Migratory Game Bird Hunting
Migratory Game Birds are: brant, coots, doves, ducks, geese, rails, snipe and woodcock.
Brant, ducks and geese are referred to as waterfowl.
There is no open season for gallinules, harlequin ducks, moorhens or swans.
Federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations can be viewed at: dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Documents/MGB_FederalHuntingRegs.pdf
Offshore Waterfowl Hunting Rules and Regulations (offshore duck blinds, sea duck and offshore waterfowl hunting zones) can be viewed at: dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/hunt_trap/offshore_intro.aspx
General Migratory Game Bird Hunting Rules
- Migratory game birds may not be hunted on Sundays.
- A hunter must carry personal photo identification (such as driver’s license) or a secondary form of identification while hunting.
- Written permission is required to hunt on private land.
- A hunting license is required to hunt migratory game birds (with exceptions). See Hunting Licenses, Stamps and Permits (Hunting Licenses) for Armed Forces information and hunting license costs, exceptions, purchasing, requirements and types.
- A Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp (Hunting Licenses) is required of all hunters to hunt all migratory game birds in Maryland. This includes persons not required to have a hunting license and holders of senior hunting licenses.
- This stamp may be obtained through the COMPASS portal at compass.dnr.maryland.gov/ OR any Licensing and Registration Service Center (Addresses & Phone Numbers) OR a Sport License agent.
- While hunting migratory game birds, hunters must possess the printed validation showing proof of purchase of the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp and Harvest Information Program certification.
- Hunters are not required to possess or sign the actual stamp.
- A Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Hunting Licenses) is required of all hunters 16 years of age or older to hunt brant, coots, ducks and geese. This includes persons not required to have a hunting license (see Who May Hunt Without a License, Hunting Licenses).
- This stamp may be purchased from National Wildlife Refuges, Post Offices, online at duckstamp.com and through the COMPASS portal at compass.dnr.maryland.gov/ OR any Licensing and Registration Service Center (Addresses & Phone Numbers) OR a Sport License agent.
- If you order your federal duck stamp online (duckstamp.com), you will receive a purchase code. If you purchase your stamp through COMPASS, a sport license agent, online licensing or a Licensing and Registration Center, you will receive a printed validation showing proof of purchase. Both the purchase code and the validation will be accepted as proof of the purchase for 45 days, and must be possessed while hunting waterfowl and coots. The paper stamp will be mailed to the purchaser.
- The proof of purchase will expire after 45 days, thereafter the purchaser must possess the stamp, signed in ink, while hunting waterfowl and coots.
- This stamp must be signed in ink but does not have to be attached to the hunting license.
- If you do not receive your federal duck stamp within 2–3 weeks after purchase from the Department of Natural Resources online or by phone, please email duckstamp@
amplex.com or call 800-852-4897.
- A Harvest Information Program Certification is required of all hunters to hunt all migratory game birds. The certification is free and issued with the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp.
- Hunters must have the printed validation showing proof of purchase of the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp and Harvest Information Program certification in their possession while hunting migratory game birds.
- When you purchase your Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp, you will be asked the following Harvest Information Program questions that are used for harvest survey sampling only:
- Do you plan to hunt brant this coming hunting season?
- About how many ducks, geese, doves and woodcock did you bag last season?
- Did you hunt coots, sea ducks (eiders, long-tailed ducks and scoters), snipe or rails last season?
- A Maryland Snow Goose Conservation Order Hunting Season Permit (Hunting Licenses) is required to participate in the Light Goose Conservation Order Season. Hunters must possess the printed validation showing proof of the purchase of this permit while hunting (see Light Goose Seasons and Bag Limits, Migratory Game Bird Seasons & Limits).
- A Regulated Shooting Area Hunting License allows you to shoot only captive-raised game birds on a state-licensed Regulated Shooting Area (see Other Licenses, Hunting Licenses). To hunt free-flying, captive-raised mallard ducks or wild waterfowl on a state-licensed Regulated Shooting Area, a hunter must possess a Maryland hunting license, the printed validation showing proof of purchase of the Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp and a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp or its proof of purchase (if over the age of 15).
