Unlike most game animals, which are managed on the state level, waterfowl is managed both on the state and federal levels. As a waterfowl hunter, it is your responsibility to know and follow all the laws that pertain to the activity. These rules change every year, so check them thoroughly each season before you hunt.
Federally, all of the nation’s ducks and geese are regarded as belonging to one of four flyways, based on their particular migration corridor, Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific.
Each flyway has an administrative council with one member from each state within that flyway to help formulate state/regional regulations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other North American countries have a say as well. The states and their associated flyways are listed below.
Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and those portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming west of the Continental Divide.
Overview of Basic Terms and Regulations
You can only hunt waterfowl during open shooting hours, usually starting 1/2 hour before sunrise and ending at sunset.
You cannot hunt waterfowl during the closed season.
Daily bag limit
You can take only one daily bag limit in any one day. This limit determines the number of waterfowl you may legally have in your possession while in the field or while in route back to your car, hunting camp, home, or other destination.
You must make a reasonable effort to retrieve all waterfowl that you kill or cripple and keep these birds in your actual custody while in the field. You must immediately kill any wounded birds that you retrieve and count those birds toward your daily bag limit.
You cannot put or leave waterfowl at any place or in the custody of another person unless you tag the birds with your signature, address, number of birds identified by species, and the date you killed them.
You cannot hunt waterfowl that have been concentrated, driven, rallied, or stirred up with a motorized vehicle or sailboat.
You cannot completely field-dress waterfowl before taking them from the field. The head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached to the birds while you transport them to your home or to a facility that processes waterfowl.
A violation of a State waterfowl hunting regulation is also a violation of Federal regulations.
If you are 16 or older, you must carry on your person an unexpired Federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp. You must validate your duck stamp by signing it in ink across the face before hunting.
Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP)
Unless exempt from license requirements in the State where you are hunting, you must enroll in the HIP and carry proof of current enrollment while hunting.
Federal law prohibits the killing of non-game migratory birds. Protected birds that you could encounter while waterfowl hunting include songbirds, eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, herons, egrets, and woodpeckers.
You May NOT Hunt Waterfowl:
If you have additional questions about waterfowl hunting and the law, contact the nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement office or one of the Service’s regional law enforcement offices.