How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Duck

How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Duck

Sometimes during a hunt, you might shoot a duck only to find that it’s injured but not dead. The last thing you want is to cause the animal to suffer, so you have to quickly find a way to humanely kill it.

More than 3 million wounded ducks aren’t retrieved annually, which means that these ducks end up crippled and in severe pain, or they suffer a very painful death later on.

Read on to learn the best ways to humanely end a wounded duck’s life. It’s your duty as a responsible hunter! 


How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Duck 

How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Duck 

If you’ve tried to kill a duck and failed, you shouldn’t leave it to just bleed out. There are various methods you can use to try to kill it, but not all of them are humane or effective. 

Cervical Dislocation

One of the best ways to deal with a wounded duck is via cervical dislocation. This is when you separate the top of the duck’s spine from its skull. This offers relief to the duck by killing it instantly, so it won’t suffer unnecessarily. 

Here’s how to do it properly and quickly: (Note that the cervical dislocation method can be used on a duck that’s conscious or unconscious.)

  • Hold the duck’s legs in one hand and the duck’s head in your other hand. 
  • Position the duck’s body so that its underside is towards your body.
  • Hold the duck firmly against your body, between your hip and chest. You might have to adjust your grip depending on the duck size. If the duck is small, you should hold it securely around its abdomen. If the duck is large, you should hold it near the top of its wing.
  • While your hand is holding the duck in place, your other hand should hold the duck’s head, with your first two fingers and thumb underneath its bill.
  • Hold the duck’s head backwards so that it’s at a 90-degree angle from its neck. 
  • With your hands, increase the force placed on the duck in opposite directions. 
  • Simultaneously, pull the duck’s head back towards its neck. You should feel the skull pull away from the neck. This process needs to be done quickly, otherwise, it’s not humane and will cause the duck a lot of distress and pain.
  • When you are done, feel along the duck’s neck with your fingers until you can feel the gap that’s been made. This gap indicates that the cervical dislocation has been successful. 
  • If you can’t feel the gap, you will need to quickly repeat the process so that you kill the duck. 

Should I Shoot A Duck Again? How To Kill A Wounded Duck With Swatter Loads 

Should I Shoot A Duck Again? How To Kill A Wounded Duck With Swatter Loads 

The cervical dislocation method isn’t suitable for everyone. It can be disturbing to some people and it lacks beginner-friendliness. It can also be harmful to the duck, who will experience tremendous pain and distress if the procedure isn’t done quickly and correctly.

Another method to humanely kill a wounded duck is to use swatter loads. These are shotshells that are small in size and produce a dense pattern. They work effectively to kill a wounded duck. The most effective steel shot sizes are 5, 6, and 7s.

Before following this method, make sure that there are no animals or people in the vicinity.

  • Aim the swatter load at the front of the duck. 
  • If you miss or the duck is wounded again but is still alive, fire a second load. 

Can I Just Smack The Duck Against A Hard Surface? 

Can I Just Smack The Duck Against A Hard Surface? 

You might wonder if you can smack the duck hard against a hard surface to render it unconscious. You can choose this method, but you have to be skilled at doing it so that you only need one blow to the duck’s head.

If you have to hit it repeatedly, you’ll cause it to die a slow death, which isn’t humane. You must ensure that the blow to the top of the duck’s skull is delivered very forcefully.

You will therefore require a strong, heavy, and blunt tool to do the job, such as a metal pipe, steel rod, or fishing priest. The latter is ideal because it’s made of metal or wood and has a heavy, blunt end. 

Here are some tips to bear in mind when using a fishing priest:

  • Make sure that the blow is powerful and lands on top of the duck’s skull so that you kill the duck instantly. 
  • You can use a vertical or horizontal blow, depending on how you’ve restrained the duck. 

Methods You Should Not Use To Kill A Wounded Duck

Methods You Should Not Use To Kill A Wounded Duck

There are some methods that should never be used to kill a wounded duck. These methods cause harm and further distress, and they don’t work quickly enough to humanely end the duck’s life.

Never attempt the following methods to kill a wounded duck:

  • Windmilling. This term refers to picking up the duck and swinging it around in a circle so that you snap its neck. This is never worth doing as it won’t kill the duck immediately. 
  • Rib compression. This involves putting pressure on the duck’s chest to suffocate it and is not humane. It will cause the duck a lot of anxiety and possibly pain. It can also take a few minutes to work. 
  • Drowning. This can be a tricky way to try to kill a duck, especially if it’s still able to move around and swim. It will be traumatic for the duck and if the duck manages to thwart your efforts, it will end up wounded in the wild and continue to suffer.

Related Questions 

Here are some common questions on injured or wounded ducks.

How do you check the duck’s vital signs to ensure it’s dead?

How do you check the duck’s vital signs to ensure it’s dead?

Check the duck’s vital signs in the following ways: 

  • The eyes should be open. 
  • The neck and body should be limp. 
  • The wings should droop. 
  • No heartbeat or signs of breathing.
  • No movement. 
  • You should also try to put a finger on the duck’s eye to see if it blinks. 

Is plithing a humane way to kill a wounded duck?

Plithing involves inserting a needle into the duck’s brain. You shouldn’t do this if the duck isn’t unconscious.

Avoid this method if you don’t have experience with the technique, which requires you to insert the tool into the back of the duck’s head to reach its brain.


If something’s gone wrong during your duck hunt and you shot a duck but didn’t kill it, don’t leave it to bleed out or try to live with a rifle wound. This is inhumane, so you should end the duck’s life humanely.

In this article, we’ve explained some of the most effective ways to humanely kill a wounded duck, as well as what to avoid. 


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