Non-toxic Shot Guidelines for Hunting Migratory Game Birds

Overview of Non-toxic Shot

The use of non-toxic shot is mandated for hunting various species of migratory game birds, including waterfowl, mergansers, coots, moorhens, gallinules, snipe, and rails. This regulation aims to reduce environmental hazards and protect wildlife from lead poisoning.

Approved Shot Types

Hunters are required to use specific types of non-toxic shot as approved by the Department. These include materials such as steel, bismuth-tin, and several tungsten-based alloys, among others. The list of permissible shot types encompasses:

  • 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
  • Tungsten-iron-polymer

Prohibition of Lead Shot

It's critical for hunters to understand that lead shot is strictly prohibited when hunting the aforementioned species. Additionally, possessing lead shot in the field during these hunting activities is not permitted. This rule is enforced to prevent lead contamination in environments frequented by migratory game birds.

Shot Size Restrictions

Hunters are advised to use shot sizes no larger than "T" for hunting these species. Selecting the appropriate shot size is essential for ethical hunting practices, ensuring quick and humane kills, and minimizing the risk of environmental contamination.

Understanding Key Hunting Terms and Regulations

Migratory Birds and Their Protection

In the United States, migratory birds are protected under federal law due to international treaties. The list of protected migratory birds is extensive, encompassing nearly all bird species found in the U.S., with a few exceptions like the house sparrow and European starling. These birds are listed in Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Section. 10.13.

Migratory Game Birds

A subset of migratory birds, known as migratory game birds, are legally huntable. This group includes ducks, geese, swans, doves, and several other species. Hunting these birds is regulated by both state and federal laws.

Bag and Possession Limits

  • Daily Bag Limit: This is the maximum number of migratory game birds a person is allowed to hunt in a single day within a specific geographic area.
  • Aggregate Daily Bag Limit: When hunting in multiple areas or for multiple species, this limit applies. It's the total number of birds one can hunt in a day across different areas or species, but it cannot exceed the largest daily bag limit for any single species or area.
  • Possession Limit: This refers to the total number of migratory game birds a person can legally possess when taken in a specific area.
  • Aggregate Possession Limit: Similar to the daily aggregate limit, this is the total number of birds one can possess when hunting in multiple areas or for multiple species.

Personal Abode and Preservation Facilities

  • Personal Abode: Your primary home or residence, not including temporary hunting accommodations.
  • Migratory Bird Preservation Facility: These are facilities or individuals who, for a fee, handle migratory game birds for purposes like cleaning, freezing, or storage. This includes taxidermists and cold-storage facilities.

Agricultural Practices

  • Normal Agricultural Planting and Harvesting: Activities conducted for crop production, adhering to state Extension Specialists' official recommendations. In Virginia, for example, specific guidelines dictate wheat planting dates and methods.
  • Normal Soil Stabilization Practice: Plantings for agricultural soil erosion control, also based on Extension Specialists' recommendations.

Baiting and Its Regulations

  • Baited Area: Any location where bait (like salt or grain) has been used to attract migratory game birds. Such areas remain classified as baited for ten days after bait removal.
  • Baiting: The act of placing bait to attract birds for hunting.
  • Manipulation: This involves altering natural vegetation or agricultural crops but doesn't include the scattering of bait.
  • Natural Vegetation: Refers to non-agricultural plants that grow naturally, excluding planted millet (though natural regrowth in subsequent years is considered natural vegetation).

Essential Safety Measures for Waterfowl Hunting

Preparing for Weather Conditions

Waterfowl hunting, often conducted in cold, wet environments, poses unique challenges and risks. Key safety measures to mitigate these risks include:

  • Wind and Wetness Protection: Utilize waterproof jackets, waders, and boots. A wader belt is crucial to prevent water entry.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Opt for wool or certain fleece materials that retain warmth when wet. Keep additional clothing in a waterproof bag.
  • Headgear: Wear a hat to reduce heat loss from the head.
  • High-Energy Snacks: Carry food bars high in energy and sugar for quick calorie intake.
  • Protection for Extremities: Waterproof gloves and footwear are vital, along with chemical hand and foot warmers.

If you fall into the water, prioritize getting to a warm, dry place immediately to prevent hypothermia.

Duck Boat Safety

Boat preparation and adherence to safety protocols are crucial:

  • Boat Condition and Equipment: Ensure the boat is in good condition, with sufficient fuel, safety gear, working boat lights, and flashlights.
  • Life Jackets: Everyone should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, vest, or flotation coat.
  • Communication Devices: Keep charged cell phones and radios in waterproof bags.
  • Navigation: Use a GPS unit for guidance but do not solely rely on it.

Additional tips include:

  • Weather Check: Always assess the weather conditions before setting out.
  • Route Planning: Prefer routes close to shore and avoid open waters in bad weather.
  • Anchoring: Anchor from the bow, not the stern, to enhance stability.
  • Load Management: Do not overload the boat. Balance the weight of gear, dogs, and people, adhering to the boat's capacity limits.
  • In Case of Capsize: Stay with the boat; it offers visibility and some floatation.
  • Firearm Safety: Unload and securely case firearms during transport.
  • Shooting Precautions: Be cautious when shooting from a boat. Be aware of the position of dogs and hunting partners.

Float Plan

Leaving a float plan with a responsible individual is essential. The plan should include names of all participants, boat type and registration number, hunting location and time, and expected return time.

Wild Advisor Pro


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.