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A brief history of waterfowl hunting


People have been hunting since the dawn of time. Animals provided valuable meat and materials that helped keep our ancestors alive. As technology advanced and agriculture became industrialized, hunting’s role changed. Today, it continues to be a pastime enjoyed all over the world, as well as a way of managing wildlife populations. 

One of the longest-hunted animals in the world is waterfowl. Waterfowl include ducks, geese, and even swans. From prehistoric times to now, people have been hunting waterfowl. It’s a way of witnessing nature firsthand, and connects us intricately to this food source. Waterfowlers also have a strong sense of camaraderie and derive enjoyment from the challenge and thrill of hunting.

How has waterfowl hunting evolved?

Here’s a cool fact: the ancient Egyptian tomb of Khnumhotep II features the image of a man hunting ducks using a trap, an indication that traps were a common tool used for waterfowl hunting as early as the prehistoric era. Many cultures lured ducks into live traps with food. Other cultures would create duck decoy hats and swim in the water. When they got close enough, they would simply grab the duck by its legs. It’s a comical image, but these early hunting methods kept humans fed and warm for thousands of years. 

The bow and arrow was an important invention for hunting. Unfortunately, it often wasn’t accurate enough for the quick, easily-spooked waterfowl. Indigenous groups in North America developed early stalk hunting methods to get close enough to shoot ducks and other birds. 

During the middle ages, waterfowl hunting became a popular sport amongst the European nobility. Medieval lords thought hunting was a great way to practice skills that would be valuable in war. It gave men a chance to get good at bow and arrow usage, horseback riding, and tracking. 

Medieval hunting relied heavily on dogs. To hunt waterfowl, dogs would scare the sitting birds into flight. Once in the air, they would be shot with a bow and arrow and retrieved. These retrieval dogs are ancestors of many modern breeds we know and love today.

Guns changed everything

The invention of the gun in the 17th century changed everything. Waterfowl could be shot from greater distances and with more accuracy. As Europeans began to immigrate to North America, waterfowl became a valuable part of the new economy. It was used as a trading item, and many people made a living off of waterfowl hunting. 

Populations seemed so large that waterfowl were hunted in the thousands. Guns that are capable of firing multiple rounds were invented because of this massive commercial waterfowl hunting industry. They would allow hunters to kill more birds quickly without reloading, increasing their daily profits. 

By the beginning of the 20th century, waterfowl populations had seriously dwindled. Overhunting and a loss of habitat due to rising human populations and industrial farming meant many waterfowl species were now endangered. This led to the emergence of the regulatory laws we know today. Hunting seasons, hunting licences and endangered species restrictions can all be traced back to this early 20th-century realization.

The enduring appeal of waterfowling

Waterfowl hunting has been vital for human survival all over the world and throughout history. Waterfowl have been supplying people with food and resources since the dawn of time. 

Waterfowling has transcended time, class, and borders, remaining one of the most popular hunting activities to this day. While it’s changed immensely over the centuries, it continues to provide entertainment, relaxation, and a healthy connection to the food we eat. 

The introduction of new and sophisticated tools has made waterfowl hunting easier and safer than ever. The ability to track bird populations and migratory patterns, along with regulations that promote sustainability, make it an appealing activity for new and experienced hunters alike. 

Canada is home to an extensive variety of waterfowl populations, and waterfowl hunting has been an important part of our history for thousands of years. A hunting trip can connect you to people of the past and unplug from the pressures of today. Find out how our experienced guides can help you plan your next hunt and be part of the incredible history of waterfowling.

Paul Conchâtre Manitoba Hunter and Outfitter
Birdtail Waterfowl Inc.

Paul Conchatre

28 Turcotte Cove
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3R 3V9

+1 (204) 294 2694

Alternatively, please feel free to contact Paul at