Logo

Migratory Game Bird Seasons

Hunting Regulations Icon North Carolina Hunting & Fishing

Migratory Birds

Migratory Birds Protected

Federal laws protecting migratory birds (songbirds, woodpeckers, raptors or waterfowl) take precedence over state laws. Before any migratory birds may be taken or killed during the closed season, a federal permit must be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Substantial penalties for violations apply. Call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Permits Section in Atlanta, Ga. at 404-679-7070 for information.During the May 1–Aug.31 time period, depredation permits issued directly from the Wild­life Resources Commission are available when Canada geese are depredating in commercial agriculture situations. Contact the Commission at 919-707-0050 for more information. Federal seasons and bag limits on migratory game birds are adopted as state regulations.

Colonial Water Bird Nesting Areas

Coastal islands and beach areas posted as “Colonial Water Bird Nesting” areas are being managed for our nesting populations of pelicans, terns, gulls, herons and egrets. Special regulations apply. Access is prohibited on these areas from Apage 7e allowed as authorized by the landowner.

Migratory Game Birds – Hunting Stamps and Privileges

Harvest Information Program (HIP)

All licensed hunters hunt­ing migratory game birds (doves, rails, gallinules, moorhens, woodcock, snipe or waterfowl) in North Carolina are required to have certification of participation in the federal Harvest Information Program (HIP). Certification can be obtained free of charge by going online at ncwildlife.org, calling 888-248-6834, or visiting a wildlife service agent.

Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp)

The law requires that each water­fowl hunter 16 years of age and older, must carry on his person a valid Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or federal duck stamp, signed in ink across the face. (Hunters under age 16 may vol­untarily purchase a duck stamp and help preserve wetlands for waterfowl.) Refer to License information for more information.

North Carolina Waterfowl Privilege

Each waterfowl hunter 16 years of age and older must carry on his person a license having the North Carolina Waterfowl Privilege. The North Carolina Water­fowl Privilege is required in addition to the federal duck stamp. Refer to the “License Types” section of this digest for information on which licenses include this privilege license.

North Carolina Duck Stamp

Hunters are no longer required to carry the North Carolina duck stamp while hunting for water­fowl; however, the current year’s duck stamp will be available for collecting purposes; call 888-248-6834 for more information.

Attention Hunters

Please report all bird bands online at reportband.gov

Be aware that the toll-free phone number that had previously been available to report bird bands is being discontinued. People calling this toll-free number will be directed to report their bird bands using the REPORTBAND website or by mail.

 

Migratory Game Birds – Seasons

Shooting Hours

Unless otherwise specified, shooting hours for all migratory game birds including waterfowl are ½ hour before sunrise to sunset

Possession Limits

Possession Limits for all migratory game birds including waterfowl are 3 times the daily limit unless otherwise specified.

Nontoxic Shot Requirements

In North Carolina, no person shall take waterfowl while possessing shells loaded with any shot other than steel or other approved nontoxic materials. On posted water­fowl impoundments on game lands, it is unlawful to hunt with or have in possession any shotgun shell containing lead or toxic shot while hunting; except shotgun shells containing lead buck­shot may be used while deer hunting. Nontoxic shot is required for the taking of captive-reared mallards on shooting preserves, in field trials and during bona fide dog-training activities.

Migratory Game Bird Seasons

Season Dates

Limits

Dove (includes Mourning Dove and White-winged Dove)

Sep. 1 – Oct. 6, Nov. 17 – Dec. 1 & Dec. 10 – Jan. 31 Daily limit 15; either singly or in the aggregate for mourning doves and white-winged doves

Rails (includes King, Clapper and Virginia Rails and Sora)

Sep. 1 – Oct. 13 & Oct. 22 – Nov. 28 Daily Limit 15 King or Clapper Rails either singly or in the aggregate

Daily Limit 25 Virginia Rails or Sora either singly or in the aggregate

Gallinule and Moorhen

Sep. 1 – Oct. 13 & Oct. 22 – Nov. 28 Daily Limit 15 Gallinules and Moorhens either singly or in the aggregate

Woodcock

Dec. 8 – Jan. 29 Daily Limit 3

Common Snipe

Oct. 27 – Feb. 28 Daily Limit 8

September Teal Season (includes Green-winged teal, Blue-winged teal and Cinnamon teal)

Sep. 12 – Sep. 29 Daily Limit 6

The September Teal Season is open only in that area east of U.S. Highway 17.

