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Duck

Many types of ducks and geese share the same habitat, have overlapping or identical hunting seasons, and are hunted using the same methods. Thus it is possible to take different species of waterfowl in the same outing. Waterfowl can be hunted in crop fields where they feed, or, more frequently, on or near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, sloughs, or oceanic coastlines.

Hunting with shotguns began in the 17th century with the matchlock shotgun. Later flintlock shotguns and percussion cap guns were used. Shotguns were loaded with black powder and lead shot through the muzzle in the 17th century to the late 19th century. The transition from flint to "detonating" or percussion lock firearms and from muzzle to breech loading guns was largely driven by innovations made by English gun makers such as Joseph Manton, at which time wildfowling was extremely popular in England both as a pastime and as a means of earning a living, as described by Peter Hawker in his diaries. 

Damascus barrels are safe to shoot (where proofed) only with black powder charges. When smokeless powder was invented in the late 19th century, steel barrels were made. Damascus barrels which were made of a twisted steel could not take the high pressure of smokeless powder. Fred Kimble,tanner,and adam duck hunters from Illinois, invented the shotgun choke in 1886. This is a constriction at the end of the barrel. This allowed for longer range shooting with the shotgun, and kept the pattern of shot tighter or looser according to which type of choke is being used. Until 1886, shotguns had cylinder bore barrels which could only shoot up to 25 yards, so duck hunting was done at close range. After 1886, market hunters could shoot at longer ranges up to forty five yards with a full choke barrel and harvest more waterfowl. Shotguns became bigger and more powerful as steel barrels were being used, so the range was extended to sixty yards.

Pump shotguns were invented in the late 19th century, and the semi automatic 12 ga. shotgun was developed by John Browning in the very early 20th century, which allowed commercial hunters to use a four-shell magazine (five including the one in the chamber) to rake rafts of ducks on the water or kill them at night, in order to kill larger numbers of waterfowl for the commercial markets. Even during the Great Depression years, a brace of canvasbacks could be sold to restaurants before legislation and hunting organizations pushed for greater enforcement. Once waterfowlers had access to these guns, this made these men more proficient market hunters. These guns could fire five to seven shots, therefore hunters were having bigger harvests.

Early European settlers in America hunted waterfowl with great zeal, as the supply of waterfowl seemed unlimited in the coastal Atlantic regions. During the fall migrations, the skies were filled with waterfowl. Places such as Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and Barnaget Bay were hunted extensively.

As more immigrants came to America in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the need for more food became greater. Market hunting started to take form, to supply the local population living along the Atlantic coast with fresh ducks and geese. Men would go into wooden boats and go out into the bays hunting, sometimes with large shotguns. They would bring back a wooden barrel or two of ducks each day. Live ducks were used as decoys as well as bait such as corn or other grain to attract waterfowl.

The rise of modern waterfowl hunting is tied to the history of the shotgun, which shoots a pattern of round pellets making it easier to hit a moving target. In the 19th century, the seemingly limitless flocks of ducks and geese in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways of North America were the basis for a thriving commercial waterfowl hunting industry. With the advent of punt guns – massive, boat-mounted shotguns that could fire a half-pound of lead shot at a time – hunters could kill dozens of birds with a single blast. This was the four and six gauge shotgun. This period of intense commercial waterfowl hunting is vividly depicted in James Michener's historical novel Chesapeake.

Around the start of the 20th century, commercial hunting and loss of habitat due to agriculture led to a decline in duck and goose populations in North America, along with many other species of wildlife. The Lacey Act of 1900, which outlawed transport of poached game across state lines, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prohibited the possession of migratory birds without permission (such as a hunting license), marked the dawn of the modern conservation movement.

In 1934, at the urging of editorial cartoonist and conservationist J.N. "Ding" Darling, the United States government passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, better known as the Federal Duck Stamp Act. This program required hunters to purchase a special stamp, in addition to a regular hunting license, to hunt migratory waterfowl. Revenues from the stamp program provided the majority of funding for conservation for many decades. The stamp funded the purchase of 4.5 million acres (18,000 km2) of National Wildlife Refuge land for waterfowl habitat since the program's inception in 1934. The Duck Stamp act has been described as "one of the most successful conservation programs ever devised. Duck stamps have also become collectible items in their own right. Stamps must not be signed to be of value.

In North America a variety of ducks and geese are hunted, the most common being mallards, Canada geese, snow geese, canvasback, redhead, pintail, gadwall, ruddy duck,harlequin, common, hooded and red-breasted merganser (often avoided because of its reputation as a poor-eating bird with a strong flavor). Also hunted are black duck, wood duck, blue wing teal, green wing teal, bufflehead, shoveler, widgeon, and goldeneye. Ocean ducks include oldsquaw, eider duck, and scoter.

The waterfowl hunting season is generally in the autumn and winter. Hunting seasons are set by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the United States. In the autumn, the ducks and geese have finished raising their young and are migrating to warmer areas to feed. The hunting seasons usually begin in October and end in January. Extended goose seasons can go into April, the Conservation Order by the U.S.F.W.S.

There are four large flyways in the United States that the waterfowl follow: the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyways.