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Kentucky Waterfowl Hunting Laws and Regulations

Boatwright WMA Waterfowl Hunts Update

Drawing Process Revision

Beginning with the 2023-24 hunting season, changes in the hunting procedure for Boatwright WMA regular waterfowl season hunts are in effect. To secure participation, hunters must now either be drawn through the Boatwright Online Quota Hunt App or assigned through in-person standby drawings.

Location Flexibility for Hunters

Abolishment of Blind Restriction

Unlike previous seasons, the stringent requirement of hunting from a blind has been eliminated. Hunters now have the liberty to choose their preferred hunting location within the designated hunt unit for the day. This significant alteration enhances the overall hunting experience, offering participants greater flexibility and variety.

Boat-Based Hunting Advantages

Expanded Opportunities

Boat hunters who successfully secure a draw enjoy expanded privileges. They can now engage in waterfowl hunting from their boats at any time during the designated season, irrespective of flood conditions. This modification is a deliberate effort to optimize the hunting opportunities for those utilizing boats as part of their waterfowl hunting strategy.

Information Resources

For a comprehensive understanding of the revised regulations, hunters are strongly encouraged to explore the Waterfowl Quota Hunt page. Additionally, the Boatwright WMA Waterfowl Hunting Fact Sheet and Rules provide detailed insights into the specific requirements and nuances of the updated regulations. Hunters are advised to review these resources thoroughly to ensure they are well-informed before embarking on their waterfowl hunts.

Daily Bag and Possession Limit Definitions

Daily Bag Limit

The Daily Bag Limit refers to the maximum number of a particular migratory game bird species that a hunter can legally take within one calendar day during the established legal shooting hours. This limit applies regardless of state boundaries, providing a clear and standardized guideline for hunters participating in migratory game bird hunting.

Possession Limit

The Possession Limit denotes the maximum number of a specific migratory game bird species that a hunter is allowed to have in their possession at any given time. This includes birds carried on the person or stored in other locations, such as the hunter's home or with a taxidermist. It serves as a regulatory measure to ensure responsible and sustainable hunting practices.

Cross-Boundary Consideration

Impact of Birds Shot in Another State

An essential point to note is that migratory birds shot in another state contribute to a hunter's cumulative daily and possession limits. This cross-boundary consideration emphasizes the interconnected nature of migratory bird populations and the necessity for hunters to be mindful of their activities, even when hunting in different states.

Waterfowl Hunting Season Dates and Limits

Waterfowl Regulations Overview

In the pursuit of waterfowl, hunters must adhere to specified season dates, as well as daily and possession limits. Seasonal segments and restrictions vary based on species and geographical zones. Herein, a detailed guide for the upcoming season dates and limits for various waterfowl species is outlined.

Early Teal & Wood Duck Hunting

  • Season: September 16 - 20, 2023
  • Daily Limit: Maximum of 6, with no more than 2 being wood ducks.
  • Possession Limit: Up to 18, but no more than 6 as wood ducks.

Teal-Only Hunting

  • Season: September 16 - 24, 2023
  • Daily and Possession Limits: Both set at 6 and 18 respectively.

September Canada Goose (Western & Eastern Zone)

  • Western Zone Season: September 1 - 15, 2023
  • Eastern Zone Season: September 16 - 30, 2023
  • Daily Limit for Both Zones: 5 Canada Geese.
  • Possession Limit for Both Zones: 15.

Regular Duck Hunting

  • Season: November 23 - 26, 2023; December 7, 2023 - January 31, 2024
  • Daily Limit: 6 ducks total with species-specific restrictions.
  • Possession Limit: Triple the daily bag limit.

Coot and Merganser Hunting

  • Daily Limit for Coot: 15.
  • Daily Limit for Merganser: 5, only 2 may be hooded mergansers.
  • Possession Limit for Both: Triple the daily bag limit.

Goose Hunting with Specifics

  • Season: November 23, 2023 - February 15, 2024
  • Daily Limit: 5 combined (including 3 Canada geese, 2 white-fronted geese, and 1 brant).
  • Possession Limit: Triple the daily bag limit.

Snow Goose Hunting

  • Daily Limit: 20.
  • Possession Limit: None.

Light Goose Conservation Order

  • Season: February 16 - March 31, 2024.
  • Permit: Mandatory Free, obtain via Snow Geese Conservation Order Permit or call 1-800-858-1559.
  • Reporting: Must complete the Snow Geese Conservation Order Survey by April 10, 2023.