Ducks

Oct. 3 – 6, Nov. 10 – Dec. 1 & Dec. 15 – Jan. 26 Daily limit 6 with the following restrictions: no more than 4 mallards (2 hen mallards), 4 scoters, 4 eiders, 4 long-tailed ducks, 3 wood ducks, 2 black ducks, 2 scaup, 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, and 1 fulvous whistling duck. The season on harlequin ducks is closed.

The season on black and mottled ducks is closed until Nov. 17.

Coots

Season dates same as ducks Daily limit 15 coots

Mergansers

Season dates same as ducks Daily limit 5 mergansers with no more than 2 hooded mergansers

Sea Ducks (in special sea duck area only)

Nov. 19 – Jan. 26 Daily limit 5 with no more than 4 scoters, 4 long-tailed ducks and 4 eiders
  • The taking of sea ducks (scoter, eider and long-tailed ducks), except during the regular duck season shall be limited to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and to those coastal waters south of U.S. 64 that are separated by a distance of at least 800 yards of open water from any shore, island or marsh. Special sea duck bag limits and seasons apply in these areas.
  • Because sea ducks are limited to 60 days of hunting exposure in any area, there will be certain dates and locations where sea ducks may or may not be taken. Please see the following:

General Duck Season Open

Special Sea Duck Season Closed

Oct. 3 – Oct. 6 & Nov. 10 – Nov. 17 Sea ducks cannot be taken in the special sea duck area, but can be taken every­where else. The general bag limit of six ducks with no more than four scoters, four long-tailed ducks and four eiders applies. Although sea ducks may not be taken in the special sea duck area during this time, other ducks may be taken in this area.

General Duck Season Closed

Special Sea Duck Season Open

Dec. 3 – Dec. 14 Sea ducks can be taken only in the special sea duck area, and cannot be taken in other locations. The special sea duck bag limit applies and consists of five sea ducks with no more than four scoters, four long-tailed ducks and four eiders.

General Duck Season Open

Special Sea Duck Season Open

Nov. 19 – Dec. 1 & Dec. 15 – Jan. 26 Sea ducks can be taken anywhere. Hunters should remember that the special sea duck limit applies when hunting in the special sea duck area and the general bag limit applies when hunting in all other areas. When both seasons overlap, the special sea duck bag limit may be in addition to the limits applying to other ducks.

September Canada Goose Season

Sep. 1 – Sep. 29 Daily bag 15
In that area west of U.S. Highway 17 only, expanded hunting methods are allowed for Canada geese. These include: shooting hours are extended to ½ hour after sunset, unplugged guns are allowed, electronic calls are permitted. This applies to this area only during the month of September.

Canada Geese (also includes White-Fronted Geese)

See Goose Zones Map

Resident Population Zone

Oct. 3 – Oct. 13 Nov. 10 – Dec. 1 & Dec. 15 – Feb. 9 Daily bag 5 Canada geese or white-fronted geese either singly or in the aggregate.

Northeast Hunt Zone (by permit only)

Jan. 11 – Jan. 26 Daily bag 1 Canada goose or white-fronted goose
Refer to ncwildlife.org/PermitHunt or call 888-248-6834 for application information and requirements.

Tundra Swan (by permit only)

Nov. 10 – Jan. 31 Bag limit 1 per season with special permit
A limited number of permits will be issued to hunt tundra swans. Permits will be issued by a random drawing authorizing each permit holder to harvest one tundra swan. The following regulations apply.

