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Waterfowl and Migratory Game Bird Hunting

This is a summary of regulations about hunting migratory game birds. You can read the actual state and federal regulations on the Internet. The state regulations are in Title 6, New York Code of Rules and Regulations, Section 2.30. (link leaves DEC's website)The federal regulations are in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20

Waterfowl Hunters: To stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, new regulations prohibit the launching and retrieving of watercraft at state boat launches and other state lands with any plant or animal part in, on, or attached.

The new regulations apply to the use of phragmites or other invasive plants for covering hunting boats and blinds. They do not apply to the use of non-invasive plants used for camouflage (such as cedar); dogs; and legally taken game and fish.

Help stop the spread of aquatic invasives

  • Check, Clean, Drain, Dry, and Disinfect your boat and hunting equipment after each hun
  • Pay special attention to boat trailers, decoy anchors & lines, decoy bags, and waders.
  • Drain, dry and disinfect aqua keel decoys as the water trapped inside could contain nearly invisible aquatic invasive species such as spiny water flea or zebra mussel larvae.
    Watch a clip about duck decoy carving and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

    What is a "migratory game bird?"

    • All wild ducks, geese, and brant. (These also are "migratory waterfowl").
    • Coot, Virginia rails, sora rails, and gallinules.
    • Woodcock and snipe.
      Note: For hunting common crows, some migratory game bird hunting regulations do not apply. Please read the regulations in the Crow Hunting, General Hunting and Small Game Hunting sections.

    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) only if you are hunting waterfowl or woodcock. HIP registration is valid from July 1 - June 30 annually.
    • 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.

More about Waterfowl and Migratory Game Bird Hunting: