Waterfowl & Migratory Bird Hunting

Hunting Regulations Icon Indiana Hunting

Waterfowl Season Dates


2017-2018 Season Dates

Bag Limits

Poss. Limits

Mourning Doves

Statewide Sep. 1 Oct. 15 15 * 45 *
Nov. 1 Nov. 12
Dec. 9 Jan. 10, 2018

Sora Rails

Statewide Sep. 1 Nov. 9 25 75

American Woodcock

Statewide Oct. 15 Nov. 28 3 9

Common Snipe

Statewide Sep. 1 Dec.16 8 24

Special Teal

Statewide ** Sep. 9 Sep. 24 6 18

Ducks, Coots, and Mergansers

North Zone Oct. 21 Dec. 10 *** ***
Dec. 23 Dec. 31
Central Zone Oct. 28 Nov. 5
Nov. 25 Jan. 14
South Zone Nov. 4 Nov. 12
Dec. 2 Jan. 21


North Zone Sep. 9 Sep. 17 **** ****
Oct. 21 Nov. 26
Dec. 16 Feb. 11
Central Zone Sep. 9 Sep. 17
Oct. 28 Nov. 12
Nov. 25 Feb. 11
South Zone Sep. 9 Sep. 17
Nov. 4 Nov. 26
Dec. 2 Feb. 11

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days (ducks, geese, mergansers, & coots)



Bag Limits

North Zone Oct. 14–15 Same as Regular Season
Central Zone Oct. 21–22 Same as Regular Season
South Zone Oct. 28–29 Same as Regular Season

Reporting Bird Bands Helps Research

Franklin College researchers are investigating the importance of urban habitats for mallard ducks and the potential that such areas may provide significant numbers of waterfowl available to hunters.

Franklin undergraduate students banded 600 mallards in 2016 and plan to band more than 2,000 over the next two summers. Birds are captured by using live walk-in traps located in seven central Indiana counties.

All waterfowl hunters are urged to report bird bands to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at www.reportband.gov or by calling 1-800-327-BAND (1-800-327-2263). Operators are on duty 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday during the hunting season.

Reporting band numbers of harvested birds provides information about where the birds were reared. More importantly, band return data will be used to determine survival and harvest rates of game bird populations. This information is then used to more effectively set bag limits and hunting dates for future seasons.

Many Factors Affect Waterfowl Numbers

Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat, weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and ultimately, hunter success.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports on the status and harvest of migratory game bird populations and information about migratory bird management across North America are available on the Migratory Bird homepage: www.fws.gov/birds/index.php.

More than 1,000 bird species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, and about 170 are defined as game birds. Fewer than 60 species are typically hunted each year, subject to limits based on data from aerial surveys and other monitoring programs. The Service publishes migratory game bird regulations each year in the Federal Register.

In Indiana, regulations for waterfowl hunting are split into three geographic zones (North, Central and South). Each zone can have a 60-day season for ducks, coots and mergansers, and a 104-day goose season. The zones are further split into two segments for duck season and three segments for goose season.


North: That part of Indiana north of a line extending east from the Illinois border along State Road 18 to U.S. 31; north along U.S. 31 to U.S. 24; east along U.S. 24 to Huntington; southeast along U.S. 224; south along State Road 5; and east along State Road 124 to the Ohio border.

Central: That part of Indiana south of the North Zone boundary and north of the South Zone boundary.

South: That part of Indiana south of a line extending east from the Illinois border along U.S. 40; south along U.S. 41; east along State Road 58; south along State Road 37 to Bedford; and east along U.S. 50 to the Ohio border.

Migratory game birds include rails, doves, moorhens, woodcock, snipe, ducks and geese.

Migratory game bird and waterfowl hunting dates are set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with Indiana and other states.

State/Federal Regulation Reminders

  • In order to hunt ducks and geese in Indiana, all individuals must have an Indiana hunting license, an Indiana waterfowl stamp privilege and a free Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation number. Additionally, all persons 16 years or older must have a signed Federal duck stamp to hunt waterfowl. Federal duck stamps are available at most post offices and online at www.fws.gov/duckstamps. State waterfowl stamp privileges are available from hunting and fishing license vendors and online at INHuntFish.com.
  • Indiana enforces all federal migratory bird laws. Violating any provision of a state law regarding federally protected migratory birds is also a violation of federal law.
  • Migratory game birds may be hunted from a motorboat provided it is beached, resting at anchor, tied to a stationary object, or without motion other than that imparted by wind and current acting upon the hull, or due to hand-operated oars or paddles.
  • Hunters may retrieve dead or injured birds by hand or from a motorboat under power but may NOT shoot from a boat under power or in motion due to motor power.
  • Migratory game birds in a hunter’s possession must have one fully feathered wing or head attached to the carcass for identification when the hunter is in the field or traveling from the field to home.
  • All migratory game birds killed or crippled shall be retrieved, if possible, and retained in the custody of the hunter in the field.
  • No person shall give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the following information:
    • The hunter’s signature.
    • The hunter’s address.
    • The total number of birds involved, by species.
    • The dates such birds were killed.
  • No person or business shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.

Harvest Information Program (HIP)

HIP is a joint effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies.

