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Waterfowl Hunting Regulations

General Hunting Regulations

Captive Mallards and Live Decoys

It is illegal to hunt migratory waterfowl over live decoys at any time. It is illegal in Arkansas to release

captive-reared mallards unless:

  • The owner is operating and the hunter is shooting at a Commission-licensed game bird shooting resort.
  • The owner has a valid shoot-to-kill retrieving dog training permit and legally purchased the mallards from the holder of a wildlife breeder/dealer permit or has legally imported the mallards into Arkansas in accordance with an AGFC wildlife importation permit. Shoot-to-kill retrieving dog training permits are available through any AGFC wildlife management employee or wildlife officer.

Transferring Wildlife

Each hunter’s harvested waterfowl must be kept in a way so it is easily identifiable as belonging to that hunter. It is illegal to possess wildlife harvested by someone else, unless accompanied by a signed statement from the taker, stating name, address, species, date taken and license number.

A driver’s license number with state of origin may be substituted for the hunting license number. A hunter education card number or date of birth may be substituted for the hunting license number for hunters under 16 years of age.

Failure to Report a Hunting- or Trapping-Related Incident

It is unlawful for persons to fail to immediately report a hunting- or trapping-related incident involving personal injury above basic first-aid treatment to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission so an investigation may be conducted.

If the incident involves only one individual and they are admitted to the hospital and incapacitated for any length of time, the incident should then be reported as soon as possible.

To report hunting- or trapping-related incidents, please call 800-482-9262.

Waterfowl Breast

Wanton Waste

It is illegal to discard (or allow to go to waste) any edible portion of game birds taken.

Edible portions for game birds are breasts.

Legal Hunting Equipment

Legal Shot

Hunters may have only U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-approved nontoxic shot in their immediate possession when hunting waterfowl.

Hunters may use only nontoxic shot size T (.2-inch diameter) and smaller when hunting waterfowl and coots. Other migratory birds may be taken with nontoxic shot size T and smaller or lead shot size BB (.18-inch diameter) and smaller.

Baiting Laws

Complete information about baiting is available from:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service:

Who Is Responsible?

Hunters, guides and landowners are responsible for understanding and obeying regulations about baiting and knowing the conditions of the area to be hunted.

What Is a Baited Area?

A baited area is where salt, grain or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered in such a way to lure or attract waterfowl or doves to, on or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

For How Long?

An area is considered baited for 10 days following the complete removal of salt, grain or other feed.

What Are the Penalties for Baiting?

Baiting migratory game birds is a criminal offense with fines up to $200,000 and a one-year prison term. Hunting over a known baited area can result in fines up to $15,000.

What Is the Liability Standard?

Federal rules prohibit the taking of migratory game birds by the aid of baiting or over any baited area, if the person knows or reasonably should know that the area is baited.

Example: If a hunter hires a guide who has spread corn throughout the hunting area, but the corn is underwater where the hunter cannot detect it and reasonably had no knowledge that the bait was present, the hunter would not be guilty of hunting over bait. Hunters should ask guides or landowners if the area has been baited.

What is the Difference in Field Preparation for Dove Hunting opposed to Waterfowl Hunting?

Agricultural crops may be manipulated for doves, but not for waterfowl and coots.

Dove hunting is allowed over lands planted by means of top sowing or aerial seeding, if seeds are present solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting or a normal agricultural soil stabilization practice.

Example: A dove hunter may legally hunt over a field of sunflowers that has been mowed but may not hunt waterfowl in the same field.

What About Normal Agricultural Operations?

Normal agricultural operations are those that have been conducted in accordance with official recommendations of state cooperative extension specialists.

State extension specialists will be relied upon to give expert advice if questions arise over what are considered normal agricultural operations in that area.

Example: Questions about normal and ratoon rice production will be directed to the state extension specialist on rice.

What Is Considered Natural Vegetation?

Migratory game birds may be hunted over manipulated natural vegetation.

Example: Thinning brush from overgrown, privately owned wetlands to improve habitat for wintering waterfowl is considered manipulating natural vegetation.

Is Planted Millet Considered a Crop?

Planted millet is treated like an agricultural crop and may not be manipulated if you intend to hunt waterfowl. Millet that grows on its own in subsequent years (sometimes called “volunteer”) is considered natural vegetation and may be manipulated at any time without restriction.

Can I Put Up a Blind?

Hunters may conceal a blind on privately-owned property using vegetation from agricultural crops or natural vegetation as long as it does not result in the exposing, depositing or scattering of grain.

Property Regulations

Hunting Near a Residence

Hunters lawfully present through ownership or lease agreement may hunt on their own property, regardless of distance to another person’s residence.

However, all other hunters using firearms within 150 yards of a residence or using archery equipment within 50 yards of a residence must have written permission from the owner or occupant of that residence.

Hunting on Private Property

Written permission (see example below) from the landowner or leaseholder is required before hunting, fishing, trapping or releasing hunting dogs or pursuing wildlife with dogs on private property.

Written permission is not required if the person hunting is a relative of the landowner or leaseholder and permission can be verified.

Federal Regulations Overview

In addition to state regulations, the following federal rules apply to the taking, possession, shipping, transporting and storing of migratory game birds.

Special boating regulations apply on NWRs in Arkansas (see Page 44). It is illegal for waterfowl hunters to be guided on National Wildlife Refuges. Both hunters and guides are subject to penalties.

Caution: The following material is a summary. Each hunter should also consult the federal regulations found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20 (available at More restrictive regulations may apply to national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas.

Illegal Hunting Methods

You may not hunt migratory waterfowl:

  1. 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.
  2. From a sink box or any other low floating device that conceals you beneath the surface of the water.
  3. From a motorboat or sailboat, unless you shut the motor off or furl the sail and the vessel is no longer in motion.
  4. With a shotgun that can hold more than three shells, unless you plug it with a one-piece filler that cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.
  5. From or by means, aid or use of any motorized vehicle or aircraft. If you are a paraplegic or are missing one or both legs, you may hunt from a stationary motorized land vehicle.

Wanton Waste

You must make a reasonable effort to retrieve and keep all migratory game birds you kill or cripple while in the field. You must immediately kill any wounded birds you retrieve and count those birds toward your daily bag limit.


You may not hunt migratory game birds that have been concentrated, driven, rallied or stirred up with a motorized vehicle or sailboat.


You may not give your birds to another person in the field, regardless of whether or not they are properly tagged. You may not leave migratory game birds in the custody of another person unless you tag the birds with your signature, address, number of birds identified by species and the date you killed them.


You may not completely field-dress waterfowl before taking them from the field. The head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached while you transport them to your home or processor.

Dual Violation

A violation of a state migratory game bird regulation is also a violation of federal regulations.

Duck Stamp

If you are 16 or older, you must carry a valid federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. You must sign the stamp in ink across the face before hunting.

Protected Birds

Federal law prohibits the killing of nongame migratory birds.

For More Information

If you have additional questions about waterfowl hunting, contact Division of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Room 81, Post Office Building, Little Rock, AR 72201. Telephone: 501-324-5643, or contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1500 Museum Road, Suite 105, Conway, AR 72032. Telephone: 501-513-4474.