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Migratory Gamebirds

What’s New for 2024–2025

Federal Electronic Duck Stamp “E-Stamp”

Federal duck stamps purchased electronically are now valid for the entirety of the waterfowl hunting season. Possession of a physical federal duck stamp during the waterfowl hunting season is no longer required. The physical federal duck stamp will be sent to the designated mailing address after March 10, 2025.

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 timetable on page 29. 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.

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.

Exceptions

  • 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 GoOutdoorsVirginia.com or call 844-802-4193. If you DO NOT hunt the migratory birds noted above, you DO NOT need to register for HIP.

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. The electronic Federal Duck Stamp is valid through June 30, 2025. Your physical stamp will be sent to your designated mailing address after March 10, 2025. Waterfowl hunters can still purchase their Federal Duck Stamp at some U.S. Post Offices. 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.

Dove

Statewide Dove Hunting Seasons

First Segment

September 2-October 20

Hours

September 2

  • 12:00 noon until sunset.

September 3-October 20

  • One-half hour before sunrise until sunset

Second Segment

November 23-December 1

Third Segment

December 20-January 20

Hours for Second and Third Segments: One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Bag Limit

15 per day, 45 in possession. Composed of mourning doves and white-winged doves, singly or in combination.

Dove Hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)

Dove hunting is permitted within the boundaries of the following wildlife management areas: Amelia, Big Survey, Briery Creek, Cavalier, Chickahominy, Clinch Mountain, Crooked Creek, Dick Cross, Fairystone, Featherfin, Gathright, Goshen, Hardware River, Hidden Valley, Highland, Horsepen, James River, Little North Mountain, Mattaponi, Mattaponi Bluffs, Oakley Forest, Pettigrew, C.F. Phelps, Powhatan, Rapidan, Robert W. Duncan, Stewarts Creek, Thompson, Ware Creek, and White Oak Mountain. Additional information on specific Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) can be found on the DWR website. The Managed Dove Fields section of our website provides a summary of WMAs that have actively managed dove fields for this year.

First Segment

September 2-October 20

Hours:

September 2

  • 12:00 noon until sunset.

September 3-October 20

  • One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
  • Hunting permitted only on Wednesdays,
    Saturdays, and Labor Day.

Second Segment

November 21-December 1

Third Segment

December 20-January 20

Hours for Second and Third Segments: One-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Hunting permitted daily.

Bag Limit

15 per day, 45 in possession. Composed of mourning doves and white-winged doves, singly or in combination.

Rails and Gallinules

Season

September 13-November 3
November 14-December 1

Hours

One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Bag Limit

  • Clapper/King Rails — 15 counted together daily, only one of which may be a king rail. Possession limit 45, only 3 of which can be king rails.
  • Sora/Virginia — 25 counted together daily, 75 in possession.
  • Gallinules (including Common and Purple Gallinule) — 15 per day counted together, 45 in possession.

Attention Rail and Snipe Hunters

Virginia, non-toxic shot is required for hunting rails, gallinules, and snipe, in addition to all waterfowl, mergansers, and coots.

Woodcock

Season

November 11-November 30
December 27- January 20

Hours

One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Bag Limit

3 per day, 9 in possession.

Snipe

Season

September 30 – December 1
December 19 – January 31

Hours

One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Bag Limit

8 per day, 24 in possession.

Attention Rail and Snipe Hunters

In Virginia, non-toxic shot is required for hunting rails, gallinules, and snipe, in addition to all waterfowl, mergansers, and coots.

September Teal

Seasons

  • East of I-95: September 16-30
  • West of I-95: September 21-30

Hours

One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Bag Limit

6 per day, 18 in possession.* (any combination of blue-winged and green-winged teal only)

*Note: Hunters are reminded to positively identify their ducks before shooting, since other species, such as wood ducks, may be in the area.

Special Requirements

In addition to a HIP registration number, a federal migratory duck stamp, and a Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (unless license exempt) are also required to hunt teal during this season.

Mergansers

Seasons

  • October 11-14
  • November 20-December 1
  • December 19-January 31

Bag Limit

5 birds daily, 15 in possession. The restriction on hooded mergansers has been removed. The daily bag limit for mergansers is still 5 total, and can include any combination of hooded, red-breasted and common mergansers.

