Reducing wounding losses is both the ethical and the economical goal of waterfowl hunters when hunting begins Oct. 4.

“None of us want to wound a duck or goose and not be able to retrieve it; doing so is a waste of a valuable resource and reflects badly on hunting,” said Jim Hansen, FWP migratory bird coordinator.

The tips that follow will help reduce wounding losses and improve the overall hunting experience.

The Shot

bulletImprove shooting skills with practice on clay targets and throw both side shots and shots at incoming, overhead targets to simulate typical waterfowl shooting opportunities
bulletTry to limit  shots to 40 yards or less and remember that hunters often miscalculate when  judging whether birds like geese and swans are close enough for a good shot. Attempting  shots from too great of a distance also “educates” birds, making it difficult for other hunters in the area to get them in close.
bulletAvoid “frustration shots.” Using a box of shells on every hunt may mean you’re trying too hard and using poorly planned shots. Avoid the third shot syndrome, too.  Typically, this occurs on a “going-away” bird, a difficult bird to kill cleanly because the hard-walled gizzard protects the vital organs.
bulletWhen a flock of birds comes in, pick out isolated birds to shoot.  Do not “flock shoot.”
bulletChoose appropriate nontoxic loads and pellet sizes for whatever you’re hunting.  Several types of nontoxic shot are now available, but steel is the most commonly used.  Try these steel pellet sizes: 
bulletCanada geese: BBB, BB, and T
bulletSnow geese:  BB, BBB
bulletLarge ducks (such as mallards):  3, 2, and 4
bulletMedium ducks:  4, 3, 6
bulletSmall ducks:  6, 4


The Retrieval

bulletBe sure to have a retrieval strategy in advance, before you even load your gun.  It makes no sense to drop ducks into a river if you have no way to retrieve them.
bulletTry to hunt with a trained retriever, but don’t create difficult retrieves just to challenge your dog. You can hunt without a retriever, but you need to make intelligent decisions on where you hunt. 
bulletChoose a hunting site where you can drop birds into open water, rather than into heavy cover.

These simple tips can help a hunter have a more ethical and economical waterfowl-hunting season.

“Experienced hunters will have many other ideas, and sometimes that’s the best way to learn,” Hansen said. “Don’t be shy. Ask an experienced hunter for advice and you may find a good hunting friend in the process.”