skill, gauge, load and conditions. Skill probably being a more important component of that than most are willing to concede. Yes, a duck can be killed a long way out. That's not the debate, it's whether YOU can kill it out there.

All of this gets thrown out the window if the animal is wounded. I will go to great lengths (anything in the realm of legal) to dispatch a wounded animal in any case.

That's food for thought as you consider your options. Honestly, there are still a fair amount of people who hunt strictly for the food and have little regard for the "sporting" side of hunting which is absolutely fine. That does NOT mean those people are exempt from the laws, seasons, bag limits and methods as outlined by the DFG but it doesn't bother me if they don't have the same level of personal guidelines. Like i said before, it's a personal choice.

Hopefully you'll get some more responses from others to hear the choices and reasoning behind those choices to help with your decisions. In my opinion, the mere fact that you recognize there are ethical decisions to make sets you apart from a lot of the BS hunters and slaughterers I see out in the field these days.

Good on you
Last edited by waveslider on Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby waveslider » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:30 pm

A final comment about the whole "hen vs drake" drama. I have said it before and say it again, I have no issues with shooting the legal number of any duck in any legal combination. If you find yourself in the field and you are so focused on not shooting any hens to the detriment of your day afield, then I argue that you are simply playing with your food and catch and release fishing might be a better choice for you.

I do make an attempt to shoot drakes more than hens (if you don't then you are quickly going to be In a pinch) and I consider a full limit of greenheads an embarrassment of riches which feels good, but feels no better to me than a strap of 5 drakes and 2 hens. Or a mixed bag for that matter. I grew up in Missouri hunting flooded rice and corn so it was several years before I shot something OTHER than a greenhead. I enjoy a mixed strap. But again, that's me.
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby twsnow18 » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:40 pm

waveslider has a lot of good opinions that i agree with.

jump shooting to me is somewhat lame, only because it is a hell of a lot more fun to shoot birds that you fooled into landing among painted plastic decoys. don't get me wrong, i have done a lot of jump shooting in my day. i jump shot a goose last week and killed him at 30 yards with a 3 inch #4 to the head. he wasn't going anywhere. now that was only because i rarely get the chance to kill geese. i didn't shoot at the ducks that got up and started flying just after him. some people like to jump shoot because it is an effective method for meat gathering. no shame on them, and no shame on you, if that's what you like to do. (ducks don't taste THAT good TO ME to justify taking up part of my bag limit and using expensive shells on them) just take ethical shots that are in YOUR range, not the guy that got lucky at one of the wma's or at popular public property spots and winged a duck at 70 yards skybusting's range. that was the best way that i could figure out how to word it haha.

as far as birds coming into the decoys before light i agree with waveslider. i like to jump them and not shoot and wait for them to come back after legal shooting time. trust me, they will at some point. that's not an ethical debate for me, again, it's just a lot more fun when they are hovering over your decoys than sluicing off the water. just last week we had 30 ducks in our spread 5 minutes before shooting light. my hunting buddies were itching to shoot them upon the legal time. somehow i held them back, spooked the ducks off and we shot a 3 man limit by 9am, all over the decoys at 15-20 yards. shooting into small groups coming back is the way to go. i would also place no shame on anyone that shoots a duck that floats into your decoys on the river or something because you still fooled them with fair chase.

the hen vs. drake argument could go on for days. i've never shot a greenhead limit but i think it is pretty cool to do so. i think that it shows self restraint and that you are willing to be more patient to finish a perfect limit. again, no shame in shooting hens. it's completely legal and the IDFG warden that i hunt with has NO problem with it either. but remember, THEY DO BAND HENS TOO.

ethics are completely personal based mental guidelines. you will develop your own as you get more addicted to hunting waterfowl. some things are obvious and easy to make decisions on. some things fall into that gray area, and to each his own. but my rule of thumb for most hunting situations is, if your not sure, don't shoot. it's as simple as that. you are never going to lose sleep over a duck that you thought was too far to shoot (you might over a trophy deer/elk) but i promise you that you will lose A HELL OF A LOT MORE sleep over an animal that you wounded and lost because of a lapse in judgement.
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby Slidellduckhunter » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:47 pm

CdA Newbies - no time for me to wax poetic but suffice to say that I also agree with waveslider and twsnow.
Do you know why Cajuns don't hunt elephants? Because the decoys won't fit in their pirogues!
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby dudejcb » Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:03 pm

Successful ground sluicing birds on the water is difficult because most of their vitals are below the surface. When flying, their vitals (and wings) are more exposed and they're easier to kill. That said, if I've wounded a bird I will shoot as much as it takes to get it in hand and not let it suffer a lingering death. You can tell when a bird is marginally hit, and in those instances I try to shoot it again as it's falling rather that have a cripple that's hard to retrieve.
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby HaydenHunter » Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:07 am

I live on Hayden Lake in a birdy area and could put the sneak on birds and jumpshoot them about any day. I don't. I don't look down on jump shooters and I can't say I have never done it, but the practice doesn't float my boat. Others have elaborated on the reason on this thread: For me, it's all about fooling the birds with location, decoy placement, concealment and calling.

Now, if a bird manages to land in my spread and I stand, given him a few "get up bird!" shouts and he just stays there, he will get sluiced. Of all the guys I hunt with there is probably only one that doesn't do the same thing.
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Re: CdA Newbies: Ethics of ground shots?

Postby idgator » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:28 am


It looks like you are getting a pretty good variety of responses with some good logic behind each of them. I think what it is going to boil down to is what you feel comfortable with and an understanding that some will agree with it and other won't, but as long as it is legal and you're comfortable with it, go for it.

That being said, I was raised that you do not shoot ducks/geese on the water when you are hunting over decoys. Once they land they are off limits and that includes when they take flight after landing. I was taught and believe this isn't sporting. However, any crippled birds on the water you do whatever it take to retreive those birds.

One of my hunting buddies is the exact opposite when it comes to this topic and he does shoot birds that land in the decoys (which by the way is why we hunt with his decoys). He loves it when I qualify the number of birds he shot (i.e. he only really shot 3 the other 2 he shot on the water).

Good luck
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