Ducks

Seasons

  • October 11-14 (Black duck closed)
  • November 20-December 1
  • December 19-January 31
  • October 26 & February 8 – Youth and Veterans Waterfowl Hunting Days

Bag Limit

Daily Bag Limit: 6 ducks of any species except for the following restrictions: can include no more than 4 mallards (only 2 hen mallards), 3 wood ducks, 2 black ducks (except closed Oct. 11-14), scaup: 1/day for 40 days (October 11-14 November 20-December 1, December 19-January 11), and 2/day for 20 days (January 12-31), 2 redheads, 2 canvasback, 1 pintail, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck, 4 total sea ducks (no more than 3 scoters, 3 eiders [only 1 hen], 3 long-tailed ducks).

Hours

One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Closed season on harlequin ducks.

The possession limit is three times the daily bag limit. No person may take more than one daily bag limit in any one day.

Change in Area Where Crippled Waterfowl Can Be Pursued While Under Power

There is no longer a Special Sea Duck Season, and the former “Special Sea Duck Season Zone” has been changed this year. We have renamed this zone as the new “Special Sea Duck Area,” and have changed the boundaries to eliminate the 800-yard buffer area that was in the previous zone. The boundary of this new Special Sea Duck Area is defined as “The ocean waters of Virginia, the tidal waters of Northampton and Accomack counties up to the first highway bridge, and the Chesapeake Bay and each of its tributaries up to the first highway bridge. Back Bay and its tributaries are not included in the special sea duck hunting area.” This change allows hunters to pursue any crippled waterfowl species, not just sea ducks, while under power in this new Special Sea Duck Area. This change has been made as a conservation measure to help recover any crippled waterfowl, and to better clarify where retrieving crippled waterfowl under power is legal.

Coots

Seasons

  • October 11-14
  • November 20-December 1
  • December 19-January 31

Bag Limit

15 per day, 45 in possession

Canada Goose

(Includes White-fronted Geese)

Atlantic Population Zone (AP) Seasons

  • December 19-January 1
  • January 16-31

Bag Limit

2 geese per day (6 in possession).

Resident Population Zone (RP) Seasons

  • November 20-December 1
  • December 19 – February 23

Bag Limit

5 geese per day (15 in possession).

Shooting Hours – All Zones

One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Note: All seasons also include White-fronted geese along with Canada geese.

Canada Goose Zones

NOTE: The Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP) has been eliminated, leaving only two Canada Goose hunt zones in Virginia. The northern portion of the former SJBP zone (north of I-64) is now included in the Atlantic Population Zone, and the southern portion of the former SJBP Zone (south of I-64) is included in the Resident Population Zone. Therefore, the hunting regulations for these former SJBP areas have changed, so be sure to check the current regulations in the area you are hunting.

Atlantic Population (AP) Hunt Zone

The area east of the “Blue Ridge” (Loudoun County-Clarke County border) at the West Virginia-Virginia border, south to Interstate 64 (the Blue Ridge line follows county borders along the western edge of Loudoun-Fauquier-Rappahannock-Madison-Greene-Albemarle and into Nelson counties), then east along Interstate Rt. 64 to Interstate 95 in Richmond, then south along I-95 to Route 460 in Petersburg, then southeast along Route 460 to Route 32 in the City of Suffolk, then south to the North Carolina border.

Resident Populations (RP) Hunt Zone

The portion of the state west of the above AP Zone boundary.

A map of Virginia depicting the counties included in various goose hunting zones. See text for explanation.

September Canada Goose

Season

September 1-25

Hunt Zone

Statewide

Hours: East of I-95

September 1-15

  • One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

September 16-25

  • One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Hours: West of I-95

September 1-20

  • One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

September 21-25

One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Bag Limit

10 per day, 30 in possession.

September Canada goose hunting is not permitted within the boundaries of the Amelia and Dick Cross Wildlife Management Areas.

Special Requirements

In addition to a HIP registration number, a federal migratory duck stamp, and a Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (unless license exempt) are also required to hunt geese during this season.

Light Goose (Greater and Lesser Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese)

Regular Season

October 17-January 31: statewide

Bag Limit

25 per day, no possession limit.

Shooting Hours

One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Light Goose Conservation Order

(Conservation Order Zone – see hunt zone in boundry below)

Bag Limit

No daily or possession limit.

