Duck hunting education

There are a variety of rules that apply to recreational duck hunters, including the requirement to retrieve downed birds and the types of equipment permitted for use. Our online education modules are designed to support hunters in understanding responsible, safe and sustainable duck hunting practices and the related laws in Victoria.

The information contained in the Duck hunting basics education module is based on Victoria’s legislated hunting seasons. The season arrangements may change each year. Hunters should regularly check the Duck hunting page for more information.

Duck hunters are required to pass a Waterfowl Identification Test (WIT)  before being permitted to hunt ducks. The WIT aims to ensure that all licenced duck hunters can identify game and non-game waterbirds.

The Be a better game bird hunter - Shotgunning Education Program Handbook and the Duck hunting basics online modules have comprehensive information on duck hunting, including illustrations, diagrams and videos.

Education module: Duck hunting basics

Guidelines for the humane dispatch of downed ducks

Hunting methods and laws

REDUCE Wounding

Gamebird 101 course

This introductory course covers theory on current hunting laws and legislation, best practices for how to hunt gamebirds, and practical training.

The one day course is designed to help hunters understand the most relevant hunting equipment, improve shooting skills and provide proven hunting strategies and techniques.

This course is run by SSAA in partnership with the GMA, and is perfect for hunters who want to be a consistently successful gamebird hunter.

For more information and to book a course, visit: SSAA Victoria


There are minimum legal requirements for firearms when hunting game ducks in Victoria. Duck hunters are permitted to use shotguns only, and these must be no greater than 12 gauge and with no more than three barrels.

Hunters must use or have in their possession only non-toxic shot when hunting ducks. This includes duck hunting on all wetlands, waterways and drylands on public and private land. Hunters are exempt from using non-toxic shot only if they are using a muzzle-loading, Damascus steel or a twist-barrelled shotgun.

Selecting a make and model of shotgun is a personal choice, however it is important that the shotgun fits the hunter. The correct fit can be determined by bringing the gun to the shoulder, checking the stock fits snugly against the cheek, with the eye on that side above the centreline of the gun. If this position is not comfortable, the ‘gun fit’ may need to be adjusted with the help of a qualified stock maker.

Check out the Shooting skills section of the Duck hunting basics online hunting education module for more information on selecting the right shotgun.

Chokes and loads

Different birds have different body sizes and types, and these factors may change the choke and shotshell combination required.

A common mistake made by many gamebird hunters is the incorrect identification of shot size/s. This affects their ability to meet minimum patterning and penetration requirements. It is important to understand that the shot size coding/labelling given for one cartridge brand may not be the same as that given for another.

Check out the Shooting skills section of the Duck hunting basics online hunting education module for more information on selecting choke and shotshell combinations.

Tom Rosters lethality table on page 14 of the Be a better gamebird hunter Shotgunning Education Program Handbook, can be used to identify the shooting range and which shot size to select.

Pattern testing

Pattern testing is a practical exercise that involves shooting a specific barrel, choke, and shotshell combination at a target to see and record the number and spread of pellets. Pattern testing ensures that the choke and load combination is suitable for the species being hunted and the performance of the shotgun.

For information on pattern testing, check out the Shooting skills section of the Duck hunting basics online hunting education module.

Shooting skills

Extensive shooting skills are required to become a successful hunter. All hunters should know their maximum effective shooting skill distance. This is the maximum distance at which a hunter can consistently, efficiently and ethically dispatch a game bird with a single shot.

Practicing regularly is also important to improve the effectiveness of a hunt and significantly reduce game bird wounding.

Effective shooting skillls distance

An effective shooting skills distance is the greatest distance where a hunter can consistently hit six out of eight targets. The Effective shooting skills and Range estimation sections of the Duck hunting basics online hunting education module has a video outlining these steps hunters can take to know their maximum shooting distance and reduce wounding.


The best way to develop and maintain proficient shooting skills is through regular and meaningful clay target shooting practice, and particularly in situations that replicate field conditions.

To properly practise for field hunting situations, clay targets must be presented in a way that accurately (within reason) simulates the typical speed and trajectory of the game bird being hunted. Hunters should practise with the same choke and non-toxic shot type combination that they will be hunting with in the field.

For some specific examples on setting up target speed and angle that simulate Victoria’s different game birds, see the Be a better gamebird hunter Shotgunning Education Program Handbook.

The Shooting skills section of the Duck hunting basics online hunting education module has useful tips on how to improve shooting skills using clay targets.

Retrieval and dispatch

Hunters must make all reasonable attempts to immediately recover downed game birds that have been shot and recover at least the breast meat. All hunters must leave a fully feathered wing on any harvested duck until immediately prior to cooking, or until the duck has been taken to the persons ordinary place of residence.

Retrieval strategy

Planning the retrieval of a game bird is an important part of planning a hunt. Once a game duck is downed, hunters must stop shooting and immediately make all reasonable efforts to recover the downed bird.

Take the most direct route to the downed bird or where it was seen to fall and use equipment that will aid in the retrieval of downed birds (this could include such things as a gundog, swatter loads, boats, etc.).

Look and listen for any movement. If the downed bird cannot be located, look for tell-tale signs of where the bird went down, including feathers or disturbed vegetation.

Don’t assume that downed birds have been killed outright. Any injured game birds must be killed immediately upon recovery.

For more information see the Guidlines for the humane dispatch of downed ducks.

Page last updated: 29 Feb 2024