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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. Dates are usually available in mid-August for early seasons and late August for regular and late waterfowl seasons. Check for updates to migratory bird season dates.

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 State waterfowl stamp privileges are available from hunting and fishing license vendors and online at
  • 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 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

For more information concerning waterfowl hunting on state-owned properties, contact the property (see Public Hunting Areas for phone number).


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.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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