Special Hunting Methods

Electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, and extended shooting hours are allowed.

Shooting Hours

One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Registration Required

All hunters who plan to participate in the Light Goose Conservation Order must register either online or by phone (866-721-6911), and obtain a Hunter Activity Report prior to hunting. The Hunter Activity Report must be submitted to the Department within two weeks following the close of the season, either through the agency website (above) or by mail (Light Goose Conservation Order, 3801 John Tyler Memorial Highway, Charles City, VA 23030). Registration will begin December 4, 2023.

Conservation Order Zone

NOTE: Same as the new AP Canada Goose Zone identified in blue on the map below — the area east of the “Blue Ridge” (Loudoun County-Clarke County border) at the West Virginia-Virginia border, south to Interstate 64 (the Blue Ridge line follows county borders along the western edge of Loudoun-Fauquier-Rappahannock-Madison-Greene-Albemarle and into Nelson counties), then east along Interstate Rt. 64 to Interstate 95 in Richmond, then south along I-95 to Route 460 in Petersburg, then southeast along Route 460 to Route 32 in the City of Suffolk, then south to the North Carolina border.

A map of Virginia depicting the counties included in various goose hunting zones. See text for explanation.

Atlantic Brant

Seasons

  • December 23-31
  • January 11-31

Bag Limit

1 per day, 3 in possession

Tundra Swan

Seasons

November 15-January 31

Bag Limit

1 per permittee per season.

Tundra Swan Hunt Area

Hunting will be permitted in all counties and portions of counties lying east of I-95 and south of the Prince William/Stafford County line in Chopawamsic Creek at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Tundra Swan Permit

Before any person may hunt tundra swans in Virginia, he or she must first apply for and receive a tundra swan hunt permit. Permits are issued through a special drawing. The deadline to submit applications for this drawing is September 27, 2024. The Department will issue no more than 532 swan hunting permits. The drawing is open only to holders of a valid Virginia hunting license. A hunter may only apply for a swan permit online through the Department’s website. Swan hunting permits are non-transferable and are valid for use only by the person to whom issued. Permits must be in the immediate possession of the permit holder while swan hunting. Immediately at the time and place of kill successful permittees must cancel their swan hunting permit by permanently recording the month and day of kill and by attaching the permit to the swan as instructed. The DWR is required to obtain hunter participation and harvest information to offer this tundra swan hunting season. Hunters are required to complete the tundra swan hunt questionnaire (survey) and submit their results to the Department by February 15, 2025. Those who fail to submit their results are ineligible for future drawings.

Waterfowl Hunting On Wildlife Management Areas

For information about quota or managed hunts for waterfowl and dove on Department WMAs, see the Managed Hunts and Quota Hunts sections of this website.

Waterfowl hunting on the James River WMA is permitted only on the opening day, Wednesdays, and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons.

Waterfowl hunting on the Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area is permitted only on October 11–14, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons.

Game Farm Marsh WMA is open for hunting on Friday, Saturday, and Monday of the October segment of the duck season (Oct. 11, 12, and 14), and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays during the November (Nov. 20-Dec. 1), and December–January (Dec. 19–Jan. 31) segments of the duck season. Hunters may not occupy the area before 5:00 a.m. and must vacate the area by 1:00 p.m. Hunting on Friday and Saturday of the October segment (Oct. 11 and 12) and on the opening day of the November segment (Nov. 20) and the December–January segment (Dec. 19) will be by Quota hunt only—see page 20. Outside of the duck season segments listed above, waterfowl hunting on Game Farm Marsh is open with no restrictions on hunt days, times, or hunter numbers.

Waterfowl hunting on and within 500 yards of the Ware Creek WMA is permitted (except portions of Philbates Creek) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons. Hunters may not occupy their hunting location until 5 a.m. and hunting must end by 1 p.m.

Waterfowl hunting at Doe Creek WMA is open to walk-in hunting on Saturdays only for half days during the last two segments of the general waterfowl season. Hunters may hunt until 1:00 p.m. and must have all decoys up and be away from the impoundments by 2:00 p.m. The area is open on Sundays for scouting and wildlife viewing.