Youth-Only and Military/Veteran-Only Waterfowl Hunting

  • Youth-Only Dates: November 18, 2023, and February 10, 2024.
  • Military/Veteran-Only Dates: November 19, 2023, and February 11, 2024.
  • Limits: Align with regular seasons.

Falconry Seasons and Limits

  • Ducks, Coots & Mergansers Season: November 23, 2023 - February 25, 2024.
  • Geese Falconry Season: Conforms with standard regulations.
  • Daily Limit: 3.
  • Possession Limit: 9.

Sandhill Crane Hunting

  • Season: December 7, 2023 - January 31, 2024.
  • Daily Limit: 1 crane if holding one tag; 2 cranes per permit holders with 2 or more tags.
  • Possession Limit: 3.
  • Permit Application: Via quota draw in September, with tags provided.
  • Proof of Permit: Hunters must display printed or electronic proof of valid crane hunting permit.

Additional Notes

  • Blind Restrictions: Not applicable to Snow Goose Conservation Order season or falconers during non-waterfowl seasons.
  • Sandhill Crane App: Hunters must have the online sandhill crane app for electronic proof and tags.

Youth and Military Waterfowl Hunting Days

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Eligibility and Dates

Youth hunters across the state are given special days for waterfowl hunting. The eligible participants must be below the age of 16 as of the designated hunt dates:

  • Youth Hunting Dates: November 18, 2023, and February 10, 2024.

Military Waterfowl Hunting Participation and Dates

These hunts are reserved for those serving as active duty military personnel and for honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Specifically, National Guard members and reservists qualify only when they are on active duty status:

  • Military Hunting Dates: November 19, 2023, and February 11, 2024, statewide.

Licensing and Federal Regulations

All participants in Youth and Military Waterfowl Hunting Days must hold the appropriate hunting license and permits, which must include a federal duck stamp. Compliance with federal regulations is mandatory for all hunters looking to take part in these special hunting dates.

SNOW GOOSE CONSERVATION ORDER

The Snow Goose Conservation Order allows hunters to harvest Snow and Ross’s geese without daily bag and possession limits, and beyond the regular snow goose season. All other waterfowl species are closed to hunting during this special season. Hunters must obtain a free Snow Goose Conservation Order Permit prior to hunting. Hunters may also use electronic calls, use shotguns capable of holding more than three shells, and hunt one-half hour past sunset. All hunters who obtain the free Snow Goose Conservation Order Permit must submit a Snow Goose Conservation Order Permit Survey to the department by April 10, or forfeit the ability to participate the following year. Not all public lands are open for this opportunity. See the Waterfowl Public Lands Hunting page for specific area regulations.

SHOT SIZE, TYPE, SHOTSHELL LENGTH RESTRICTIONS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service- approved nontoxic shot no larger than size “T” is required for all waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting. Shot larger than size “T”, or shotshells longer than 3.5 inches, MAY NOT BE POSSESSED OR USED while hunting waterfowl or sandhill cranes.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may approve other types of nontoxic shot which, if approved, will be permitted for waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting. Possession or use of any lead shot or any shot not approved by USFWS while hunting or attempting to take waterfowl or sandhill cranes is prohibited statewide. Check the USFWS's Approved Shot Types​ for more information. 

REPORTING BIRD BANDS

To report bird bands, visit www.reportband.gov. Many existing bands list a toll-free number that can no longer be used for reporting.  Consequently, hunters may now only report bands online.

Banding plays a critical role in the management of migratory bird species. The data you provide by reporting bands gives wildlife biologists information on harvest rates and movements of migratory game birds. Please report the bands you recover.

BALLARD ZONE BOUNDARY

Starting at the northwest city limits of Wickliffe in Ballard County to the middle of the Mississippi River, then north along the Mississippi to the low water mark of the Ohio River along the Illinois shore to the Ballard-McCracken County line; then along the county line south to KY 358, then south along KY 358 to its junction with U.S. 60 at LaCenter; then following U.S. 60 southwest to the northeast city limits of Wickliffe.

All constructed or used blinds (including boats) must be at least 100 yards apart and at least 50 yards from any property line. A waterfowl hunter shall not possess more than one shotgun while in the blind.

SEPTEMBER GOOSE HUNTING ZONES

Kentucky Waterfowl Hunting Laws and Regulations

​There are two hunting zones in Kentucky for Canada Geese.

The Western Canada Goose Zone will be Sept. 1 until Sept. 15, for fifteen (15) consecutive days. The Western zone will include all counties west of and including Hardin, Nelson, Washington, Marion, Taylor, Adair and Cumberland counties.

