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Migratory Game Bird & Waterfowl Regulations

Migratory Game Bird Regulations

For the purpose of this section, migratory game birds include and are limited to species in the following families:

  1. Anatidae (wild ducks, geese, and brant);
  2. Rallidae (rails, coots, moorhens and gallinules); and
  3. Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe).

Except as expressly provided in the regulations, it is unlawful to hunt, capture, kill, take, possess, transport, buy or sell any migratory game bird or part thereof.

1. Hunting Methods

Aids and Equipment: It is lawful to hunt migratory game birds with dogs, artificial decoys, manually or mouth-operated bird calls, hand-held bow and arrow, crossbow, the practice of falconry, or with a shotgun not larger than No.10 gauge and incapable of holding more than three shells, fired from the shoulder. Every other method is unlawful.

Watercraft: It is lawful to hunt migratory game birds from floating craft (except a sinkbox), including those capable of being propelled by motor, sail and wind, or both, only when

  1. the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sails furled, as the case may be, and
  2. the progress or motion of the craft in the water has ceased and the craft is drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor, or is being propelled solely by paddle, oars, or pole. It is lawful to use a motor or sail on a craft as a means of retrieving or picking up dead or injured birds.

2. Transportation

Any person, without a permit, may transport lawfully killed and possessed migratory game birds into, within, or out of any State, or export such birds to a foreign country during and after the open seasons in the State where taken, subject to the following conditions and restrictions:

Identifiable condition: If such birds are dressed, one fully-feathered wing must remain attached to each bird so as to permit species identification while being transported between the place where taken and the personal abode of the possessor or a commercial preservation facility.

Properly marked package: The package or container in which such birds are transported shall have the name and address of both the shipper and the consignee and an accurate statement of the numbers and kinds of birds contained therein clearly and conspicuously marked on the outside thereof.

3. Possession for the Purpose of Processing, Transportation, or Storage

Tagging Requirement: A hunter who legally takes and possesses migratory game birds and wishes to place or leave any such birds in the custody of any other person for picking, cleaning, processing, shipping, transportation, or storage (including temporary storage) must sign and attach a tag to the birds stating the hunter's address, the total number and kinds of birds, and the date such birds were killed. No person may receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are tagged as provided above.

Untagged Birds: If birds are not tagged as provided above, the only legal place of storage is the personal abode of the hunter who legally took and possesses the birds.

Vehicles: Legally possessed migratory game birds being transported in any vehicle as the personal baggage of the possessor are not deemed to be in storage or temporary storage.

Record Keeping: Any commercial picking establishment or cold-storage or locker plant receiving, possessing, or having in custody any migratory game birds must maintain accurate records showing the numbers and kinds of such birds, the dates received and disposed of, and the names and addresses of the persons from whom such birds were received and to whom they were delivered. These records shall be retained for a period of 1 year from the close of the open season on migratory game birds in the state where the picking establishment or cold-storage or locker plant is located.

4. Termination of Possession

For the purposes of this part, the possession of birds legally taken and properly tagged by any hunter shall be deemed to have ceased when such birds have been delivered by the hunter:

  1. to another person as a gift
  2. to a post office
  3. to a common carrier
  4. to a commercial cold-storage or locker plant for subsequent transportation by the postal service or a common carrier to someone other than the hunter

5. Wounded Live Migratory Game Birds

Every migratory game bird wounded by hunting and reduced to possession by the hunter shall be immediately killed and become a part of the daily bag limit.

6. Possession of Plumage

Any person, without a permit, may possess and transport for his own use the plumage and skins of lawfully taken migratory game birds.

7. Wanton Waste of Migratory Game Birds

No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird pursuant to this regulation without any visible means to retrieve and without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird and include it in their daily bag limit.

The shooting of crippled waterfowl from a motorboat under power is permitted on those coastal waters and all waters of rivers and streams lying seaward from the first upstream bridge.

Additionally, Maine state law states that a person may not waste a wild bird that has been wounded or killed by that person while hunting, or intentionally leave any wounded or killed animal in the field or forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and render it for consumption or use.