- A Stationary Blind and Blind Site License is required to hunt from an offshore waterfowl blind or blind site in Maryland public waters (see Other Licenses Hunting Licenses). For Maryland Offshore Waterfowl Hunting information see: https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/hunt_trap/offshore_intro.aspx.
Migratory Game Bird Hunting Rules and Regulations
(For brant, coots, doves, ducks, geese, rails, snipe and woodcock.)
- Daylight fluorescent color clothing is not required to hunt migratory game birds except woodcock. See Fluorescent Color Clothing Requirements and Exceptions (Hunting Regulations).
- The daily bag limit is the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination (aggregate) of species permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season.
- The field possession limit is the one daily bag limit that you may possess while in the field or returning from the field to your vehicle, hunting camp, or personal abode.
- The possession limit is the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination of species permitted to be possessed by any one person.
- A person may not kill or wound any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird and include it in the daily bag limit.
- Wounded birds reduced to possession shall immediately be killed and included in your daily bag limit.
- It is unlawful to completely field dress or breast-out any migratory game bird (except dove) before transporting the birds from the field. The head or one fully-feathered wing must remain attached to all birds (except doves) while being transported from the field until they have arrived at your personal abode or a migratory bird processing facility.
- If you are giving, putting or leaving migratory game birds at any place or in the possession of another person, you must tag each bird with the hunter’s signature, address, hunting license number or DNRid number, the total number and species of birds killed and dates the birds were killed. Tagging is required even if someone else is transporting the bird for you or the bird has been left for cleaning, storage (including temporary storage), shipment or taxidermy services.
- To ship tagged migratory game birds the package must be conspicuously marked on the outside with the name and address of the person sending the birds, name and address of the person to whom the birds are being sent and number of birds by species contained in the package.
- It is illegal to take migratory game birds with air guns shooting bullets, drugs, explosives, traps, fish hooks, nets, pistols, poisons, rifles, snares, stupefying substances or swivel guns.
- It is against the law to bait migratory game birds and hunt them by placing a lure or enticement such as corn, wheat, salt or other feed.
- An area is considered by law to be baited for 10 days after removal of the bait.
- Migratory game birds may not be hunted over any area where seed has been top sown or broadcast on top of the soil leaving the seed available to feeding birds. Before hunting can occur on areas where seeds or small grains have been top sown or broadcast as a normal agricultural practice, all seed must have either germinated, or the seed must be covered with soil or completely removed by other means at least 10 days before hunting.
- Doves may be hunted in areas where seed producing plants such as corn, sunflowers, wheat and other small grains are manipulated (burned, knocked down, mowed) to attract doves for hunting. In this instance, the 10 day rule does not apply.
- It is unlawful to hunt waterfowl on an area where tame or captive live ducks, geese or swans (live decoys) are present unless the birds are, and have been for a period of ten (10) consecutive days before hunting, removed from the area or confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals the birds from the sight of wild migratory waterfowl.
- Live decoys may include but are not limited to the following:
- Captive-raised and domestic waterfowl that have been released that do not exhibit the natural wariness of man associated with a wild bird.
- Waterfowl that do not leave the area when hands are clapped and/or a shotgun is discharged.
- Wounded waterfowl that have gone un-retrieved.
- Waterfowl whose wings are either pinioned or whose outer primary feathers have been cut or removed to render flight impossible.
- Captive-raised domestic ducks and geese (such as Muscovy ducks, Egyptian geese, etc.) may be considered live decoys if they do not exhibit the natural wariness of man associated with a wild bird.
- Live ducks, geese, or swans that are either tethered or penned at or near a hunting location.
- It is unlawful to sell taxidermy-mounted migratory game birds for use as decoys.
- It is illegal to use common reed (i.e. Phragmites) in any manner for the construction of hunting blinds on lands owned or controlled by the Department of Natural Resources.
- It is against the law to construct, or cause to be constructed, permanent hunting blinds or tree stands and to leave waterfowl decoys set overnight on lands owned or controlled by the Department of Natural Resources, except with written permission from the department.
