Waterfowl hunting


Ratification Date: 01 Aug 2015


Waterfowl should not be hunted for recreation or sport alone. Where waterfowl are shot for culling or food, shooters should obey all relevant legislation, permit conditions and codes of practice. The main concern must be for the welfare of the waterfowl.


Waterfowl hunting is undertaken in our society for a number of reasons, including food provision, mitigation of crop damage, traditional or cultural reasons and recreation.

The hunting of waterfowl using shotguns may result in the non-fatal injury of a proportion of target birds resulting in pain and suffering. To address this issue, hunters must be trained to only fire on birds within the optimal shotgun range, choke and shot size being used. Strict waterfowl identification tests (WIT) must be completed prior to the issuing of a duck hunting license.

A study by Szymanski & Afton (2005) in Minnesota (USA) reported approximately one-third of ducks are injured but escape capture, however this percentage needs further study to be validated. Their data are insufficient to ascertain the proportion of ducks that are still alive when they are retrieved. Although this study’s intent was not to examine the animal welfare aspects of duck hunting, it raises important questions about the humaneness of waterfowl hunting activities in Australia.

The primary concerns are for the welfare of the hunted waterfowl, and in the sustainability of native waterfowl populations. It is therefore essential that all hunters are appropriately licensed under their relevant state or territory legislation, that they must pass waterfowl identification tests (in Victoria, these are conducted at DPI offices and TAFEs) and that waterfowl populations are regularly monitored by the relevant state authority. The Victorian Government’s Shotgunning Education Handbook (2010) provides guidance on improved hunting practices, use of appropriate chokes and loads for various scenarios, equipment limitations, and information on best practice hunting and retrieval strategies, to reduce the number of wounded birds and improve the sustainability and humaneness of waterfowl hunting. In all states, hunters should be required to attend specific training courses, to improve their shotgunning skills and the humaneness of waterfowl hunting activities throughout Australia. Using trained gun dogs to retrieve birds ensures wounded birds are quickly found.

Veterinarians need to be aware of any relevant legislation in their jurisdiction. For example, under the Victorian Wildlife Act 1975, a person without a license must not be in possession of live game. However there is a specific exemption under the associated Wildlife Regulation 2013 for possession of live game by non-licensed persons during transport to a veterinarian, and during treatment of the animal by a veterinarian.


Szymanski, ML & Afton, AD, 2005, Effects of spinning-wing decoys on flock behavior and hunting vulnerability of mallards in Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol 33 No 3, 993-1001.

Victorian DPI (2010) Shotgunning Education Handbook, Be a better game bird hunter, Victorian Department of Primary Industries. Available from: www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/game-hunting/game-hunting-education/shotgunning-education-handbook/introduction

Date of ratification by AVA Board: 25 July 2013

Updated August 2015