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Migratory Bird

Hunting Regulations Icon Delaware Hunting


If you are a Delaware migratory bird hunter (ducks, geese, doves, woodcock, rails, snipe, and coots), you MUST obtain a new H.I.P number each year. What is H.I.P.? H.I.P. is the “Harvest Information Program” being implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). It was started in 1992 when California, Missouri, and South Dakota participated in the pilot program. For many years, the USFWS has collected waterfowl harvest information through a post-season survey of hunters who purchased Federal duck stamps. This survey was fine for its time, but better information is now needed. Also, the previous survey did not provide harvest data on other migratory birds like doves and woodcock. H.I.P. will fulfill these needs. Under the Harvest Information Program, migratory bird hunters need a special permit to hunt. To get the permit, hunters have to provide their name and address, and answer a few questions about their previous year’s hunting effort and success. This information is collected by the state, remains totally confidential, and goes immediately to the USFWS which randomly selects hunters to receive a survey form. This way, hunters have the forms to record harvest information during the season instead of after the fact like the old survey required. By surveying while hunting is going on, much better information should be available to the Service for evaluating bird harvests and the status of migratory bird species. If you are going to hunt migratory birds in Delaware, you MUST have a H.I.P. number. To obtain a permit visit or call toll free 1-855-335-4868.

This permit is free.

2016/2017 Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days

Youth Waterfowl Hunts, October 22, 2016 and February 11, 2017

Open statewide on private and public lands, including state wildlife areas and the federal refuges. The lottery drawing for state blinds is 1.5 hours before legal shooting time except for the Little Creek WMA where the drawing is 2 hours before legal shooting time. Hunters should arrive prior to 2 hours before legal shooting time to sign up for the lottery.

Children 10 through 15 years old may hunt, but must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older. No state or federal stamps are required. Thirteen, fourteen and fifteen year old hunters must purchase a Delaware junior hunting license. Regular season limits and waterfowl hunting regulations apply.

Adult companions must be licensed to hunt in Delaware (or exempt) but may not possess a firearm during the hunt. For more information on youth hunting, see the Youth Hunting section on Youth Hunting Information.

Waterfowl regulations were adopted through Federal regulations.


Each year more hunters die from drowning and the effects of hypothermia than from gunshot wounds. Statistics show that the majority of capsizing and falls overboard occur with boats less than 20 feet in length. Some boat designs are not as stable as others. Hunters often use smaller, more easily transportable crafts like john boats, bass boats or canoes. These types of boats, because of their flat bottoms or narrow beams, are more prone to swamping or capsizing. Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s) are essential and should be worn at all times. Special wearable flotation vests and coats for hunting are available and are comfortable and warm for the coldest duck and goose hunting days.

Primary Causes of Hunting-related Water Deaths:

  • Hypothermia – The rapid loss of body heat in cold water
  • “Dry” Drowning – Constriction of the throat due to a sudden inrush of water, resulting in suffocation
  • “Wet” Drowning – The displacement of air in the lungs with water
  • Massive Heart Attacks in older, out-of-shape non-swimmers in cold water
  • Being run over by own boat, especially when starting in gear

Most drownings could have been prevented. Drownings occur because the victim made the wrong decision; did not realize the dangers of boating in rough, cold water; was not properly prepared; had the wrong equipment; or failed to wear a PFD (life jacket).

Boating Safety Tips:

  • Wear your PFD (life jacket)
  • Never cross large bodies of water during rough weather in a boat that can’t take the conditions due to size and/or overloading.
  • Stay with your boat if you capsize and can’t get to shore. Try to climb on it.
  • Avoid standing up or moving around the boat.
  • Never move about your boat with a loaded firearm.
  • Read the capacity plate attached to the inside hull as a guide to keep from overloading your boat.
  • Distribute your gear evenly.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol lowers your body’s core temperature and encourages individuals to take chances they wouldn’t normally take. Guns, alcohol and/or drugs don’t mix. It is illegal to be in possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in a public place.

Did you know?

CPR can save your life! Cold water not only kills, but in some instances, it preserves. Warming drowning victims from the inside out by CPR or warm, moist inhalation may bring them back to life!


