Migratory Game Birds
New York Hunting
What is a “Migratory Game Bird”?
Under state and federal laws and regulations, all of the following are considered migratory game birds in New York:
- All wild ducks, mergansers, geese, and brant (“waterfowl”)
- All coot, rails, and gallinules (moorhens)
- Woodcock and snipe
Crows are not considered migratory game birds under federal regulations, but most of New York’s migratory game bird hunting regulations apply to crows. You should assume they are the same except where differences are noted.
Mourning doves are considered migratory game birds under federal regulations, but they are not defined as such under New York State law so no hunting season has been established for this species.
Migratory Game Bird Seasons and Bag Limits
Migratory game bird hunting regulations are set by the federal government in consultation with state agencies. A pocket reference for migratory game bird seasons is also available from regional DEC offices upon request or by emailing email@example.com.
Consumption of Wild Waterfowl
The New York State Department of Health recommends that you remove the skin and fat of wild waterfowl before cooking, and eat no more than two meals containing waterfowl per month (with the exception of mergansers). Mergansers are fish-eating birds that tend to be the most heavily contaminated waterfowl and should not be eaten.
Recent data indicate that waterfowl residing in the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Troy have higher PCB levels than waterfowl from other portions of the Hudson River and are likely to have higher PCB levels than waterfowl from other areas of the state. Because PCBs may have a greater effect on young children or an unborn child, it is particularly important for women under 50 and children under 15 to minimize their PCB exposure. For more information visit: https://www.health.ny.gov.
Waterfowl Hunting in Populated Areas
Some excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities occur in shoreline areas of New York that are becoming more populated and developed. Waterfowl hunters have special privileges in New York, but please consider the possible concerns that nearby homeowners may have about noise, safety or invasion of privacy before you go afield. Avoiding such conflicts will help ensure that waterfowl hunting remains an accepted tradition in fast-developing shoreline areas. For more information, go to: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/94213.html.
DEC, in cooperation with the South Shore Waterfowlers Association (SSWA), has produced A Pocket Reference for Police Officers and Waterfowl Hunters that summarizes the state laws that pertain to waterfowl hunting in general and includes a “code of ethics” for waterfowl hunters to help ensure that waterfowl hunting remains a viable recreational opportunity in New York. For a copy, call (518) 402-8883 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waterfowl hunters in New York will have a special opportunity to harvest snow geese in most areas of the state from January 16 through April 15, 2021. This additional opportunity is offered because of concerns about impacts that snow geese are having on natural ecosystems. For more information, including harvest regulations for 2020–21, go to: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/50514.html.
Following is a summary of state and federal rules that apply to the taking, possession, shipping, transporting and storing of all migratory game birds in New York. For more complete information, consult the specific federal (50 CFR Part 20) and state (6 NYCRR Part 2.30) regulations. You can find links to both of these at: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28175.html.
Migratory game birds are wild ducks, geese, brant, coot, rails, gallinules, woodcock and snipe. Migratory waterfowl are wild ducks, geese, brant and coot.
All migratory game bird hunters must carry a valid New York State hunting license, except for persons not required to have a hunting license. All migratory game bird hunters in New York must also register annually with New York’s Harvest Information Program (HIP) and carry proof of compliance whenever going afield. To register visit the website (www.newyorkhip.org) or call toll-free 1-888-4ASKHIP (1-888-427-5447). You will be given a confirmation number that you can record on the back of your hunting license as proof of participation in HIP. HIP registration is valid from August 1 – July 30 annually.
If you are 16 years or older and you hunt waterfowl, then you also need a federal migratory game bird hunting stamp (“duck stamp”). The stamp is not needed to hunt coot, rails, gallinules, woodcock, snipe, or crows.
Migratory bird hunting stamp
Each waterfowl hunter 16 years of age or older must carry on his/her person a valid Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (“duck stamp”) signed in ink across the face. Stamps do not have to be attached to your license. Duck stamps are not required to hunt coot, rails, gallinules, woodcock or snipe. Duck stamps are not required of minors 12 to 15 years of age hunting migratory waterfowl in New York State.
Federal duck stamps are sold at most post offices and many sporting goods stores and cost $25.00 each. They may also be ordered by calling 1-800-852-4897 or visiting the website www.duckstamp.com. There is a shipping and handling fee for phone or Internet orders.
