Federal Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations


Federal regulations, supplementing state rules, govern the taking, possession, shipping, transporting, and storing of migratory game birds. These are summarized below, but hunters should refer to Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20 for complete details.

Restrictions on Hunting Migratory Game Birds

  1. Shotgun Limitations: Use of shotguns capable of holding more than three shells is prohibited unless they are modified with a one-piece filler, which cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.

  2. Vehicle and Aircraft Restrictions: Hunting from or with the aid of cars, other motor-driven vehicles, or aircraft is forbidden. Exceptions are made for paraplegics and single or double amputees of the legs, who may hunt from stationary motor vehicles. Paraplegic refers to individuals with paralysis of the lower half of the body involving both legs, typically due to spinal cord injury or disease.

  3. Boat Regulations: Hunting from motor or sail boats is only permissible if the motor is completely shut off and/or the sail is furled, and the boat's progress has ceased.

  4. Use of Live Decoys: Employing live decoys is illegal. All live, tame, or captive ducks and geese must be removed 10 consecutive days prior to hunting and kept in an enclosure that significantly reduces the audibility of their calls and completely hides them from wild waterfowl.

  5. Electronic Calls and Recordings: Using recordings or electronically amplified imitations of migratory bird sounds for hunting is not allowed.

  6. Chasing Birds: It's illegal to drive, rally, or chase birds with any motorized vehicle or sailboat to bring them within hunting range.

  7. Baiting Regulations: Baiting, which includes placing food like corn, wheat, salt, or other feed as a lure, is prohibited. An area is considered baited for 10 days following the removal of the bait. Hunters can be in violation even without knowledge of the area being baited.

Closed Season

  • Prohibition: Hunting migratory game birds is strictly forbidden during the closed season.

Shooting or Falconry Hours

  • Restrictions: Migratory game birds may only be taken during designated shooting and falconry hours.

Daily Bag Limit

  • Limitation: Hunters are restricted to no more than one daily bag limit of migratory game birds per day.

Field Possession Limit

  • Possession in Field: A hunter cannot possess more than one daily bag limit of migratory game birds while in the field or returning to their vehicle, camp, home, etc.

Wanton Waste

  • Retrieval and Retention: Hunters must make a reasonable effort to retrieve all killed or crippled migratory game birds and retain them while in the field.

Tagging Requirement

  • Tagging Protocols: Any migratory game birds left in another's custody must be tagged by the hunter with their signature, address, number of birds by species, and dates of kill. This also applies to businesses or persons receiving such birds.

Possession of Live Birds

  • Handling Wounded Birds: Any wounded bird that is captured must be immediately killed and counted towards the daily bag limit.

Dual Violation

  • State and Federal Violations: Violating state migratory bird regulations also constitutes a federal offense.

Field Dressing

  • Transporting Birds: Migratory game birds (except doves and band-tailed pigeons) must not be completely field dressed in the field. The head or a fully feathered wing must remain attached during transport.

Shipment of Game Birds

  • Shipment Requirements: When shipping migratory game birds, the package must clearly display the sender’s and recipient's name and address, and the number and species of birds.


  • Importation Rules: For importing migratory birds killed abroad, consult 50 CFR 20.61-20.66. One fully feathered wing must remain attached during transport. Birds killed outside Canada must be dressed, drawn, with head and feet removed, except as specified. Importing birds for another person is prohibited.

Federal Duck Stamp

  • Stamp Requirement: Waterfowl hunters aged 16 and over must carry a signed Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp).

Caution for National Wildlife Refuges

  • Additional Restrictions: National Wildlife Refuges may have more restrictive regulations. For further information on federal regulations, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Nashville, TN.
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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.