The Eastern Canada Goose Zone hunting season will begin Sept. 16 until Sept. 30, for fifteen (15) consecutive days. The Eastern zone will include Bullit County and all other Counties not included in the Western Goose Zone.

Kentucky Waterfowl Hunting Licenses and Permits

Licensing for Kentucky Residents

Kentucky residents who hunt waterfowl must have the appropriate licenses and permits based on their age and status.

Youth Hunters (Ages 12-15)

  • License Needed: Youth Hunting License (included in Youth Sportsman's License).

Adult Hunters (Ages 16-64)

  • Basic Requirement: An Annual or 1-Day Hunting License is needed.
  • Additional Permits: Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit and Federal Duck Stamp are required (both included in Resident Sportsman's License).

Senior or Disabled Hunters (Ages 65+ or with Disabilities)

  • License Needed: Senior/Disabled License.
  • Federal Requirement: Federal Duck Stamp is mandatory.

Licensing for Nonresidents

Nonresidents must purchase specific nonresident licenses and permits to hunt waterfowl in Kentucky.

Nonresident Youth Hunters (Ages 12-15)

  • License Needed: Youth Hunting License.

Nonresident Adult Hunters (Ages 16-64)

  • License Options: Annual, 1-Day, or 7-Day Nonresident Hunting License.
  • Additional Permits: Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit along with a Federal Duck Stamp.

Nonresident Senior or Disabled Hunters (Ages 65+ or with Disabilities)

  • License Options: Nonresidents of senior age or with disabilities need an Annual, 1-Day, or 7-Day Hunting License.
  • Additional Permits: This is coupled with a mandatory Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit and a Federal Duck Stamp.

Mandatory Survey for Migratory Bird Hunters

All migratory bird hunters aged 16 and over are required to participate in the Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey as part of their licensing and permitting regimen.

HUNTING LICENSE

Unless license-exempt under KRS 150.170, all hunters must possess a valid Kentucky hunting license when waterfowl hunting. Persons using a license authorization number in lieu of a paper license must have the authorization number and a picture ID with them while hunting. All Kentucky residents 65 years of age and older and Kentucky residents who are certified totally and permanently disabled by the Federal Social Security Administration, by a state Workers Compensation Board, by the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System, by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, by the United States Railroad Retirement Board, or Kentucky resident veterans who have a permanent 50 percent disability as the result of military-related injuries are required to purchase the Senior/Disabled combination hunting and fishing license ($12) and carry it while hunting or fishing. This license includes all the following state permits: deer, turkey, migratory bird, waterfowl and trout.) and carry it while hunting or fishing. This license includes all the following state permits: deer, turkey, migratory bird, waterfowl and trout.

 

KENTUCKY MIGRATORY BIRD/WATERFOWL PERMIT

Any person required to possess a hunting license, except children under the age of 16, taking or attempting to take waterfowl must possess a Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit. (This permit is included with the Senior/Disabled and Sportsman’s License). The waterfowl permit covers all species of migratory birds. Those who buy a Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl  Permit, senior/disabled license, or Sportsman's license MUST COMPLETE a Harvest Information Program Survey (HIP) by going online here before they are legal waterfowl hunters. This takes you to a page that asks for some basic information to confirm your identity. Then, click on the “HIP Migratory Bird Survey” on the right of the page. After completing the HIP survey, you receive a confirmation number that must be written on your hunting license or Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit.  Hunters may call 1-800-858-1549 for questions.

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Harvest Information Program (HIP) Requirement


Before hunting doves, ducks or any other migratory birds, hunters must now go online to My Profile and fill out the Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey to be legal to hunt.

 

FEDERAL DUCK STAMP

In addition to the Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit requirement listed above, all persons age 16 or older must carry a valid federal migratory bird hunting stamp (commonly called duck stamp) to hunt waterfowl. Hunters younger than 16 must possess a youth hunting license but the Federal Duck Stamp and Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit are not required. The federal stamp must be validated by the hunter’s signature written across the face of the stamp in ink.

Electronic duck stamps may now be purchased from many state license vendors. When you buy an E-Stamp, you will receive an E-Stamp certificate. This certificate is unique to the purchaser and is valid as a Federal Duck Stamp across the nation for up to 45 days from the date of purchase. Within that time, a physical Duck Stamp will be mailed to you. Your E-stamp certificate may be printed out or downloaded onto your mobile device and must be carried on your person while hunting waterfowl.

