An out-of-state opinion about duck hunting in the wetland


When I was a Midwestern teenager, I used to hunt ducks with my pal Hammy. For many reasons, most of them due to the grossly unfair hunting practices I found in my new home state, I quit hunting when I moved to California, but Ham’s still at it. So I thought I’d ask him what he thought of our duck hunting situation out here. Here’s our Q&A.

Mark: Do you ever hunt in wildlife reserves?

Ham: I’m never in favor of shooting ducks in a preserve for a couple of reasons. First, it tends to take advantage of natural flocking habits, so it doesn’t seem fair. Second, if it is a major preserve and there are huge amounts of ducks, it could encourage flock shooting, and cause injury. Third, it can disrupt migration lanes.

Mark: How do you feel about hunting close to human settlements?

Ham: Depends how proximate the settlements are, but unless they are within 100 yards of a hunter there’s really no immediate danger. I have been shot a couple of times by shotguns at 80 to 100 yards and it is just a nuisance, not a danger. Moreover, duck hunters tend to be shooting at ungodly hours in the morning and evening, so they may be waking people up earlier than they wanted to be woken, but they’re safe.

Mark: Should we be concerned about lead buckshot?

Ham: Not an issue. Lead shot has not been allowed for waterfowl shooting anywhere for a decade or more. The shot now used is steel and bismuth, which are non-toxic to the environment, but do create problems for ducks. Many more are injured now that used to die from the same hit.

Mark: Do you or your friends ever hunt with multiple-round semi-automatic shotguns, which many of the hunters here clearly do?

Ham: I believe that five-round semiautomatic shotguns should be the target of Obama’s gun control efforts (and the only target, I might add). They are an abomination and cause people to take more shots than they should, they waste ammo, and they are ugly, to boot. I shoot only side-by-side double-barrel shotguns, which is how God made them.

Mark: I frequently row in the bay here, where during the season I find dead and wounded ducks in the water most every morning I’m out there. Should I be surprised at that?

Ham. Not at all. And I attribute what you’re seeing to the use of semi-automatics, which wound many more ducks than traditional shotguns. Whoever regulates your wildlife reserve—and foolishly allows duck hunting in the first place—should forbid the use of of those firearms.

A few years back Mark Dowie, who lives near Willow Point on the western shore of Tomales Bay, removed a shotgun pellet from his dog Sophie’s neck. Neither of them were hunting.