Where to Aim When Shooting Ducks

Wondering where to aim shooting ducks? Always remember to aim for the eye, not the body, and stay just in front of the bird.

That’s the most important lesson I took away from my early duck hunting days, and this simple, successful aim has earned me a lot of birds. Here are the top things I’ve learned over the years on proper aim for strong duck hunting.

Setting Up Your Duck Shot

When hunting ducks, it’s important to keep in mind you need to set up your gun correctly with the recommended ammunition and be in the right position to achieve the best aim.

Your instincts may tell you to jump up and shoot at the whole flight of ducks when they take to the sky. You’re actually much better off focusing solely on one duck, getting the right aim for the best chances of nailing one.

Timing is everything, and this takes time to learn. To set up your shot, you need to observe the duck flight and ideally watch for the last bird tailing behind. It’s easier to aim at a duck that’s slightly behind the others, rather than at a bird flying neck and neck with dozens of others in the same group.

Where to Aim Shooting Flying Ducks

Smart timing and careful observation help you aim right. If you’re a deer hunter, you’ll have to remember that traditional rifle aiming is different from duck hunting.

With waterfowl, you want to point in the direction of ducks or geese, keeping your visual focus firmly on the target. Look less at your shotgun and more at your target, and you’ll be surprised how your brain and arms follow naturally.

With your shotgun pointed at an incoming flight of birds, here are a few more tried and tested suggestions to help you achieve the perfect aim.

Concentrate on the Bird’s Eye

A lot of beginners try aiming and shooting at the entire bird, which usually results in drawing a few tailfeathers rather than a kill shot.

After identifying your target bird, concentrate on its eye, which should be your aiming point. This is good for two things: first, when you can no longer see the bird’s eye, it’s too far away and you should save your shot.

Second, keep your focus on the bird’s eye, which helps to swing the shotgun in front of the bird, not behind it.

Follow Your Instincts

Where to Aim Shooting Ducks

There’s a lot of talk about lead time, or when you fire the shot to ensure it hits the bird before it passes by. When shooting ducks at close range, lead time should be less calculated and driven more by instinct.

There are so many variables, such as the angle, speed, direction, and distance of flight, and if you spend too much time thinking about it all, you will miss your shot.

Instead, follow your target bird and extend your line of sight with the shotgun barrel. When the bird is approaching, aim slightly ahead of the duck and trust your natural instincts to pull the trigger.

Extra lead is beneficial if you’re shooting 40 yards out or more. You want to stay out in front, keep the barrel swinging, and fire toward the head and chest. By keeping your shot in front, you can avoid missed shots that end up behind the duck.

For effective shooting at birds flying by, remember to aim just in front of the bird, pull the trigger, keep moving the gun in the bird’s path, and take another shot as required.

Straight On Shots

A duck flying straight toward you instead of past you may seem daunting if it’s your first time. Rest assured it’s actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. The key is to aim, blot, and fire.

Aim just below the bird, lift the gun into the flight path, and fire when the barrel blots out your target. If the duck is landing, aim at the feet and pull the trigger. Once the shot charge reaches your target, the duck should have dropped right into the middle of the firing line.

More Tips For Better Duck Shots

Achieving the right aim is possible with the right mentality, experience, and hunting gear. Here are a few top tips to remember when testing your aim out in the field next time.

  • Get comfortable with your shotgun. It’s hard to have the right aim if your gun doesn’t fit naturally and comfortably on your shoulder and arm. To hold your aim and get the right amount of swing, you must be able to support the firearm and stay focused on your target.

  • Watch for flushed birds. Be ready if your hunting dog flushes birds out straight in front of you. Aim for the eyes, head, and chest when the ducks are just above you for a simple kill.

  • Aim just off-center for departing birds. If flushed birds have too much time and get fully vertical, the shot will be tougher, but not impossible. In that case, resist the urge to shoot straight at the departing duck. You should adjust slightly to the right or left to match the bird’s lateral drift, while still firing quickly to make the shot before the bird is too far away.


Part of the fun in duck hunting is the chase and trying to get the perfect shot. In terms of where to aim shooting ducks, remember to aim at the bird’s eye so you can get a lethal shot in the head or chest, rather than a few feathers from their back.

Hopefully, these takeaways help you with your next hunting adventure. For ducks passing by, aim just in front, fire, and continue moving the gun so you can pull the trigger once more if needed.

If the birds are flying straight at you, aim just below the bird, lift the gun, and fire when the bird is blotted out by the barrel. For departing birds, aim slightly to the side to accommodate a duck’s lateral drift.

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