Hunting for migratory game birds (coot, dove, rails, snipe, waterfowl, and woodcock) is regulated by the federal government under the authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) establishes hunting season guidelines for migratory game birds after reviewing data on population trends, reproductive success, and harvests. Guidelines include the maximum number of hunting days, maximum bag limit, and the earliest and latest dates the season can start and end. States are allowed to select season dates and bag limits from within these guidelines. State selections can be more restrictive than the federal guidelines. Guidelines for late seasons, such as regular duck and goose seasons, are available in August and become final in early September. The DNR solicits public comment on proposed waterfowl seasons via a public meeting and online forum in late August. See early migratory game bird seasons (for example, dove and resident Canada geese). Season dates and bag limits listed here are conditional on USFWS approval in late August.
Hunting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset, except for (1) mourning dove during the first season segment, when shooting hours are from noon to sunset; (2) teal during the September teal season, when shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset; (3) resident Canada geese during the September seasons and light geese (snow and Ross’s geese) during the Conservation Order Season, when shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Licensing and Stamp Requirements
A Regular Hunting License, Junior Hunting License, any Senior Hunting License, or a Nonresident (full term or short term) Hunting License is required to hunt migratory game birds in Maryland. All migratory game bird hunters, including those who are exempt from the hunting license requirement, must purchase a Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp. In addition, all waterfowl and coot hunters over the age of 15, including those who are exempt from the hunting license requirement, must purchase a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. See Licenses, Stamps & Permits for other requirements, descriptions, prices, and availability of licenses, stamps, and permits.
Migratory game birds may not be taken with traps, snares, nets, rifles, pistols, swivel guns, fish hooks, poisons, drugs, explosives or stupefying substances. Migratory game birds may not be taken with a shotgun capable of holding more than 3 shells (except resident Canada geese during the September seasons and light geese during the Conservation Order Season) unless it is plugged with a one piece filler which is incapable of removal without disassembling the shotgun. Shotguns larger than 10 gauge may not be used to hunt migratory game birds. Waterfowl may not be hunted with a crossbow.
Nontoxic Shot and Unlawful Shot
Non-toxic shot is required for hunting waterfowl, coots, rails, and snipe. Hunters may not use or possess nontoxic shot larger than size number T (0.20 inches in diameter) and shotshells loaded with a material other than steel, bismuth, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-matrix, or other shot determined by the USFWS to be non-toxic (see www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/issues/nontoxic_shot/nontoxic.htm). Hunters also may not use or possess shotgun slugs, sabots, or pumpkin balls while hunting waterfowl, coots, rails, and snipe.
Daily Bag Limit
The maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination (aggregate) of species permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season.
Field Possession Limit
You may possess no more than one daily bag limit while in the field or returning from the field to your vehicle, hunting camp, or personal abode.
The maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination of species permitted to be possessed by any one person.
No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird, and retain it in his actual custody.
Possession of Live Birds
Wounded birds reduced to possession shall immediately be killed and included in your daily bag limit.
The head or one fully-feathered wing must remain attached to all birds (except doves) while being transported from the field until they have arrived at your personal abode or a migratory bird processing facility. It is unlawful to completely field dress or breast-out any migratory game bird (except dove) before transporting the birds from the field.
If you are giving, putting, or leaving migratory game birds at any place or in the possession of another person, you must tag each bird with the following information: (a) hunter’s signature, (b) hunter’s address, (c) total number and species of birds killed, and (d) dates the birds were killed. Tagging is required even if someone else is transporting the bird for you or the bird has been left for cleaning, storage (including temporary storage), shipment, or taxidermy services.
Tagged migratory game birds may not be shipped unless the package is conspicuously marked on the outside with the following information: (a) name and address of the person sending the birds, (b) name and address of the person to whom the birds are being sent, and (c) number of birds, by species, contained in the package.
It is Unlawful To:
Link To Federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations
For a complete list of Federal migratory game bird hunting regulations visit the DNR website at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide/pdfs/FedRegs_HuntingMGB.pdf
Offshore Duck Blind Laws
For current laws and regulations visit the DNR website at dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Licenses/offshore.asp.