During the waterfowl season, it shall be unlawful for any person to hunt from a boat of any kind that is within 1,500 feet of an established blind, unless they have permission from the blind owner, except that:

  • Any person may use a boat to tend lawfully set traps for fur-bearing wildlife
  • Any person may retrieve crippled waterfowl by the use of a boat in accordance with federal Regulations
  • Any person may use a boat for transportation to and from an established blind lawfully used by such person
  • Any person may hunt from a boat that is firmly secured and enclosed in an established blind.

During the waterfowl season, it shall be unlawful for any person to hunt from a boat, or a floating or fixed blind in the Little River in areas bounded on both sides by land administered by the Division, except as permitted in writing by the Director.

During the waterfowl season, it shall be unlawful for any person to hunt within 900 feet of the shoreline (high tide line) of the Delaware River and Bay, between the Appoquinimink River and the Smyrna River, without written permission of the closest adjoining landowner(s). Furthermore, it shall be unlawful for any person to hunt within 1,500 feet of the shoreline (high tide line) of the Delaware River and Bay, between the Smyrna River and the Murderkill River, without written permission of the closest adjoining landowner(s).

It shall be unlawful for tender boats servicing gunning (layout) rigs to be further than 1,500 feet from the rig or to conduct any activity, except to pick up downed birds or service the rig.


Hunters are reminded that Delaware and Maryland have a reciprocal agreement for hunting snow geese. Delaware hunters can hunt snow geese in Maryland with their Delaware hunting license provided they have a Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp, a Federal Duck Stamp, a Maryland H.I.P. number and are in compliance with Maryland Hunter Safety laws. Maryland resident hunters can hunt snow geese in Delaware with their Maryland resident hunting license provided they have a Delaware Waterfowl (Duck) Stamp, a Federal Duck Stamp, a Delaware H.I.P. number and are in compliance with the Delaware Hunter Safety laws. This agreement only applies to residents of Maryland and Delaware.

Conservation Order

The snow goose Conservation Order (CO) is expected to reopen during the winter and spring of 2016 after other waterfowl hunting is closed. When the CO is open, snow goose hunters can use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls. In addition, hunting hours are extended to a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset and daily bag and possession limits are removed. Participants hunting during the CO must have a valid Delaware or Maryland resident hunting license, a Delaware Waterfowl (Duck) Stamp (Federal stamp not required), a Delaware HIP number and the free CO permit issued by the Division. This permit can be obtained by computer registration at The need for the Delaware Waterfowl (Duck) Stamp follows the requirements on Licensing & Permits of this guide as related to hunter age.


  • The non-resident 3-day hunting license can now be used to hunt waterfowl provided the hunter has purchased the Federal Duck Stamp and state waterfowl (duck) stamp and has a H.I.P. number.
  • When purchasing your waterfowl (duck) stamp on the electronic systems, the stamp image is printed on your license if you purchase your hunting license at the same time. If you purchase the stamp separately you will receive the stamp image. The Division no longer mails original waterfowl (duck) stamps automatically at the end of the season (June 30th of each year). If you would like an original stamp sent to you please call (302) 739-9918 and provide your name, address and order ID number after you purchase the electronic stamp.

Non-Toxic Shot

Non-toxic shot, as approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is required for all waterfowl hunting within the State of Delaware. There are no exceptions. For a list of currently approved non-toxic shot types visit


Shot carries beyond the lethal range. Duck hunters should use extreme caution when selecting the direction they shoot in.


Delaware Small Boat Equipment Requirements

1. Registration fee



2. Decals & boat number

Display properly on bow

Display properly on bow

3. Personal flotation Device

(PFD)*Must be serviceable

(see below)

One approved wearable PFD
for each person on board

One approved wearable PFD for each person on board plus one throwable PFD.

4. Whistle

One hand, mouth or power
operated, and audible at least
one half (1/2) mile

One hand, mouth or power operated, and audible at least one half (1/2) mile

5. Fire Extinguisher Portable

One type B-1, if carrying passengers for hire, or if boat construction will permit entrapment of flammable vapors.

One type B-1, if carrying passengers for hire,
or if boat construction
will permit entrapment of flammable vapors.

6. Lights

7. Ventilation At least two ventilator ducts fitted with cowls or equivalent,
if boat construction will permit entrapment of flammable vapors.

8. Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Delaware River South of Artificial Island—U.S. Coast Guard regulations require all vessels to carry day and night distress signaling devices.
Outboard motorboats less than 16’ in length are exempt from daytime requirements.


Those persons born on or after January 1, 1978 must take an approved boating education course before operating a boat. Contact the Office of Boating Education for more information on taking a classroom course: (303) 739-9915. OR Take an online course at


Delaware Migratory Game Bird
Season Summary

Ducks (Regular Season)

Oct 28 – Nov 8



Nov 21 – Nov. 26

Dec 9 – Jan 28

September Teal

Sep 9 – Sep 27



Limited to the designated teal zone south of the C & D Canal to Lewes, and east of Routes 13, 113/113A, and 1. Bag limit may include any combination of blue-winged and/or green-winged teal

Youth Waterfowl Hunt

Youth must be age 10-15.

Oct 22 & Feb 11

Daily bag limits as listed below apply for ducks, mergansers, coots, moorhens, gallinules, Canada geese, snow geese and brant.

Daily Bag Limits and Possession Limits

The daily limit of 6 ducks (excluding mergansers and coots) may include, in any combination, up to: 4 mallards, including no more than 2 hen mallards; 1 black duck; 2 pintail; 2 canvasback, 3 wood ducks; 2 redheads; 2 scaup, 6 teal; 6 shovelers; 6 gadwall; 6 wigeon; 6 goldeneye; 6 ring-necked ducks; 6 bufflehead; 6 ruddy ducks; 1 mottled duck; 1 fulvous whistling-duck; 4 scoters; 4 eiders; 4 long-tailed ducks. The possession limit is 3 times the daily limit. The season on harlequin ducks remains closed.

Sea Ducks

Scoters, Eiders, and Long-tailed ducks

Nov 21 – Jan 28*



* Season dates apply to Special Sea Duck Area where ducks may be taken not less than 800 yards (1/2) mile seaward from the Delaware Bay shore or the Atlantic Ocean shore beginning at an east-west line between Port Mahon and the Elbow Cross Navigation Light, south to the Delaware-Maryland line. The shooting of crippled sea ducks from a motorboat under power will be permitted in the designated sea duck hunting area. Sea ducks may only be harvested outside of the Special Sea Duck Area during the regular duck season and are part of the regular duck season bag and possession limits.

** The daily bag limit for sea ducks to include no more than 4 scoters, 4 long-tailed ducks, or 4 eiders. Within the Special Sea Duck Area, during the regular duck season, the sea duck limit may be in addition to limits for other ducks during the regular duck season.


Same as Duck Season




Same as Duck Season



** Daily bag limit may include no more than 2 hooded mergansers (6 in possession)

Canada Geese (Resident)

Sep 1 – Sep 24



Canada Geese (Migratory)

Including White-fronted geese

Nov 21 – Nov 26



Dec 16 – Feb 4


Dec 3 – Jan 28



Snow Geese

Including Ross’ geese

Oct 5 – Feb 4


No limit

***February 11***

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge open Mon., Wed., and Fri. with permission of Refuge Manager.

Snow Goose Conservation Order

Feb 6 – Feb 10

No bag or possession limits

Feb 13 – Apr 7

During the Conservation Order (CO) unplugged shotguns and electronic calls may be used to harvest snow geese. Shooting hours have been extended to ½ hour after sunset and daily bag & possession limits have been eliminated. Hunters who wish to participate in the CO must register for a free, annual permit, available by visiting (after Jan 1st). Participants are required to re-visit this website after the CO has closed to report their harvest to the Division of Fish & Wildlife.

Mourning Dove

Sep 1 – Oct 1



Oct 19 – Oct 22

Nov 21 – Jan 14

During the month of September, all hunters must use non-toxic shot when dove hunting on State Wildlife Areas.

King & Clapper Rails

* Singly or in combination of the two species

Sep 1 – Nov 9



Sora & Virginia Rails

* Singly or in combination of the two species

Sep 1 – Nov 9




Nov 21 – Dec 3



Dec 14 – Jan 14

Common Snipe

Sep 20 – Dec 3



Dec 14 – Jan 14

Moorhens & Gallinules

Sep 1 – Nov 9




*Thurs., Fri., & Sat. only

Jun 23 – Mar 25*

No Limit

No Limit