- It is unlawful to hunt wild migratory game birds on Sunday.
- It is against the law to hunt waterfowl from a sink box (low-floating device with depression that conceals the hunter beneath the surface of the water).
- It is unlawful to hunt waterfowl from or with the aid or use of a motor vehicle or any other motor-driven land conveyance or any aircraft.
- It is illegal to hunt waterfowl from or by means of any motorboat or sailboat unless the motor has been completely shut off and /or the sails furled and the boat’s progress has ceased.
- It is against the law to hunt migratory game birds while in possession of any electronic calling device from which bird calls are conveyed or amplified and to use recordings of migratory game bird calls or sounds or electronically amplified imitations of bird calls except while hunting light geese during the Conservation Order Season.
- It is unlawful to drive, rally or chase waterfowl with any motorized conveyance or any sailboat to put the birds in the range of hunters.
- Captive-raised mallard ducks may not be released to the wild except under the authority of a Regulated Shooting Area Permit (see Regulated Shooting Areas Requirements, Hunting Licenses), Retriever Training Permit or a Field Trial Permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources.
Migratory Game Bird Hunting Devices and Regulations
(For brant, coots, doves, ducks, geese, rails, snipe and woodcock.)
- It is unlawful to possess an air gun, rifle or pistol at any time while hunting brant, coots, ducks and geese.
- Only shotguns and some archery equipment may be used to hunt migratory game birds.
- It is illegal to have a loaded air gun or firearm in, on, or leaning against any vehicle. This includes ammunition in the magazine or a muzzleloader ready to fire.
- It is unlawful to hunt with an automatic firearm capable of firing a series of shots with one continuous pull of the trigger.
- It is unlawful to have a loaded crossbow in, on or leaning against a vehicle.
- A cocked crossbow without a bolt or arrow in the firing position is considered to be unloaded.
- It is against the law to shoot on, from or across any public road.
- Only shotguns that are 10-gauge or smaller may be used to hunt migratory game birds.
- Shotguns capable of holding more than three (3) shells must be plugged with a one-piece filler which cannot be removed from the loading end. Shotguns cannot hold more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined with the following exceptions:
- when hunting resident Canada geese during the September Seasons.
- when hunting light geese during the Light Goose Conservation Order Season.
- Muzzleloading shotguns may be used to hunt all migratory game birds.
- It is illegal to take brant, coots, ducks, geese, rails and snipe with lead shot and to possess lead shot while hunting them. This restriction includes muzzleloading shotguns and taking captive-raised mallards on licensed Regulated Shooting Areas.
- Nontoxic shot (as determined by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service) must be used when hunting brant, coots, ducks, geese, rails and snipe. See https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/hunt_trap/waterfowl_nontoxic_shot.aspx for current information on nontoxic shot.
- Nontoxic shot larger than No. T (.20 inches in diameter) may not be used to hunt brant, coots, ducks, geese, rails and snipe.
- Hunters may not use or possess shotgun pumpkin balls, sabots or slugs while hunting brant, coots, ducks, geese, rails and snipe.
- Doves and woodcock may be taken with lead shot.
- Vertical bows may be used to hunt migratory game birds.
- Draw locking devices on vertical bows are not permitted when hunting brant, coots, ducks and geese.
- Crossbows may not be used to hunt brant, coots, ducks and geese.
- Crossbows may be used to hunt doves, rails, snipe and woodcock.
- The use of poisoned or explosive tipped arrows or bolts is not permitted.
- Air guns may not be used to hunt migratory birds, except air guns that shoot an arrow or bolt may be used to hunt doves and woodcock.
REPORT YOUR BIRD BANDS ONLINE: WWW.REPORTBAND.GOV
Each year state and federal biologists mark tens of thousands of migratory birds with numbered leg bands. Hunters who report bands recovered from harvested birds receive specific information on when and where the bird was banded while providing important information for migratory bird management. The 1-800 telephone number for reporting bird bands has been discontinued. Hunters who recover a banded migratory bird should now use www.reportband.gov. Anyone reporting a band will need the following information: the band number, hunters name and address and the date and location (nearest town) of the harvest.