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Waterfowl/Migratory Birds

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:

bismuth-tin

copper-clad iron

iron (steel)

iron-tungsten

iron-tungsten-nickel

tungsten-bronze

tungsten-iron-copper-nickel

tungsten-iron-polymer

tungsten-matrix

tungsten-polymer

tungsten-tin-bismuth

tungsten-tin-iron

tungsten-tin-iron-nickel

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.

Restrictions

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.

Waterfowl Season Dates

Regular
Seasons

2016-2017 Season Dates

Bag Limits

Poss. Limits

Mourning Doves

Statewide

Sep. 1

Oct. 16

15 *

45 *

Nov. 1

Nov. 13

Dec. 10

Jan. 8

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. 3

Sep. 18

6

18

Ducks, Coots, and Mergansers

North Zone

Oct. 22

Dec. 11

***

***

Dec. 24

Jan. 1

Central Zone

Oct. 29

Nov. 6

Nov. 19

Jan. 8

South Zone

Oct. 29

Nov. 6

Nov. 26

Jan. 15

Geese

North Zone

Sep. 3

Sep. 11

****

****

Oct. 22

Nov. 20

Dec. 10

Feb. 12

Central Zone

Sep. 3

Sep. 11

Oct. 29

Nov. 6

Nov. 19

Feb. 12

South Zone

Sep. 3

Sep. 18

Oct. 29

Nov. 6

Nov. 26

Feb. 12

* The daily bag and possession limits are for mourning and white-winged doves in the aggregate.

** Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset.

*** The daily bag limit for coots is 15. The daily bag limit for mergansers is 5, no more than 2 of which may be hooded mergansers. The daily bag limit for ducks is 6, which may include no more than 4 mallards (2 of which may be hens), 3 wood ducks, 3 scaup, 2 canvasbacks, 2 pintails, 2 redheads, 1 black duck, and 1 mottled duck. The possession limit is 3 times the daily bag limit.

**** The daily bag limit for dark geese (Canada, white-fronted, and brant) is 5 in the aggregate. During September, all five may be Canada geese; during the remainder of the season, no more than 3 may be Canada geese. The possession limit for dark geese is 3 times the daily bag limit. The daily bag limit for light geese (snow, blue, and Ross’) is 20. There is no possession limit for light geese.

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

Zones

Dates

Bag Limits

North Zone

Oct. 15–16

Same as Regular Season

Central Zone

Oct. 22–23

Same as Regular Season

South Zone

Oct. 22–23

Same as Regular Season

3

Dates, Bag Limits Released Early for Migratory Birds, Waterfowl

Migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits typically have not been finalized in past years in time to be included in the DNR Hunting & Trapping Regulations Guide.

That changed when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service implemented a streamlined method this year to compress the previous two-cycle regulatory practice into a single, annual process.

Biological data from the past year is now used to set hunting season dates and to project appropriate harvest limits for each game species. The change gives biologists more time to analyze bird survey data used in the Service’s regulatory decisions and gives the public more time to weigh in on proposed rules. The change also will ensure administrative procedures do not delay the opening of state hunting seasons.

So, the Indiana season dates and bag limits for 2016-17 are available now (see chart). Previously, they weren’t published until August.

Each year the Service works in partnership with states in four geographic flyway councils (Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic) to set frameworks for hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits. States then select their individual seasons from with the federal frameworks.

Indiana is part of the Mississippi Flyway Council, which also includes Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Indiana splits its season into three zones (North, Central and South), with each zone scheduled for 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.

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

The Service’s 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. The new regulatory process resulted from the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, published by the Service in 2013. More details about the new process and its impacts were published earlier this year.

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, about 170 species are 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.

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 $18 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 more than $16.5 million in 2016 alone.

The funds have helped the DNR acquire more than 18,000 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.

Also, the DNR partnered with Hamilton County Parks Department to open Koteewi Archery Range near Noblesville. It is the first and only public range in Indiana dedicated exclusively to archery. The facility features multiple target ranges, a 3-D trail course, and archery pro shop. Since opening in June 2015, the range has become a popular destination for beginner archers and experienced archery hunters.

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.

Chart_Pg6_funding

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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