Waterfowl hunters beware: Don’t shoot for the sky

Waterfowl hunters beware: Don't shoot for the sky We have often heard the cliche that "The sky is the limit," but Game, Fish and Parks officials say that philosophy should never apply to waterfowl hunting.

"Hunting includes knowing when the birds are within range for a clean kill and knowing when they are flying too high or too far away," said Senior Wildlife Biologist Spencer Vaa. "Skybusting, or taking long distance shots at birds that are out of range, is not hunting; it is simply shooting."

According to Vaa, birds shot at long distances, more than 50 yards, can suffer wounds that eventually prove to be fatal, but may not knock the bird from the sky upon impact. Some birds become "sailers" and fall within eyesight of the hunter, while other injured birds may make it back to the water and cannot be retrieved

"Failure to retrieve birds that fall within sight of the hunter and are retrievable is a violation of the wanton waste law and can result in a citation. When not recovered, crippled birds create a poor image of waterfowl hunters," he said.

Vaa added that skybusting often creates two other situations that can decrease a hunter's chance of success. First, later flights of geese become conditioned to the shooting and will simply fly even higher than the early flights of geese. Secondly, skybusting can cause a domino effect among other hunters on the line. Other hunters figure, "Hey, if he is shooting, they must be in range, so I can shoot too."

In a nutshell, Vaa encourages ethical hunting and asks goose hunters to develop patience and knowledge of when birds are within range and when they are too far away. He warns hunters to not be tempted to "reach for the sky" while hunting geese this fall. "Though someone might get lucky once in a while, skybusting does far more harm than it is worth for that one lucky shot," he said.

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