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Game Bird Hunting

General Information

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). See Sunrise Sunset Table. 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 (on private lands and on public lands as permitted by the landowner) 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 Color Requirements

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 below), or persons accompanying a hunter, shall wear a solid blaze colored (blaze orange or blaze pink) hat or solid 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 an enclosed ground (pop-up, chair, box, etc.) that conceals them from view shall display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze colored material, visible from 360 degrees attached to or immediately above the blind. 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.

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 on July 1 of 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 or call 888-788-9772.

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

Sportsmen: Boat Smart, Wear Your Life Jacket

Wearing a life jacket may save your life. It is estimated that 80 percent of boating-related drownings could have been prevented had the victim been wearing a life jacket.

The newest type of life jacket, the manual or automatic inflatable, is lightweight and comfortable. They are versatile enough to be worn at any time of the year, and fit easily over a hunting coat or sweater.

Safety Tips

  • Check the weather before leaving.
  • Wear a life jacket or float coat.
  • Remain seated and keep weight evenly distributed.
  • Anchor from the bow, never from the stern.
  • Properly load your boat.
  • Stay with your boat if it should capsize.
  • Dress for the water temperature—guard against hypothermia.
  • Leave the alcohol at home.

For more information, contact Boating Education at:

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. A convenient online option is available whereby hunters can obtain an E-stamp for $28.00. 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. Waterfowl hunters can still purchase their Federal Duck Stamp at some U.S. Post Offices at a cost of $25.00.

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

2021-2022 Federal Duck Stamp
Artwork by Richard Clifton

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