Lawful Hunting Methods
What is Legal?
You can hunt waterfowl on or over or from the following areas that are not otherwise baited:
- Standing crops or flooded standing crops, including aquatic plants.
- Standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation.
- Flooded harvested croplands.
- Lands or areas where grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation.
- Lands or areas where top-sown seeds have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, or a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation.
- A blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation.
- A blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with vegetation from agricultural crops, provided your use of such vegetation does not expose, deposit, distribute or scatter grain or other feed.
- Standing or flooded standing crops where grain is inadvertently scattered solely as the result of hunters entering or leaving the area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds. Hunters are cautioned that while conducting these activities, any intentional scattering of grain will create a baited area.
What is Illegal?
Some examples of areas where you cannot hunt waterfowl include:
- Areas where grain or seed has been top-sown and the Cooperative Extension Service does not recommend the practice of top sowing (see section on wildlife food plots).
- Crops that have been harvested outside of the recommended harvest dates established by the Cooperative Extension Service (including any subsequent post-harvest manipulations).
- Unharvested crops that have been trampled by livestock or subjected to other types of manipulations that distribute, scatter, or expose grain.
- Areas where grain is present and stored, such as grain elevators and grain bins.
- Areas where grain is present for the purpose of feeding livestock.
- Freshly planted wildlife food plots that contain exposed grain.
- Croplands where a crop has been harvested and the removed grain is redistributed or “added back” onto the area where grown.
These examples do not represent an all-inclusive list of waterfowl baiting violations. More specific information on the baiting regulations for waterfowl can be found on the following U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website (https://www.fws.gov/le/waterfowl-hunting-and-baiting.html). See Definitions & Terms for the definition of a Normal Agricultural Operation.
Dove Hunting and Baiting. Baiting regulations for doves, and migratory game birds other than waterfowl and coots, are somewhat different than those for waterfowl and can be found here: https://www.fws.gov/le/dove-hunting-and-baiting.html
It is illegal to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm, or other weapon, or hunt or kill any deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the aid or assistance of dogs, on Sundays. Exceptions to Sunday hunting prohibition:
- Raccoons may be hunted on Sundays.
- Waterfowl (ducks, coot, geese, brant, and swans), and rails, and gallinules may be hunted on Sundays subject to geographical limitations established by the Director and except within 200 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
- Any landowner or member of his family or any person with written permission from the landowner may hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, on the landowner’s property on Sunday, except within 200 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
- Hunting is permitted on licensed shooting preserves.
Wanton Waste of Migratory Game Birds
No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird, and retain it in his actual custody, at the place where taken or between that place and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.
No person may take ducks, geese (including brant), swans, coots, mergansers, gallinules, rails or snipe while possessing shot (either in shotshells or as loose shot for muzzleloading) other than approved non-toxic shot. For a list of approved non-toxic shot, see General Information or www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/CurrentBirdissues/nontoxic.htm.
Opening Day of a Season
No person on the opening day of the season shall possess any freshly killed migratory game birds in excess of the daily bag limit, or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies.
Field Possession Limit
No person shall possess, have in custody, or transport more than the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies, of migratory game birds, tagged or not tagged, at or between the place where taken and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.
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.
Termination of Possession
Subject to all other requirements of this part, the possession of birds taken by any hunter shall be deemed to have ceased when such birds have been delivered by him to another person as a gift; or have been delivered by him to a post office, a common carrier, or a migratory bird preservation facility and consigned for transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier to some person other than the hunter.
Gift of Migratory Game Birds
No person may receive, possess, or give to another, any freshly killed migratory game birds as a gift, except at the personal abodes of the donor or donee, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter who took the birds, stating such hunter’s address, the total number and species of birds and the date such birds were taken.
Transportation of Birds of Another
No person shall transport 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.
Marking Package or Container
No person shall transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier migratory game birds unless the package or container in which such birds are transported has the name and address of the shipper and the consignee and an accurate statement of the numbers of each species of birds therein contained clearly and conspicuously marked on the outside thereof.
More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges opened to public hunting. For additional information on refuge specific regulations see www.fws.gov/refuges/.