Waterfowl hunting on the Robert W. Duncan WMA is permitted only on October 11–14 and on Thursdays and Sundays of the duck and goose seasons.

Waterfowl hunting on Mattaponi Bluffs WMA is permitted only on October 11–14, and at any time during the multi-species quota hunt period by the selected individuals and guests, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays after the quota hunt period (January 6–February 8, 2025).

For information about waterfowl hunting on other WMAs see the WMA section of this website.

Youth & Veterans Waterfowl Hunting Days

October 26, 2024 and February 8, 2025

Statewide. Open to Youth 15 years of age and under, Military Veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code) and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training). Participants may harvest the allowed daily bag limit of ducks (see pg. 13), and other waterfowl, including Atlantic brant, coots, mergansers, gallinules, moorhens, light geese, 2 Canada geese in the Atlantic Population Zone and 5 Canada geese in the Resident Population Zone, and 1 tundra swan (if in possession of a tundra swan permit) on the designated days. Resident youth aged 12-15, nonresident youth age 15 or under, and Veterans need a valid Virginia hunting license, unless license exempt. All hunters participating must be Virginia HIP registered. All youth must be accompanied and directly supervised by an adult at least 18 years of age or older who has a valid Virginia hunting license (unless license exempt). The accompanying adult cannot hunt ducks (unless they are a Veteran), but may hunt for those species for which there is an open season.

What Terms Do I Need to Understand?

Migratory birds are birds protected by federal law as a result of treaties signed with other countries. Protected migratory birds are listed in Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Section. 10.13. This list includes almost all birds found in the United States with the exception of the house sparrow, feral pigeon (commonly called rock dove), European starling, Eurasian collared-dove, mute swan, and upland game birds (which are protected by state laws). All migratory birds are protected. However, a subset of migratory birds classified as migratory game birds may be hunted in accordance with state and federal regulations. The list of migratory game birds includes species of ducks, geese (including brant), swans, mergansers, doves, rails, coots, gallinules and moorhens, woodcock, and snipe.

Daily bag limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination (aggregate) of species permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season in any one specified geographic area for which a daily bag limit is prescribed.

Aggregate daily bag limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season when such person hunts in more than one specified geographic area and/or for more than one species for which a combined daily bag limit is prescribed. The aggregate daily bag limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest daily bag limit prescribed for any one species or for any one specified geographic area in which taking occurs.

Possession limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or a combination of species permitted to be possessed by any one person when lawfully taken in the United States in any one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed.

Aggregate possession limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination of species taken in the United States permitted to be possessed by any one person when taking and possession occurs in more than one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed. The aggregate possession limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest possession limit prescribed for any one of the species or specified geographic areas in which taking and possession occurs.

Personal abode means one’s principal or ordinary home or dwelling place, as distinguished from one’s temporary or transient place of abode or dwelling such as a hunting club, or any club house, cabin, tent or trailer house used as a hunting club, or any hotel, motel, or rooming house used during a hunting, pleasure, or business trip.

Migratory bird preservation facility means:

  1. Any person who, at their residence or place of business and for hire or other consideration; or
  2. Any taxidermist, cold-storage facility or locker plant which, for hire or other consideration; or
  3. Any hunting club which, in the normal course of operations, receives, possesses, or has in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person for purposes of picking, cleaning, freezing, processing, storage, or shipment.

Normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation means a planting or harvesting undertaken for the purpose of producing and gathering a crop, or manipulation after such harvest and removal of grain. In Virginia, this also applies to food plots that are planted for the purpose of hunting migratory game birds. Relevant factors include recommended planting dates, proper seed distribution, seed bed preparation, application rate, and seed viability. These practices are to be conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For official recommendations, visit the Extension Service’s website.

  • Official recommendations state the guidelines for planting wheat in Virginia are one week before to one week after the first killing frost, October 15-November 15 in eastern Virginia; October 1-November 1 in the Piedmont; October 1-October 25 west of the Blue Ridge. Plant 120-150 lbs. per acre (36 seeds per sq. ft. or 20 seeds per drill ft. in 7″ rows). Plant in 6-8″ rows or solid seeded.
  • Wheat planted or scattered outside of these guidelines does not satisfy the definition of normal agricultural planting. Therefore, it is unlawful to hunt migratory game birds over such areas.

