General Information

Virginia Bird Hunting

Migratory Game Birds

Migratory game birds means species of waterfowl (ducks, geese, brant, swans, and mergansers) and webless species (coots, doves, gallinules, moorhens, rails, snipe, and woodcock).

Shooting Hours

No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting as prescribed. Shooting hours for all waterfowl, all seasons is one-half hour before sunrise until sunset, (except when otherwise permitted in the September Canada Goose season and the Light Goose Conservation Order season). Non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl hunting and for rail and snipe hunting.

Possession Limits

The possession limit for migratory game birds is 3 times the daily bag limit (except for light geese and tundra swans), but no one is allowed to have more than one daily bag limit of game in his possession while in the forests, fields, or waters of this state. Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.

Sunday Hunting

Hunting for waterfowl (ducks, coot, geese, brant, and swan) and rails (including gallinules and moorhens) is allowed on Sundays subject to geographical limitations established by the Director of the department and except within 200 yards of a house of worship or any accessory structure thereof.

Non-toxic Shot

Non-toxic shot approved by the Department [steel, bismuth-tin, Iron-tungsten, Iron-tungsten-nickel (HEVISHOT), copper-clad iron, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-iron-copper-nickel, tungsten matrix, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-tin-iron, tungsten-tin-bismuth, tungsten-tin-iron-nickel, and tungsten-iron-polymer] is required for hunting all waterfowl, mergansers, coots, moorhens, gallinules, snipe, and rails. Lead shot is not allowed for hunting these species and cannot be in possession in the field while hunting these species. Shot size should be no larger than “T”.

Blaze Colored Requirement

The term “blaze colored” in reference to clothing or other items required for specific safe hunting practices shall be one of two colors: 1) traditional blaze orange or 2) bright pink or fluorescent pink which will be known as blaze pink.

When hunting any species during a firearms deer season and on youth/apprentice deer hunting weekend, every hunter (see exceptions here), or persons accompanying a hunter, shall wear a blaze colored hat or blaze colored upper body clothing that is visible from 360 degrees or display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze colored material at shoulder level within body reach and visible from 360 degrees. Hats may have a bill or brim color or design other than solid blaze color. Hats shall not be in “camo” style, since the latter is designed to prevent visibility. A logo, which does not detract from visibility, may be worn on a blaze colored hat.

Hunters using ground (pop-up, chair, box, etc.) or tree stand blinds that conceal them from view must display a minimum of 100 square inches of blaze color, visible from 360 degrees, on the OUTSIDE of such blinds. This blaze color is in addition to any worn on the hunter’s person.


  • Blaze colored clothing is not required of waterfowl hunters, dove hunters, individuals participating in hunting dog field trials, and fox hunters on horseback without firearms.
  • Hunters hunting with archery tackle during an open firearms deer season in areas where the discharge of firearms is prohibited by state law or local ordinance, are exempt from the blaze color requirement.
  • Other than muzzleloader deer hunters, blaze colored clothing is not required of any hunters hunting during the muzzleloader deer seasons.

Avian Influenza

Should hunters be concerned?

Avian influenza viruses (AI, also called bird flu) can be found in a variety of wild bird species, including waterfowl. The viruses usually do not cause sickness or mortality in waterfowl, but waterfowl can be carriers and pass the disease to other bird species that may be more susceptible. Some viruses may cause significant mortality in poultry, and recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic AI have resulted in significant mortality in commercial poultry flocks in the U.S. The AI viruses involved in these mortality events are not easily transmitted to animals other than birds, and no human infections have occurred. Although no highly pathogenic AI has been detected in the Atlantic flyway, surveillance in wild birds will be continued nationwide this fall. Hunters should take basic precautionary measures, if they do not already, when handling harvested waterfowl by following the guidelines listed to the right:

  1. Do not handle birds that are obviously sick or birds found dead.
  2. Keep your game birds cool, clean, and dry.
  3. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning your birds.
  4. Use rubber gloves when cleaning game.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes after dressing birds.
  6. Clean all tools and surfaces immediately afterward; use hot soapy water, then disinfect with a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
  7. Cook game meat thoroughly (165°F) to kill disease organisms.

VDGIF staff will be visiting boat ramps and public hunting locations this season to sample hunter-harvested waterfowl for disease monitoring. We ask for your cooperation in this effort as the sampling procedure will only take a minute or two.

For more information on avian influenza:

U.S. Geological Survey

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

World Health Organization

Don’t Forget to Register With HIP

All hunters (whether licensed or license-exempt) who plan to hunt migratory game birds including dove, waterfowl, rail, woodcock, snipe, coots, gallinules, or moorhens, must be registered with the Virginia Harvest Information Program (HIP). A new HIP registration is required each year. Hunters are no longer given a separate HIP number, but confirmation of your HIP registration will be printed on your license, or issued separately for license-exempt hunters. Information obtained from HIP is vital for the management of migratory birds in Virginia. Register for HIP online at www.gooutdoorsvirginia.com or call 888-788-9772.

If you DO NOT hunt the migratory birds noted above, you DO NOT need to register for HIP.

Federal Electronic or “E-Stamp” Duck Stamp Program

A Federal Duck Stamp is required for all persons 16 years and older in order to hunt waterfowl. Waterfowl hunters can still purchase their Federal Duck Stamp at U.S. Post Offices at a cost of $25.00, but a new program provides a convenient online option whereby hunters can obtain an E-stamp for $27.50. The E-stamp is valid immediately following the purchase and for up to 45 days. The actual Federal Duck Stamp will be mailed to the customer within 45 days and must be signed and carried thereafter while hunting waterfowl.

To obtain the E-stamp Federal Duck Stamp go to the Department’s website (www.gooutdoorsvirginia.com) and click on hunting and fishing licenses or visit one of over 800 license agents throughout the Commonwealth.