8. Open Seasons, Limits, and Other Provisions

Migratory game birds may be taken only in accordance with open seasons, legal shooting hours, and daily bag and possession limits.

Bag Limit: No person may take in any one day more than the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies.

Possession Limit: No person may possess more birds lawfully taken than the possession limit or the aggregate possession limit, whichever applies.

Opening Day: On the opening day of the season, no person shall possess any freshly killed migratory game birds in excess of the daily bag limit, or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies.

Closed Season: No person may possess any freshly killed migratory game birds during the closed season.

Summary of Federal Regulations

Notice: The material below is only a summary of Federal rules. Each hunter should also consult the actual Federal regulations, which may be found in Title 50, code of Federal Regulations, Part 20.

Restrictions: No person shall take migratory game birds:

A. While possessing shot (either in shot shells or as loose shot for muzzleloading) other than steel shot or such shot approved as nontoxic while taking Anatidae (ducks, geese, and brant), coots and any species that make up aggregate bag limits during concurrent seasons.

B. With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10-guage, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance.

C. With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler that cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.

D. From a sink box (a low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water).

E. 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 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 of or injury to the spinal cord.

F. 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.

G. Using records or tapes of migratory bird calls or sounds, or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls.

H. By means or aid of any motor driven land, water, or air conveyance, or any sailboat used for the purpose of or resulting in the concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up of any migratory bird.

I. By the aid of baiting or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. However, nothing in this paragraph prohibits the taking of migratory game birds on or over the following lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas: a) standing crops or flooded standing crops; standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered safely as a result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice; b) from a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation; c) from a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with vegetation from agricultural crops, as long as such camouflaging does not result in the exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of grain or other feed.

J. A person must also retain the bird in their actual custody, at the place where taken or between that place and either (a) their automobile or principle means of land transportation; or (b) their personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging.

Maine Waterfowl Hunting Zones

Definition for North and South Zone Line

Maine-New Brunswick border in Baileyville, Maine west along Stony Brook to Route 9 in Baileyville. West along Route 9 to Route 15 in Bangor. West along Route 15 to I-95 in Bangor. Southwest along I-95 to Route 202 (Exit 109A) in Augusta. Southwest along Route 202 to Route 11 in Auburn. Southwest along Route 11 to Route 110 in Newfield. West along Route 110 to Maine-New Hampshire border.

Definition for South/Coastal Zone Line

Maine-New Brunswick border in Calais at the Route 1 bridge. South along Route 1 to the Maine-New Hampshire border in Kittery.

Hunting Hours

Hunting hours on migratory game birds are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset daily.

Sea Duck Hunting Area Defined

All coastal waters and all waters of rivers and streams seaward from the first upstream bridge. In all other areas, sea ducks may be taken only during the regular duck season dates and are part of the regular duck bag limits.

Nontoxic Shot - Statewide

The use or possession of ammunition loaded with other than nontoxic shot while hunting wild ducks, geese, brant, rails, or coots is prohibited. Nontoxic shot means any shot type that does not cause sickness and death when ingested by these birds and is approved for use by the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Steel, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron (2 types), tungsten-matrix, tungsten-bronze (2 types), tungsten-polymer, tungsten-tin-bismuth, tungstentin- iron-nickel, and tungsten nickel-iron (HEVI) shot have been approved nontoxic by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On National Wildlife Refuges that permit hunting of upland game, persons hunting upland species other than deer and turkey with a shotgun shall possess and use only nontoxic shot while in the field.

Haley Pond - Closed to Hunting

It is unlawful to hunt waterfowl on Haley Pond in the Town of Rangeley and Dallas Plt. in Franklin County.

Wildfowl Decoys

It is unlawful to shoot, or shoot at, or near, any wildfowl decoy of another person, with a firearm, bow and arrow or crossbow. “Near” means the area encompassed by the set of decoys and including the area 50 yards away from the outer perimeter of the set of decoys.

Laws Specific to Merrymeeting Bay

Laws outlined below apply to the waters of the Kennebec River, known as Merrymeeting Bay, bounded as follows: From the high tension wires at Chop’s Point to the first dam on the Androscoggin River, to the first road bridge on the Muddy, Cathance, Abbagadassett, and Eastern rivers and the Richmond-Dresden bridge on the Kennebec River, being in the counties of Cumberland, Sagadahoc, and Lincoln.

  • No artificial cover which is termed stationary blind, or parts thereof, used for hunting purposes shall be left or allowed to remain in the waters of Merrymeeting Bay between one hour after legal shooting time and one hour before legal shooting time.
  • No duck decoys shall be allowed to remain in the waters of Merrymeeting Bay at any time during the period from one hour after legal shooting time until one hour before legal shooting time.
  • No power boat may be operated in Merrymeeting Bay at a speed in excess of 10 miles per hour except within the confines of the buoyed channels.

Laws Specific to Merrymeeting Bay Game Sanctuary

Hunting is not allowed within this sanctuary. The corners of the sanctuary are marked by orange buoys. A map of the sanctuary can be found at or by calling MDIFW at 287-8000.

Merrymeeting Bay sanctuary is an area easterly of the confluence of the Abagadasset River and Merrymeeting Bay, south of Browns point (formerly Kelley’s point) in Bowdoinham and the high tension powerlines crossing the Kennebec River, and west of the shoreline of Chopps point in Woolwich.

Waypoints for the sanctuary are as follows (Datum WGS84):

Northwest corner: 44° 00.148' 69° 50.645'
Northeast corner: 43° 00.035 69° 49.169'
Southeast corner: 43° 59.531' 69° 49.533'
Southwest corner: 43° 59.894' 69° 50.752'

Using motorboat within Merrymeeting Bay Game Sanctuary: A person may not use a motorboat within Merrymeeting Bay Game Sanctuary, except that motorboats may be used between the Woolwich shore on the east and a line on the west designated by a series of orange markers adjacent to the edge of the grassy marsh area from Kelly’s Point to the southern boundary of the Merrymeeting Bay Game Sanctuary.

Harvest Information Program

If you plan to hunt woodcock, ducks, geese, snipe, rails, or coots, you are required to indicate on your license your intention of doing so at the time you purchase your license. The information will be used by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (H.I.P). For more information, see Maine's Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program.

Stamp Requirements

The State Migratory Waterfowl Permit is required of anyone 16 years of age or older if they are hunting on an adult license, but is not required if continuing to hunt on a junior license for the remainder of the calender year. Anyone who turns 16, whether hunting on an adult license or a junior license, must purchase a Federal Stamp The Federal Stamp must be validated by the holders signature written across the face of the stamp in ink.

The state permit may be purchased for $7.50 from local license agents or from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State St., SHS #41, Augusta, ME 04333. The Federal stamp can be purchased by visiting your local Post Office or

The Migratory Waterfowl Stamp is not required to hunt woodcock, snipe, rails or crows. For more details, contact the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at 287-8000. Note: All revenue from the sale of state waterfowl permits must be used exclusively for acquisition of waterfowl habitat and waterfowl management activities.

Duck Stamp Art Contest

Click here to learn more about the annual duck stamp art contest.

Help Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants!

Please clean boat trailer and gear of all plants and plant fragments.

Field Possession Limit

No person shall possess more than one daily bag limit while in the field or while returning from the field to one’s car, hunting camp, home, etc.


For information regarding the importation of migratory birds killed in another country, hunters should consult 50 CFR 20.61 through 20.66. One fully-feathered wing must remain attached to all migratory game birds being transported between the port of entry and one's home or to a migratory bird preservation facility. No person shall import migratory game birds killed in any foreign country, except Canada, unless such birds are dressed (except as required in 20.63), drawn, and the head and feet are removed. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another person.

Dual Violation

Violation of State migratory bird regulations is also a violation of Federal regulations.


More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges open to public hunting. For additional information on Federal refuge regulations, see National Wildlife Refuges.