Lab Going after Duck

5 Tips to Stop Losing Crippled Ducks

It has happened to every duck hunter.  They shoot at a bird, feathers fly but it somehow gets away.

Crippling a duck and watching it get away is worse than missing the bird all together.  As it swims or fly’s away, so does the hunters pride.  There goes a bird towards your limit (it was probably banded, too).  Lost is a meal that doesn’t make it to your table.  Not to mention that you let an injured bird get away that will likely become easy prey for a predator.  Crippling waterfowl isn’t fair to the duck or goose, and it sucks for you the hunter.

But I’m sure it has happened to every hunter.  Losing cripples happens.  It is in the animals DNA to try at all costs to get away from whatever is trying to kill it.

Stories about losing a cripple is something that most hunters probably don’t like to share.  But there is no shame on this blog.  So here are a couple of my most memorable stories of cripples that got away…

The Duck That “Flew” Away

There were 5 of us in the blind hunting a flooded corn field when several teals came swooping in.  Between the 5 of us, we knocked down several.  One of them was crippled and immediately started swimming towards the shore opposite side of the blind.  Despite being crippled, it quickly swam out of gun range, so my buddy went after it on foot.

Flooded Corn Field for Duck Hunting

It’s a Long Walk if a Crippled Duck Gets Away

He made it all the way to the other end of the field and almost caught up to the injured duck.  But out of seemingly nowhere, a hawk came down, grabbed the duck and took off.  We all watched in amazement as the crippled duck “flew” away, under the grasp of that hawk.

Damn hawk.  That was supposed to be our meal.

The Sunbathing Duck

I was hunting with one other guy over the same flooded field from the previous story.  He just shot down a mallard and was leaving the blind to go retrieve it.  He exited out the back and just turned the corner to the side of the blind when he started yelling up to me.  “Mike, grab your gun! Quick, he’s getting away.”

I didn’t know who “he” was but could tell by the urgency in my friends voice that it was probably a duck.  I’m looking up in the sky trying to locate this duck while grabbing my gun and moving the stalks we had over our head for cover so I get over and see what he is yelling about.

“Quick” he shouted, “It just swam that way”.  I still had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

Turns out there was drake mallard on the side of the blind the whole time we had been hunting.  We assumed it was a cripple for the guys hunting that blind the night before.  He said when he got around to the side of the blind, it was just sitting there soaking up the sun.  When the duck saw my hunting partner, it dove into the water and swam submerged towards some still standing corn stalks.  We looked and looked, but never saw that duck again.

5 Tips to Stop Crippled Ducks From Getting Away

  1. Don’t Miss-The best way to not lose a cripple is to not have any cripples.  Practice, practice, and practice with that shotgun.  Clean kills are better for you and the duck.
  2. Watch the Bird You Shoot Hit the Ground-It can be tempting to go after the coveted “Double.”  But by doing so, you are likely not watching the first duck you hit to know where it landed and that it was a clean kill.  If you watch it hit the ground, you can get another shot at it if it is crippled or at least know where it is to go after it.
  3. Quickly Retrieve Downed Waterfowl-Some hunters might hold off on picking up downed ducks, especially if other ducks are approaching.  Other hunters think leaving ducks on the water is taboo or bad luck, and rightfully so.  If you don’t pick them up quickly, you could lose one.  If you are hunting over water, one could float away into some brush making it hard to track down.  If one is crippled, it could get away without you realizing it if you leave it out there.  Quickly get on your downed birds, even at the expense of flushing the next flock.
  4. Carry Your Shotgun When Retrieving Waterfowl-When picking up your downed birds, bring your gun.  If one starts to get away, you can take another shot at it.  A shotgun does you no good if you don’t have it with you.  If my friend had his gun with him, he could have shot the sunbathing duck rather than yelling at me to grab my gun.
  5. Have a Good Duck Dog-A good duck dog gives you a huge advantage when it comes to catching cripples.  A good duck dog knows to go after the cripples first and is quickly on them soon after the duck hits the ground.  And if a crippled duck dives under water to get away, a good duck dog can use its senses to hunt it down and get it.
Lab Going after Duck

A Good Lab Can Chase Down a Fleeing Duck


It is not uncommon to cripple a bird when waterfowl hunting.  These tips will help make sure that none get away from you.

Do you have any other tips to stop cripples from getting away?  Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories where a crippled duck got the best of you?  Click “Leave a Comment” below to share.

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