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Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations

License Requirements

  • You must purchase a hunting license. Visit our Hunting Licenses page for information on types of licenses available and where to purchase.
  • You must register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) if you are hunting any migratory game bird, except crows. HIP registration is valid from July 1 - June 30 annually.
  • You do not need a federal migratory bird hunting stamp to hunt coot, crow, rail, gallinule, snipe, or woodcock.
  • If you are 16 years or older and hunt waterfowl (ducks, geese, and brant), you need a federal migratory bird hunting stamp ("duck stamp"). For information on obtaining this, please see below.

Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp

  • You may buy the federal "duck stamp" at most post offices, some sporting goods stores, call 1-800-382-5499, or visit It costs $25.00 plus shipping and handling for phone or internet orders. The money is used to conserve wetlands.
  • You must sign across the face of stamp in ink before hunting. You do not need to attach the stamp to your hunting license or back tag, but you must carry it when hunting.
  • These stamps are NOT needed to hunt coot, rails, gallinules, woodcock, snipe, or crow.

Nontoxic Shot

  • You must use nontoxic shot when hunting ducks, geese, brant, snipe, rails, gallinules, or coots. While hunting these species, you must possess only nontoxic shot.
  • Approved nontoxic shots include: steel, bismuth/tin, tungsten/iron, tungsten/polymer, tungsten/matrix, tungsten/nickel/iron, or other shot approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hunting Blinds

  • Blinds placed in lake waters must be labeled with the owner's name and address.
  • Blinds must be removed from lake waters no later than March 15.


You may NOT hunt migratory game birds using these methods:

  • With a shotgun that holds more than three shells, unless it has a plug that cannot be removed without taking the shotgun apart. This does not apply to the taking of snow geese at any time, or taking of Canada geese during September, when all other waterfowl hunting seasons are closed.
  • With a shotgun larger than 10 gauge, or with a rifle or handgun.
  • Crossbows may not be used to take waterfowl or other migratory game birds.
  • With a trap, snare, or net.
  • With a swivel gun, battery gun, machine gun, or explosive.
  • With fishhooks, poisons, or drugs.
  • From a sink box. This is a float that conceals your entire body below the water surface.
  • From a car or other motor vehicle on land.
    Note: Paraplegics and leg amputees, with a permit issued by DEC, are exempted from this restriction.
  • From a motorboat or sailboat unless the motor is off or the sail furled, and the boat has stopped moving.
    Note: Boats under power may be used to retrieve dead or crippled birds. You may not shoot crippled birds when under power, except in the Special Sea Duck Area.
  • With live decoys. If you have captive waterfowl, they must be removed from your hunting area at least 10 days prior to hunting and confined in an enclosure so that they cannot be seen or heard by migratory waterfowl.
  • With electronic calls, amplifiers, or tapes of calls. This does not apply to the taking of snow geese at any time, or taking of Canada geese during September, when all other waterfowl hunting seasons are closed.
  • By driving or chasing birds with any motorized boat or vehicle, or sailboat so that the birds are pushed in shooting range of hunters.
  • By using bait to attract waterfowl. A "baited area" is considered to be baited for 10 days after any bait is actually removed. Even if you did not place the bait, you may still be ticketed if you hunt in a baited area.
    Note: You may hunt near standing or harvested crops, flooded or unflooded. You also may hunt where grain crops have been shocked in the field, or where grains are scattered on the ground from normal farm practices.

After You Shoot...

  • You must make a reasonable effort to retrieve all killed or crippled birds.
  • Any wounded birds must be immediately killed and included in your daily bag.
  • The head or one fully feathered wing must stay on each bird until you get home or go to a commercial storage site.

Tagging Birds You Shoot

If you leave your birds with someone else, you need to tag the birds with this information:

  • Your signature and address.
  • A list of all birds by species and date of kill.

These requirements apply if you give your birds to someone else to transport, clean, store, ship, or prepare for mounting.


If you ship birds, mark the package with this information:

  • Your name and address.
  • The name and address of the person you are shipping the birds to.
  • The number of birds, by species.
  • All of the information noted above must be on the package.
  • One fully feathered wing must stay on each bird
  • With the exception of birds sent here from Canada, you need to remove the head and feet, along with internal organs from any bird shipped.
  • You are not allowed to ship birds taken by another hunter.

Reporting Banded Migratory Game Birds

Please report band recoveries on-line (leaves DEC website) or by sending your information to: Bird Banding Lab, 12100 Beach Forest Road, Laurel, MD 20708. The call center supporting the 1-800-327-BAND toll-free phone number will be discontinued no later than June 30, 2018, possibly on June 30, 2017. People calling this toll-free number will be directed to report their bird bands using the REPORTBAND website (see link above) or by mail. We rely heavily on your cooperation in reporting banded birds to help in their management, and we would like to thank you for your continued support in this effort.