  • The permit and tag are not transferrable and are valid only for the person whose name appears on the permit. It is unlawful to possess a swan permit or tag while hunting that was assigned to another person, or to alter the permit or tag in any way other than cutting out the proper month and day of kill.
  • The permit must be canceled by cutting out both the month and day of kill immediately at the time and place of the kill.
  • The permit must be affixed to the harvested swan in accordance with instructions provided with the permit.
  • The permit must be carried on one’s person while hunting or, if in possession of a swan, the permit must be affixed to the swan.

Every hunter receiving a swan permit will also receive a questionnaire. If the hunter does not return that completed questionnaire to the Wildlife Resources Commission by April 1, that hunter will be ineligible for a tundra swan permit the following season.

Refer to ncwildlife.org/PermitHunt or call 888-248-6834 for application information and requirements.

Light Geese (includes Snow geese, Blue geese and Ross’s geese)

Regular Season

Oct. 9 – Feb. 9 Daily bag 25; no possession limit

Conservation Order Season (by permit only)

Feb. 11 – March 30 Daily bag none; no possession limit
  • During the Conservation Order Season for light geese, expanded hunting methods are allowed. These include the use of unplugged guns and electronic calls. In addition, shooting hours are extended until ½ hour past sunset.
  • To learn more or to apply for a permit after July 1, go to ncwildlife.org/LightGoose

Brant

Dec. 15 – Jan. 26 Daily bag 1

Youth Waterfowl Day(s)

Feb. 2 & Feb. 9 Same bag limits as during the regular waterfowl season(s)
Waterfowl hunting outside the regular season is allowed on the day(s) officially designated as “Youth Waterfowl Day.” Legal species include ducks, geese, brant, tundra swans, mergansers and coots. The youth must have a valid permit to hunt tundra swans and Canada geese (NE Hunt Zone only).

Youth under the age of 18 may participate in accordance with the guidelines listed below:

  • Youth under the age of 16 who have obtained a Hunter Education Certification must be accompanied by an adult age 18 or older.
  • Youth under the age of 16 who have not successfully completed a Hunter Education Course must be accompanied by a properly licensed adult age 18 or older.
  • Youth age 16 & 17 must be properly licensed, must have HIP certification and a federal duck stamp and must be accompanied by an adult age 18 or older.
  • Accompanying adults that are properly licensed may not duck hunt, but may participate in other open seasons on youth waterfowl days.

Extended Falconry Seasons

Dove (includes Mourning Dove and White-Winged Dove) (Extended Falconry Season)

Oct. 13 – Oct. 27 Daily bag 3

King, Clapper and Virginia Rail, Sora, Gallinule and Moorhen (extended falconry season)

Dec. 1 – Jan. 5 Daily bag 3

Woodcock (extended falconry season)

Nov. 3 – Dec. 1 & Feb. 1 – Feb. 28 Daily bag 3

Ducks, Mergansers and Coots (extended falconry seasons)

Oct. 23 – Nov. 3 & Jan. 28 – Feb. 16 Daily bag 3
  • Falconers may also hunt during the applicable gun seasons for migratory game birds. The daily bag and possession limits of 3 and 9 respectively, also apply while hunting during the gun seasons
  • Falconry hours for all species are ½ hour before sunrise until sunset
  • Falconry for migratory game birds is not allowed on Sunday
  • Daily bag and possession limits are for all species singly or in the aggregate. For example, if the applicable seasons are open a daily bag may consist of 3 doves or 1 dove, 1 duck and 1 woodcock for a total of 3 migratory game birds

Crow Seasons

Season Dates

Limits

Aug. 1, 2018 – Feb. 28, 2019 – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each week. No restrictions
June 5, 2019 – July 31, 2019 – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each week.
Crows may also be hunted on Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Independence Day; except when these days fall on a Sunday