Last week a duck-hunting magazine posted a photo of two hen wood ducks shot by a reader. The comments were mostly positive, but—as you might have guessed—at least one commenter was quick to chastise the guy for shooting hens.
Here's my take: The issue of shooting hens is a matter of personal ethics, but not an essential code. If you'd pass on a single hen mallard cupped and committed, hey, that's great, but I wouldn't fault you for shooting.
Some would, however, arguing that hens lay the eggs and are therefore the engines of waterfowl production. I get that, but one must consider the overall rate of duck mortality. Duckling mortality can range from 10-70 percent; 50-70 percent of ducks die in their first year; and, even among adult ducks, at least 30-50 percent won't survive the year. In addition, mortality rates are higher among hens—even though hunters shoot far more drakes—because they're vulnerable to predation while nesting and rearing broods.
In comparison, the approximately 14-15 million ducks annually harvested by hunters are but a fraction of the estimated 49,152,000 breeding pairs currently in North America.
So, given the number of hens that will perish this year due to non-hunting mortality, does shooting a few really matter?