Federal Migratory Bird Regulations
Summary of Federal Regulations
The following is a synopsis of Federal Regulations that pertain to the hunting of migratory game birds. More information can be found at: www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/waterfowl_federal_regs.pdf or by calling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Office at (908) 787-1321.
No persons shall take migratory game birds:
- 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. Baiting means the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Baited area means any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for ten days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.
- With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machinegun, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance;
- With a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does not exceed three shells. Exceptions: In New Jersey, shotguns capable of holding no more than 7 shells are permitted during the September Canada goose season and the Light Goose Conservation Order.
- From or by means, aid, or use of a sinkbox or any other type of low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water;
- From or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft of any kind, except that paraplegics and persons missing one or both legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance;
- From or by means of any motorboat or other craft having a motor attached, or any sailboat, unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sails furled, and its progress there from has ceased. Exception: crippled birds may be shot from craft under power in the Special Sea Duck Area.
- By the use or aid of live birds as decoys; although not limited to, it shall be a violation of this paragraph for any person to take migratory waterfowl on an area where tame or captive live ducks or geese are present unless such birds are and have been for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to such taking, confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such birds from the sight of wild migratory waterfowl;
- By the use or aid of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds, or recorded or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls or sounds. Exceptions: In New Jersey, hunters can use electronic calls during: crow season, September Canada goose season and the Light Goose Conservation Order.
- 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.
Tagging requirement—No person shall put or leave any migratory game birds at any place (other than at his personal abode), or in the custody of another person for picking, cleaning, processing, shipping, transportation, or storage (including temporary storage), or for the purpose of having taxidermy services performed, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter, stating his address, the total number and species of birds, and the date such birds were killed. Migratory game birds being transported in any vehicle as the personal baggage of the possessor shall not be considered as being in storage or temporary storage.
Custody of birds of another—No person shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.
Species identification requirement—No person shall transport within the United States any migratory game birds, except doves and band-tailed pigeons, unless the head or one fully feathered wing remains attached to each such bird at all times while being transported from the place where taken until they have arrived at the personal abode of the possessor or a migratory bird preservation facility.
New Jersey State Regulations
State laws and regulations may be more stringent but not more lenient than those prescribed in federal regulations (50 CFR Part 20).
- Migratory bird hunting is not permitted on Sunday in New Jersey.
- No person may take rails or snipe while possessing shot other than non-toxic shot.
- The starting time to hunt waterfowl on opening day of pheasant season (Nov. 7, 2020) is 8 a.m. on wildlife management areas stocked with pheasant and quail except the tidal waters or marshes of those WMAs. See Small Game Hunting Regulations for pheasant and quail stocked WMAs. The starting time to hunt waterfowl on opening day of the pheasant season conforms to the regular start time (e.g. 1⁄2 hr. before sunrise) on private land, tidal marshes, WMAs not stocked with pheasant and quail, and the tidal marsh portions of pheasant and quail stocked WMAs.
- There shall be no open season for hunting any game birds or animals including migratory waterfowl:
- In or on the shores of the Shark River in Monmouth County.
- In that portion of the Manasquan River from the ocean inlet upstream to Route 70 bridge.
- On Herring Island and that portion of Barnegat Bay lying between northern and southern tips of Herring Island easterly to adjacent shoreline of Mantoloking Boro, Ocean County.
- On Parker Creek and Oceanport Creek, Monmouth County, or the shores thereof, southwest or upstream of the Conrail R.R. bridge.
- On the non-tidal portions of Cox Hall Creek WMA in Cape May County.
- In the waters or shoreline of Barnegat Inlet westward from the COLREGS Demarcation Line; to the north end of Broadway in Barnegat Light; then northwest to Red Buoy 14 in the channel (39.763783 N; 074.109283 W); then northeast to the westernmost section of rock jetty at Island Beach State Park.
All migratory bird closure areas are described in detail at NJFishandWildlife.com/migbirdzones.htm
- It is unlawful for any person to leave the edible portions (defined as the breast meat) of migratory birds (excepting crows) to waste. Edible portions (see illustration, Edible Portions Guide) do not include meat that has been damaged by the method of taking; bones, sinew and meat reasonably lost as a result of butchering, boning, or close trimming of bones; or viscera.