Sea Duck and Offshore Waterfowl Hunting Zones
Obtain maps and descriptions of Sea Duck and Offshore Waterfowl Hunting Zones from DNR Wildlife & Heritage Service Offices or visit our website at dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Licenses/offshore.asp. Nonresidents must be accompanied by a Maryland resident while hunting in designated waters.
Releasing Captive-Raised Mallards
Captive-raised mallard ducks may not be released to the wild except under the authority of a Regulated Shooting Area Permit, Retriever Training Permit, or a Field Trial Permit issued by DNR. See below for information on Regulated Shooting Areas.
A Regulated Shooting Area (RSA) is a tract of land on which the licensee may release and shoot captive-raised mallard ducks and certain other game birds. Requirements, regulations, and application forms to apply for a Regulated Shooting Area Permit may be viewed online at www.dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Licenses/rsapermit.asp.
Those persons hunting free-flying, captive-raised mallard ducks or wild waterfowl on a State-licensed RSA need to possess a Maryland hunting license, the printed receipt from the purchase of a Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp, and a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (if over the age of 15). Those persons shooting only flighted (tower-released) mallard ducks on a State-licensed RSA need to possess either a RSA hunting license or a Maryland hunting license and the printed receipt from the purchase of a Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp.
At all times during possession, transportation, and storage until the raw carcasses are finally processed immediately prior to cooking, smoking, or canning, the toe-clipped foot of captive-raised mallard ducks taken on RSAs must remain attached to each carcass; except that, the RSA permittee may remove the toe-clipped foot of captive-raised mallard ducks when the number of the RSA permit has first been legibly stamped in ink on the back of each carcass or breast and on the container in which the carcass or breast is stored. When properly marked, such carcasses and breasts may be given to, or acquired from, any person and possessed and transported in any number at any time or place.
Light Goose Conservation Order Season
The DNR will continue to implement a Light Goose Conservation Order Season which will allow hunters to harvest light geese after the established regular 2012–2013 hunting season. Greater and lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese are collectively referred to as light geese.
Special hunting methods allowed during the Conservation Order Season include unplugged shotguns, electronic calls of light geese, and extended shooting hours (½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset).
Waterfowl hunters participating in the Conservation Order Season must possess a Snow Goose Conservation Order Hunting Season Permit. The Permit can be obtained from any DNR sport license agent, online at www.dnr.maryland.gov/service, or by phone (1-800-918-2870) for a $5 fee. Hunters are required to keep the permit receipt in their possession while hunting light geese during the Conservation Order Season.
Participants will also be required to possess a valid Maryland hunting license (resident Delaware licenses are also acceptable) and a printed receipt from the purchase of a 2012–2013 Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp. Possession of a Federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp is not required during the Conservation Order Season.
Light Goose Conservation Order Season Zone:
Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties; that portion of Carroll County east of Route 31 to the intersection of Route 97, and east of Route 97 to the Pennsylvania line; and that portion of Prince George’s County east of Routes 3 and 301: and that portion of Charles County east of Route 301 to the Virginia line.
Harvest Information Program (HIP)
Requirement for Hunting All Migratory Game Birds
The Harvest Information Program (HIP) is a national, cooperative state and federal program to improve the information collected regarding the harvest of migratory game birds. All persons (including landowners and other persons entitled to hunt without a license) must be “HIP Certified” and have the printed receipt showing certification in their possession while hunting migratory game birds (dove, coots, rails, snipe, waterfowl, and woodcock). HIP certification is issued at the time you purchase the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp. All HIP-certified hunters will become part of a pool of hunters from which samples for federal harvest surveys will be drawn.
When you purchase your Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp, you will be asked a few questions about your hunting success during the last season. These questions are used to identify the type of migratory birds taken by you and your success from the previous hunting season. Your answers are used for harvest survey sampling, nothing more. You will be asked:
Please be sure that the sport license agent asks these HIP questions. Responses to these questions improve survey efficiency and the quality of harvest information used to manage migratory game birds. If you were not asked these questions or if you have additional questions regarding HIP, please contact the DNR at 410-260-8540.
From the pool of migratory bird hunters that plan to hunt in Maryland, a sample of hunters will be asked to participate in federal migratory bird harvest surveys and provide information about their harvest and hunting activity during the most recent Maryland hunting season.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.