Waterfowl shooting: what exactly does this entail?

In this article, we invite you to explore the different practices and equipment necessary for waterfowl hunting. This is a hunt for enthusiasts and is relatively rare in France.


Waterfowl hunting is not very well established in France. Only 13% of the hunters questioned say they engage in this type of hunting, and this despite the plurality of hunting possibilities available in our territory concerning mallards, geese, teal, and others. Whether in a marsh, on a pond, near the coast, or on the banks of a river, there are plenty of wetlands where enthusiasts gather to hunt this particular game. In this article, we take a simple but concrete look at the various hunting practices and the equipment needed to hunt waterfowl. Are you unfamiliar with the words "pass", "hides", "blinds", and "hut"? This will no longer be so after reading these few lines.

Duck hunting in boots

Hunting waterfowl either in boots or walked-up hunting: some explanations

This hunting technique consists in exploring wetlands in an attempt to sneak up on waterfowl. It is the equivalent of walked-up hunting in the lowlands. The most hunted game using this technique is the woodcock, especially in the marshes. Boot hunting is usually accomplished with a pointing dog.

Getting ready for the start of the hunting season on the public maritime domain

Pass shooting: a very common practice for hunting ducks

This type of hunting involves the use of a hide set up in the vicinity of areas where the game passes by in the early morning or evening when the sun is setting. The hide should be between the resting and foraging areas. That is to say, the areas where the ducks will feed. Camouflage is important for this kind of hunting, to avoid being spotted by the game. A retriever is also important. Labradors have a special aptitude for hunting in wetlands. NB: for pass hunting, it is imperative to observe the legal hunting hours. Contact your hunting federation, your hunting society, or local hunting association (ACCA) to find out about these procedures.

Two hunters hunting ducks from a hide.

Hunting from a hide, a hut, or a blind: regional practices for hunting waterfowl

Behind these regional names, which are all synonymous, stands a hide specially set up for hunting waterfowl. Usually placed on the edge of a body of water, it is a camouflaged construction made entirely by human hands. The idea is to get the ducks to land on the "pond" and fire on them once they are in range. This hunt uses decoys, which can be both live and artificial. The idea is that having many ducks on the water encourages their wild counterparts to fly over and land. This type of hunting is mainly pursued at night in coastal areas.

Duck hunting by boat

Hunting mallards and teal in a boat.

This type of hunting is not widely pursued in France. The aim is to get as close as possible to waterfowl with a boat. Most often undertaken at sea, or on large rivers and certain lakes, this type of hunting is regulated: the use of a motor is forbidden during the shooting phase. Note: a maximum of two guns is allowed per boat.

Waterfowl hunting with pond raising

The drive, or pond raising: a unique hunting method

Based on the same principle as for big game hunting, beaters direct the game towards a line of shooters. This type of hunting is mainly employed for mallards or coots on large ponds. The drive is carried out with boats. The use of motors is also prohibited for this type of hunting.


The waterfowl's vision: an essential factor to be taken into account


According to Kevin, a waterfowl hunter since his childhood, "there can never be too many decoys on the water". Indeed, a crowd attracts a crowd: assembling a nice flock on a body of water is a prerequisite for successful hunting! However, depending on the time of the season, the number of decoys on the pond must of course adapt accordingly. Generally, the number of decoys starts low and increases as the season progresses, particularly in relation to the peak migrations in October and November.



Few people know this, but ducks have excellent vision enabling them to see even the smallest details from a considerable distance. However, they cannot see right in front of them, but rather they have what is known as lateral vision. Being well camouflaged is therefore crucial when hunting teal and mallard. It is also important to avoid moving around too much as far as possible, as the birds will see this movement first. Concealing your dog with a specific dog coat, such as the marsh camouflage dog coat that we carry on our website, is a good idea: especially if your pet has light fur! To learn more about the specific camouflage we use at Solognac for waterfowl hunting, please click here:


Does the weather play a role in duck hunting?


For Kevin, above all there are generalities that every good game hunter should be aware of. Wind is one of the key factors to take into account to "avoid scuppering". Windy days are those that are generally synonymous with passes. In fact, the windier it is, the lower the birds will fly. Northerly winds are also a factor in passes.


"If you hunt by the sea or in tidal marshes, it is essential to take into account the tidal coefficients. The higher the tidal coefficient, the more water will cover the feeding areas and the greater the number of game. In addition, if the tides correspond to either sunrise or sunset, this will be a good time to encounter game".


"The weather is also a factor to be taken into consideration: sunny days are less favourable for low-flying birds. The better the weather, the higher the game will fly, hence the more difficult they will be to shoot. Days with low temperatures and strong winds result in birds flying lower. Being able to attract them within shooting range is therefore more likely".


How does one experience this immersion in such a traditional way of hunting?

It is a mystery at least as profound as that of the migration of waterfowl. What motivates men to spend so much time in a pass or in cramped hides, called blinds in the South-West, gabions or huts in the North? Staying for long hours at the post, despite the darkness, the cold sometimes, and the humidity often? At the mercy of the mood swings of the sky? Enduring an emotional rollercoaster that takes them from excitement to despair in the blink of an eye? All this to attract a hypothetical duck or goose into their shooting zone? It's the passion, of course, and the atmosphere of open camaraderie with one's hunting buddies set in magical natural scenery.

Teal, pintails, kites, chipeaux, pintails, woodcocks, whistlers, and mallards. Invariably, whether they are surface ducks or divers, geese or waders, all these names light up the faces, setting the eyes of waterfowl hunting enthusiasts alight. They evoke streaked, ashy, or coloured plumage, round or oval heads with eye shadow, scowling beaks, soft, thick down. They suggest faraway lands, beautiful evenings spent with friends, the bright orange colours of a beautiful sunset. 

Uncertainty is unquestionably the charm of this type of hunting. Waterfowl hunters are a special "breed" of hunters, bound by the promise of a pass that keeps them from falling off to sleep. Would you like to find out more about this type of hunting? Do you dream of spending a night in one of these magical installations, lit by candlelight, soothed by the lapping of the water and the song of the decoys? Would you like to explore other regions of France than your own where ducks are the dominant game? Then do not hesitate to consult the announcements and actions proposed by "Journée de Chasse" on their website.