As soon as you receive your physical stamp, you must sign it and use it for hunting. Your E-Stamp certification is no longer valid once you receive your physical stamp. Regardless of whether you received your physical stamp, the E-Stamp certificate is no longer valid after 45 days from the date of purchase. You must carry your current, signed Federal Duck Stamp while hunting.

 


HUNTER EDUCATION

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

All hunters born on or after January 1, 1975, must carry a valid hunter education course completion card while hunting, in addition to the appropriate Kentucky hunting license, federal duck stamp and Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl Permit. Hunters not required to have a hunting license are not required to possess the hunter education card. Hunters under the age of 12 may hunt without a course completion card, but must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age who remains in a position to take immediate control of the child’s firearm.

Temporary Exemption

A one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit is available online. This free (for a limited time) permit allows hunting without a hunter education card for one year from the date of purchase. After it expires, the hunter is no longer exempt and must complete a hunter education course.

 


FEDERAL REGULATIONS

In addition to the state regulations, the following federal laws apply to the taking, possession, shipping, transporting and storing of migratory game birds.

Note: The material below is only a summary. Each hunter should also consult the actual federal regulations, which may be found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20 - Migratory Bird Hunting.

RESTRICTIONS

More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges open to public hunting. For more information on Federal Regulations, consult Assistant Regional Director - LE, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 4839, Atlanta, Georgia, 30302-4839; or call (404) 331-5872.

No person shall take migratory game birds:

  • With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than a 10 gauge, punt gun​,  battery gun, machine gun, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance;
  • With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shotshells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler which is incapable of removal without disassembling the gun;
  • From a sink box (a low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water);
  • From or with the aid or use of a car or other motor-driven land conveyance, or any aircraft, except that paraplegics and single or double amputees of the legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance. “Paraplegic” means an individual afflicted with paralysis of the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs, usually due to disease of or injury to the spinal cord;
  • From or by means of any motor boat or sail boat unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sail furled, and its progress therefrom has ceased;
  • By the use or aid of live decoys. All live, tame or captive ducks and geese shall be removed for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to hunting, and confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such tame birds from the sight of migratory waterfowl;
  • Using records or tapes of migratory bird calls, or sounds, or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls (except electronic calls may be used during the Snow Goose Conservation Order);
  • By driving, rallying or stirring birds with any motor-driven land, water or air conveyance or any sail boat to put them in the range of the hunters; or
  • By the aid of baiting (placing feed such as corn, wheat, salt or other feed to constitute a lure or enticement), or on or over any baited area. Hunters should be aware that a baited area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait.
  • Areas manipulated for dove hunting are not legal for waterfowl hunting.
  • Over areas where farmers feed livestock or areas where grain is stored, such as grain bins and elevators.
CLOSED SEASON
​No person shall take migratory game birds during the closed season.
SHOOTING HOURS
No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting as prescribed.
DAILY BAG LIMIT
No person shall take in any one day more than one daily bag limit.
FIELD POSSESSION LIMIT
No person shall possess more than one daily bag limit while in the field or while returning from the field to one’s car, hunting camp, home, etc.
WANTON WASTE
All migratory game birds shall be retrieved, if possible, and retained in the custody of the hunter in the field.
TAGGING
No person shall put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the following information: a) the hunter’s signature; b) the hunter’s address; c) the total number of birds involved, by species; d) the dates such birds were killed.
Tagging is required if the birds are being transported by another person for the hunter or if the birds have been left for cleaning, storage (including temporary storage), shipment or taxidermy services.
POSSESSION OF LIVE BIRDS
Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.
DRESSING
No person shall completely field dress any migratory game bird (except doves and pigeons) and then transport the birds from the field. The head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached to all such birds while being transported from the field to one’s home or to a migratory bird preservation facility.
SHIPMENT
No person shall ship migratory game birds unless the package is marked on the outside with:  a) the name and the address of the person sending the birds; b) the name and the address of the person to whom the birds are being sent; and the number of birds, by species, contained in the package.
IMPORTATION
For information regarding the importation of migratory birds killed in another country, hunters should consult 50 CFR 20.61 through 20.66. One fully feathered wing must remain attached to all migratory game birds being transported between the port of entry and one’s home or to a migratory bird preservation facility. No person shall import migratory game birds ​​​killed in any foreign country, except Canada, unless such birds are dressed (except as required in 20.63), drawn, and the head and feet are removed. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another person.
DUAL VIOLATION
Violating state migratory game bird regulations is also a violation of federal regulations.​

 

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.