Normal agricultural operation means a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or agricultural practice that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of state Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Normal soil stabilization practice means a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation conducted in accordance with official recommendations of state Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for agricultural soil erosion control.

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.

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.

Manipulation means the alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities that include but are not limited to mowing, shredding, dicing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. The term manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of grain, seed, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown

Natural vegetation means any non-agricultural, native, or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules. The term natural vegetation does not include planted millet. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years after the year of planting is considered natural vegetation.

Waterfowl Hunting Safety Tips

Cold water combined with foul weather can create hazardous conditions for waterfowl hunters. Because these conditions can be dangerous, some safety tips are provided (below) so hunters can be better prepared before heading out on the water.

Weather

To stay warm and avoid the risks of hypothermia or cold water immersion:

  • Control wind and wetness by using waterproof jackets, waders, and boots.
  • Wear a belt around your waders to prevent water from entering.
  • Wear wool clothing or clothing that stays warm when wet, like some fleece products. Bring extras in a waterproof bag.
  • Wear a hat. Most warmth escapes through your head.
  • Bring a variety of high energy/sugar content food bars for quick energy and calories.
  • Your extremities are very important. It’s no fun to hunt with cold feet, hands, or head. Bring waterproof gloves and footwear, and chemical hand and foot warmers that you can put inside your gloves or boots.
  • If you fall in — go home! Or, take a break and change into warm, dry clothes.

Duck Boat Safety

When planning a hunt, check to be sure the boat is in good working condition and includes enough gas for the trip, all necessary safety gear, and boat lights and flashlights in good working order. Hunters must follow all boating rules, and everyone on board should wear a properly fitted U.S.C.G. approved life jacket, vest, or flotation coat anytime while on the water. Cell phones and radios are important communication devices and should be properly charged and kept in a waterproof bag. A GPS unit is helpful in finding your way but don’t depend solely on it as a means of navigation, as reception varies and units can fail.

  • Check the weather before leaving.
  • Choose a route close to shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
  • Anchor from the bow, never from the stern.
  • Don’t overload your boat. Check the capacity plate and keep the amount of gear, dogs, and people within your weight limits. Also, be sure the load is properly balanced and try to keep movements and weight shifts (dogs and people) to a minimum. Overloading, sudden shifts in weight, or excessive weather conditions are the most common causes of boats capsizing or swamping.
  • If your boat does capsize or swamp, stay with it. Even when filled with water it will provide some floatation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.
  • Firearms should be unloaded and properly secured in a case while being transported in a boat. Floating gun cases earn their keep if one happens to go overboard.
  • Be extra careful when shooting from a boat. Small boats often have little room to swing a shotgun, so be aware of where dogs and other partners are, and only shoot when all is clear. Never stand in an unsecured boat to shoot.
  • Leave a float plan with a responsible person that includes the names of all persons in your party, type and registration number of your boat, time and location of your hunt, and when you expect to return.

Waterfowl hunting can be safer and more enjoyable if you plan ahead and make safe practices part of your water-based hunt. Safety is always the first and most important measure of a successful hunt.

Duck boat safety tips contributed by the Virginia Waterfowlers Association.

Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting

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. See page 17 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 on the USFWS website.

It is Unlawful to Take Migratory Game Birds:

  • With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, 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. This restriction does not apply to crows and
    during dates states have selected under the Light Goose Conservation Order (i.e., greater and lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese);
  • 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 therefrom has ceased;
  • 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. This restriction does not apply to crows or during dates states have selected under the Light Goose Conservation
    Order (i.e., greater and lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese);
  • 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;
  • 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

Sunday Hunting

Hunting is allowed on Sundays except under the following circumstances:

  1. within 200 yards of a house of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
  2. to hunt or kill any deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the aid or assistance of dogs.

Note: The General Assembly passed a new law that now allows Sunday hunting on public land for all game species. Many public landowners are taking advantage of this new hunting opportunity and opening their public lands for hunting on Sundays. For details on how public landowners will implement Sunday hunting on their lands please contact the public landowner or visit the DWR website.

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.

Non-toxic Shot

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 the USFWS website’s information on non-toxic shot.

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.

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.

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 the Refuges section of the USFWS website.

Waterfowl Blind Laws