Woodcock may be taken from sunrise to sunset. All other migratory game birds may be taken from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset in all hunting zones. Canada geese may be taken until one-half hour after sunset during the September seasons, except on Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days, when hunting hours end at sunset. Snow geese may be taken until one-half hour after sunset during January 15–April 15 whenever all other waterfowl hunting seasons are closed.
Non-toxic shot requirement
Non-toxic shot is required for hunting any migratory game bird, except woodcock, everywhere in New York State. Possession or use of shells loaded with shot other than steel, bismuth-tin, iron-tungsten, iron-tungsten-nickel, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-iron-copper-nickel, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-tin-iron, tungsten-tin-bismuth, tungsten-tin-iron-nickel or other shot approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is strictly prohibited when hunting waterfowl, snipe, rails or gallinules.
Duck hunting blinds
NYS Navigation Law Section 33-b requires that duck blinds placed in the waters of lakes within New York State be prominently marked with the owner’s full name and address. All duck blinds placed in lakes must be removed no later than March 15 annually.
Prohibitions on methods of take
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, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance. However, semi-automatic shotguns may not exceed six shells in the magazine and chamber, combined, at any time when waterfowl hunting.
- With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler that is incapable of removal without disassembling the gun. This does not apply to the taking of snow geese in any area or zone, or taking of Canada geese during September, when all other waterfowl seasons are closed.
- 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 conveyance, or any aircraft, except that paraplegics and single or double amputees of the legs may, with a permit issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation, take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance. “Paraplegic” means an individual afflicted with paralysis of the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs, usually due to disease or injury to the spinal cord.
- From or by means of any motorboat or sailboat unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or sail furled, and its progress therefrom has ceased. Motorboats and sailboats under power may be used to retrieve dead or crippled birds; however, crippled birds may not be shot from such craft under power except in the Special Sea Duck Area described in the Hunting Seasons Table.
- By the use or aid of live decoys. All live, tame or captive ducks and geese shall be removed for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to hunting and confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such tame birds from the sight of migratory waterfowl.
- Using recorded migratory bird calls or sounds or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls. This does not apply to the taking of snow geese in any area or zone, or taking of Canada geese in September, when all other waterfowl seasons are closed.
- By driving, rallying or chasing birds with any motorized conveyance or any sailboat to put them in the range of hunters.
- By the aid of baiting (placing feed such as corn, wheat, salt or other feed to constitute a lure or enticement) or on or over any baited area. Hunters should be aware that a baited area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait, and it is not necessary for the hunter to know an area is baited to be in violation. Migratory game birds may be taken on or over standing crops, flooded harvested crop lands, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown or grains found scattered solely as a result of the normal agricultural planting or harvesting.
Wanton waste/possession of live birds
No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird and retain it in his/her actual custody. Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be killed immediately and included in the daily bag limit.
Field possession limit
No more than one daily bag or aggregate daily bag limit of migratory game birds may be possessed or transported, tagged or untagged, at or between the place of taking and:
- His or her automobile or principal means of land transportation
- His or her personal abode or temporary place of lodging
- Migratory bird preservation facility
- Post office or common-carrier facility
No person shall completely field dress any migratory game bird and then transport the bird from the field. The head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached to all such birds while being transported.
Possession, tagging, shipment and importation
The possession limit is the maximum number of migratory game birds that any person may possess in total in his/her automobile or principal means of land transportation, personal abode, or in his/her name at any migratory bird preservation facility, post office or common-carrier facility. The possession limit is three times the daily bag limit for all waterfowl species except snow geese.
No person shall give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place (other than personal abode) or in the custody of another person for picking, cleaning, processing, shipping, transportation, storage (including temporary storage) or taxidermy services, unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the following information:
- Hunter’s name, address and signature
- Total number of birds involved, by species
- Dates such birds were killed
For more information on regulations pertaining to possession, tagging, shipment and importation of legally killed migratory game birds, consult the specific federal and state regulations cited above.
More restrictive regulations may apply to national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas (WMAs) open to public hunting. Violation of New York State migratory bird hunting regulations is also a violation of federal regulations.
Help Monitor Woodcock Populations
Join our grouse and woodcock hunting log: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9351.html or call 518-402-8886.