Standing Buck, Sitting Duck: An Ethics Contradiction

As a water fowler, I have heard that it is not ethical to shoot a sitting duck.

You need to kick it up and take the more ethical shot when it is flying. The reasoning is that you need to give the duck a chance. Shooting a sitting duck is not challenging. In fact, there is a famous adage saying that goes like this; when someone is an easy target, they are “sitting ducks”.

As a deer hunter, I have heard that it is not ethical to shoot a running deer. You need to let it stop, and take the more ethical shot while it is standing still. The reasoning is that you do not want to take the chance of wounding the deer. Shooting a running deer is challenging. There is another old adage saying that says when things are difficult to accomplish, it is like, “trying to hit a moving target”.

big buckI think everyone can see where I am going with this. Why is it considered ethical to shoot only stationary deer and only moving ducks? The ethics are contradictory. I have mulled this over in my mind, trying to bring some kind of resolution to the logic, yet I cannot seem to wrap my brain around it.

Firstly, you will get no argument from me about only shooting a standing deer. It gives the hunter the best opportunity for making a quick, clean kill, with the least chance of haphazardly wounding the deer. As conscientious hunters, this is what we should strive to do. A deer should not suffer because we decided to take a low percentage shot. I have been hunting long enough to have had the misfortune of making a bad shot on a deer that was standing still – let alone running. I wish I would have missed. It is one of the most gut wrenching feelings a hunter can experience.

mallard-male-swimming.jpg.adapt.945.1When it comes to shooting a moving duck, I understand that as well. The majority of shots taken at ducks and geese are while they are moving. That is the nature of the game. The ducks fly into your decoy set and you take the easy 20-30 yard shot. Hundreds of thousands of ducks are ethically killed every year this way.

I understand why it is considered ethical to shoot moving ducks but not moving deer – based solely on the environment. A wide open sky, at close range, is a high percentage shot. However, a running deer weaves in and out of trees – usually at greater distances, which creates a much lower percentage shot. In addition to this, the hunter is shooting a single projectile at a deer, compared to a plethora of BB’s at a duck. Even though the duck is moving, the difference in the ammunition used allows us to make a quick, clean kill.

The sitting duck is the hang up. Why is it unethical? Hitting a stationary target is easier than trying to hit a moving one. Common sense says that we have a better chance at making a quick, clean kill if the target is stationary. The only thing I can think of, is that if a duck is sitting in your decoy spread, you run the risk of peppering your decoys. Back in the day when most water fowlers put hours into carving and painting each decoy, it is understandable to not want to shoot them. Even today, at $50 to $60 bucks for a half dozen decoys, I would not want to shoot them up either. So instead, we flush the ducks, get them above the decoys, and open fire. OK – I can accept that. But what about the sitting duck with no decoys? When we come up to the pond, peer around the cattails, and see a big mallard 20 yards away, why yell, “hey duck!”, to make him fly away, and then take the shot? Why not just blast him on the water?