The program is designed to improve harvest estimates for migratory game birds nationwide. Once harvest information is gathered, the information is used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and states to ensure decisions regarding migratory game bird hunting seasons are based on sound scientific evidence.

All hunters in Indiana, including those exempt from purchasing a license, must register with the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) before hunting coots, doves, ducks, mergansers, gallinules, geese, snipe, sora rails or woodcock.

Hunters must register at wildlife.IN.gov/3567.htm or by calling (866) 671-4499 and providing the information requested. At the end of the registration, the hunter is given a validation number to record on his or her license. This number is valid from the date of registration through the close of the last current migratory bird hunting season.

Lifetime license holders and those exempt from Indiana license and stamp requirements must also register with HIP.

Hunters need to register for HIP only once each season, not each time they hunt; however, hunters must register in each state in which they hunt.

In addition to providing name and address, hunters are asked questions designed to identify which species they hunted last year and, in some cases, the number of birds they harvested.

Non-Toxic Shot

Hunters are required to use approved non-toxic shot while hunting all waterfowl. Hunters are also required to use non-toxic shot to hunt mourning doves on all DNR properties. Non-toxic shot currently approved for use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are:


copper-clad iron

corrosion-inhibited copper (CIC)

iron (steel)











Coatings of copper, nickel, tin, zinc, zinc chloride, zinc chrome, and fluoropolymers on approved non-toxic shot types are allowed. Lead shot plated with copper, nickel or other material does not qualify.

It is illegal to possess shells loaded with anything other than approved non-toxic shot while hunting ducks, geese and coots anywhere in the state.

The use of lead shot for hunting waterfowl was banned nationwide in 1991.

It is illegal to possess lead shot while hunting mourning doves on any state-managed property.

Waterfowl Hunting on State Areas

Hunters can apply for reserved waterfowl hunts by completing the reserved waterfowl hunt application online at wildlife.IN.gov/5834.htm.

For more information concerning waterfowl hunting on state-owned properties, contact the property.


No person shall take migratory game birds:

  • With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance.
  • With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler that is incapable of being removed without disassembling the gun.
  • From a sink box (a low, floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water).
  • From or with the aid or use of a car or other motor-driven land vehicle, or any aircraft, except that paraplegics and single or double amputees of the legs may hunt from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land vehicle.
  • By the use or aid of live decoys. All tame or captive live ducks and geese shall be removed for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to hunting, and confined within an enclosure that substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such tame birds from the sight of migratory waterfowl.
  • By driving, rallying or chasing birds with any motorized vehicle or any sail boat to put them in the range of the hunters.
  • By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, if the person knows or reasonably should know that the area is baited. Baiting includes the placing of corn, wheat or other grain, salt, or other feed to serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. It is a separate offense to place or direct placement of bait on or adjacent to an area for the purpose of causing or allowing hunters to take or attempt to take birds by the aid of bait or over a baited area. A baited area is considered to be baited for 10 days after complete removal of any bait. The maximum federal penalties are: for hunting over bait: $15,000/6 months jail; placing bait: $100,000/1 year jail. For more information on baiting:
  • By the use of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds, or imitations of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds.

Hunters Fund Conservation and Recreation

Hunting and fishing have a long history in Indiana, and Hoosiers have contributed to conservation since the first hunting license was sold in 1901.

With future generations in mind, regulated hunting and fishing was established to protect fish and wildlife species from being overharvested.

Ever since, proceeds generated from licenses, including habitat and fish stamps, have gone directly into managing those species and their habitats, furthering conservation and recreation. The success of conserving our natural resources would not have been possible without this user-pay, user-benefit model, which remains in effect today.

In addition to licenses, an excise tax on various hunting and fishing equipment is dedicated solely to the conservation of fish and wildlife. Taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment, boat engines, and motorboat fuel are collected for the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The WSFR program began in 1937 and has distributed more than $19 billion across the nation for the conservation of fish and wildlife species and their habitats, and associated recreational opportunities. Indiana has received more than $300 million, including almost $18 million in 2017 alone.

The funds have helped the DNR acquire more than 19,000 acres of public-use land since 2010. Notable acquisitions in 2015 that benefit both wildlife and recreation include 860 acres added to Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area in Greene County and the new 376-acre Goose Creek Gamebird Habitat Area in northwest Indiana for critical upland wildlife habitat.

The DNR recently opened two shooting ranges to enhance customer experience —
a new facility at Deer Creek Fish & Wildlife Area in Putnam County and a renovated range at Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area in Newton County. Both facilities feature multiple target ranges, a pro shop, and are staffed with an on-site safety officer.

The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife relies on the revenue generated from these dedicated funding programs. License sales and WSFR funds currently contribute about 87 percent of the Division’s funding. In total, roughly 96 percent of all funding for the Division is from sources exclusive for fish and wildlife resources.

The majority of funds are generated from hunting and fishing activities, but the conservation programs benefit everyone. Whether it’s viewing sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area, receiving habitat assistance from a wildlife biologist, or launching a canoe at a public access site, these are all supported by the license and WSFR funds.

Recreation related to fish and wildlife (including wildlife watching) is a $1.7 billion industry in Indiana that benefits businesses and contributes to the quality of life that Hoosiers desire.

Support from hunters and anglers is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and to providing recreational opportunities for current and future generations of Hoosiers.