- Waterfowl hunting on Delaware River is governed by state boundaries and restricted to respective state seasons.
- Permanent blinds may not be constructed on some state wildlife management areas.
- Arrows with flu-flu type fletching are required for taking flying game birds. Arrows with edged heads are prohibited for taking flying game birds.
2021 Spring Light Goose Conservation Order — Feb. 16–Apr. 3, 2021
- Electronic calls are permitted.
- Shotguns capable of holding no more than 7 shells (including magazine and chamber) are permitted.
- Shooting hours: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.
- A valid hunting license, federal and state duck stamps, HIP certification and NJ Light Goose Conservation Order (CO) Permit ($2) are required.
- The NJ Light Goose CO Permit is available ONLY from the Internet sales site.
The light goose permit will not be available until January 2021. As part of the permit process, hunters will be required to report their activity and harvest as requested on the permit. Check the Division’s web site in late winter for more details.
Falconry—Special season dates and bag limits apply. Contact NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife at (908) 735-6938.
Nontoxic Shot Regulations
In New Jersey, no person may take ducks, geese, brant, coots, rails, snipe or moorhens while possessing shot other than approved non-toxic shot which includes: steel, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-nickel-iron, tungsten-iron-nickel-tin, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-iron-polymer, bismuth-tin, copper-clad iron, tungsten-iron-copper-nickel, tungsten-tin-iron, corrosion-inhibited copper shot, and tungsten-tin-bismuth shot types. Shot size may not
exceed Size T (0.200 inch) for waterfowl. See www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/hunting/nontoxic.php for more information. For crows and woodcock, shot size may not exceed Size #4 and although lead shot is permitted, hunters are encouraged to use non-toxic shot.
See sunrise/sunset table.
- Duck, goose, brant, coot, rail, moorhen, snipe—1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset. For example, if sunrise is 6:30 a.m. and sunset is 5:00 p.m., hunting hours for these species are 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Woodcock—sunrise to sunset.
- Crow—sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.
- September Canada Goose and the Spring Light Goose Conservation Order—1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.
No permanent waterfowl blinds, including pit blinds, shall be constructed, hunted from or used in any manner on these WMAs:
- Black River
- Colliers Mills
- Stafford Forge
- Beaver Swamp
- Sedge Island
- Salem River
Any blind used on these WMAs must be portable and completely removed by day's end. Blinds remaining on WMAs are subject to confiscation and disposal by Fish and Wildlife.
Veterans/Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days
Feb. 6 — Statewide joint Veterans/Military and Youth waterfowl hunt day
Feb. 13 — Statewide Veterans/Military ONLY waterfowl hunt day
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed states to choose special hunting days for Veterans and Active Military personnel in recognition of their service to our country. Waterfowl hunting outside the regular season is allowed on the day(s) officially designated as “Veterans/Active Military Waterfowl Day.” New Jersey has two Veterans/Active Military Hunting Days, one of which runs concurrent with a special Youth Hunting Day.
Active Military includes members of Armed Forces on active duty, including National Guard and Reserves (other than active duty for training). Veterans includes those who served in the active military, naval or air service and who were discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable. Participants in Veterans/Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days must carry while hunting one of the documents which applies to their status to be eligible to participate:
- Active military identification card
- Copy of honorable discharge certificate DD-214
Bag limits for these days include ducks, geese, brant, mergansers, coots and gallinules. Bag limits are the same as those allowed in the regular season in each zone except the scaup limit is 2 per day.
FAQs for special veteran/active military and youth hunt days:
Attention Waterfowl Hunters
Special Regulations Permitted During September Canada Goose Season, Sept. 1–30, 2020 Only
Special regulations designed to help curb the growth of resident population Canada geese.
- Electronic calls are permitted.
- Shotguns capable of holding no more than seven shells (including magazine and chamber) are permitted.
- Hunting hours: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.
Remember: these special regulations apply only to the September Canada goose season. Hunters who choose to use an unplugged gun during the September Canada goose season must remember to reinstall the magazine plug before pursuing other game species.
During all other waterfowl seasons, including duck, brant, regular and winter Canada goose, and snow goose, standard regulations apply. Standard regulations include: electronic calls prohibited, shotguns may not be capable of holding more than three shot shells and hunting hours end at sunset.