Waterfowl Hunting Etiquette 101 – If You Don’t Know, You’re Probably That Guy

Waterfowl Hunting Etiquette

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As someone who’s been passionate about waterfowl hunting all my life, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way about hunting partners. We can all relate, we’ve all had “blind dates” that go bad, while others start lifelong friendships. That’s the beauty of the outdoors if you’re a social guy like me, there’s always a good time to be had if you’re surrounded by the right people.

And the right people don’t come easy. I’ve hunted with probably hundreds of people through the years, and I’m not a guide either. Just an avid freelancer who likes sharing my passion with others. It may actually be a flaw in my personality…I just seem to give people chances and always the benefit of the doubt. But unfortunately, I’ve been burned so many times duck and goose hunting that nowadays I just enjoy hunting with my kids and a few buddies.

There is an etiquette to waterfowl hunting that MOST in the sport understand, but there’s always a few that just don’t get it. This is for you guys…the chosen ones.

So with that being said, let me introduce you to MY list of pet peeves…

Hunting Snow Geese
Good waterfowl hunting partners are patient, safe, and respectful to those around them.

Waterfowl Hunting Ethics – The UnSpoken Rules


CHIP IN – This shouldn’t be rocket science but some guys are just plain cheap. When you’re invited on a waterfowl hunt, chances are, it was scouted and probably scouted well. And don’t think for a second that the scouter drove from his house straight to the field to find it. Scouting takes, at times, countless miles in search of that Mega Feed or Super Slough of ducks and geese.

Don’t have a lot of dough? No problem! A 20 dollar bill can go a long way and if nothing else, it shows you care. If not, you’re a mooch and should probably hunt alone (just saying).

Are You Seriously Bringing Your Dog? – How many dog stories can each waterfowler tell before this should just become standard? I get it, you like your dog. I’m sure it’s great, but if your dog wasn’t invited on the hunt…DON’T BRING IT!

One of my favorite dog stories was from a few springs back. I scouted a KILLER migrator spot for snow geese. We spent hours deploying decoys and getting concealed. When the guy and his dog, who showed up AFTER the snow goose decoys were deployed, it wasn’t with welcome arms. The dog wouldn’t sit still and would flare everything that came close. We had enough, the dog was told to stay in the truck. Unfortunately, this hunter didn’t take it well as he left shortly after and hasn’t spoken to me since. That’s okay because it wasn’t meant to be. But I will say, we had back-to-back 3-digit hunts after that dog left so…….

Easy on the Call – We all know those waterfowlers that blow their duck calls and goose calls like they’re trying to win the World Championship. We get it, you like to blow…but there’s a good chance it’s overkill and just upsetting the other hunters. I hunted with a guy once on the August 15th goose opener in North Dakota. The birds were VERY quiet feeding in this field, we contemplated not even calling with the exception of a few clucks and moans. But that guy didn’t get the memo. He had to call over EVERYONE ALL MORNING LONG. It was beyond annoying, and the geese weren’t buying it. Nice guy, good caller, but had no clue how to use it in the field.

HELP! – This should really go unspoken, but some people, unfortunately, need a reminder. Help set up and take down the spread. Offer to drop off guys in the field and make the walk. Be accommodating, it’s really simple.

TAKE YOUR BIRDS! – For the love of God, don’t say after the hunt that you don’t want any of the birds. I cannot stand that. TAKE YOUR HARVEST and clean them yourself. Don’t treat the other hunters like you’re a paying customer because if you’re in my spread…you’re not (again, I don’t guide).

Hide – Yes this seems rather obvious, but how many times have you hunted with a guy who sticks out in the spread like a sore thumb? If you’re hunting out of ground blinds, make sure your blind is the most concealed (NOT the least). And offer to help others when your ground blind is done. Waterfowling is a team sport, there is no I in team right? 🙂

Don’t Be Late – Okay, I will be the first to admit I’m a bit anal with this one. Why? Because I’m rarely late. In fact, I’m usually that guy that’s 20-30 minutes early. I cannot stand watching a brightening horizon with a spread that’s not finished. Nobody likes to scramble at shooting time, and I’m no exception. So I recommend trying to arrive early, if not on time. You’ll lose a lot of hunting partners otherwise.

Be Safe – Okay so this should be TOTALLY obvious but you should always think safety 100% of the time. Don’t EVER point your gun in the direction of another hunter, and be very aware of your shooting lane. DO NOT swing your gun near another hunter. I have permanent hearing loss from jerks that have done this to me. It’s NOT cool. I even had a guy once have his gun go off in his blind while I was walking in front of it (shot my feet and knocked me down…amazingly I walked away without a scratch). This should probably be #1 but again, this should be obvious or you should NOT be hunting.

No Face Mask – Okay, so this may be also a tad anal, but I will mention it.  If you’re hunting out of a blind or wearing whites for example, then you should ALWAYS have a face mask.  I buy face masks by the dozen online because I’m so used to loan them out.  They’re $15-30…get one.

Be Respectful on Social – This really doesn’t bother me at all, but for many it does.  Pretend there are 5 guys hunting that day and you had a bang-up shoot.  Don’t start posting all over social media like you’re the reason it happened.  Let those who made the hunt happen post the photos….they can always tag you, right?


Snow Goose Tornado
When a great hunt comes together, it’s a direct result of good planning and concealment.

The purpose of writing this article wasn’t to put anyone on blast or to prove how anal I am in the field, it’s to show how to have common courtesy. Hunting is supposed to be fun, but it can turn into the opposite real quick if someone isn’t reading the same book of ethics.

A good idea is to have a quick meeting right away in the morning when you get in the field. Explain the decoy setup, where and how we’ll hide, and all those minor details that waterfowlers love to ponder. If everyone is on the same page, you have a better chance of the hunt going smooth.

As I write this, I’m only days away from our waterfowl hunting opener here in North Dakota. I cannot wait for the sights, smells, and sounds of the prairie when it erupts with waterfowl. I will be sharing it again this year with my kids, and I’m excited to watch my kids evolve into responsible, respectable hunters. And I’m sure a couple of my buddies will be there, you know who you are.

So get out there and enjoy waterfowling, but make sure you do it right or you may end up being “That guy”.

Good Hunting Everyone


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