State Regulations

  1. All licensed hunters (including lifetime and senior citizens) must possess a valid Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration card to hunt any migratory game birds.
  2. Youth waterfowl hunting season is open to youth ages 15 and younger for taking ducks, geese, coots, gallinules and mergansers. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a licensed adult age 18 or older. The accompanying adult may not hunt or possess a firearm.
  3. It is lawful to hunt waterfowl on major waterways, lakes and reservoirs of the state during the gun season for deer, should the waterfowl season be open.
  4. Only nontoxic shot size T or smaller approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may be used or be in the hunter’s possession while hunting waterfowl.

Hunting Regulations: Shooting Hours and Specific Areas

Shooting Hours for Various Game

  • Dove: Shooting hours start from noon to sunset on the opening day of the first segment. For the rest of the season, it is from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
  • Rails, Snipe, Woodcock, and Waterfowl: The permitted shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

South Branch Wildlife Management Area

  • Controlled Dove Hunting: Hunting is restricted to state-controlled hunting posts, accessible only by permit during specific periods. This controlled area is clearly marked by signs and includes designated hunting posts.
  • Shooting Hours: Follows the statewide shooting hours for mourning doves.
  • Permit Application: Interested hunters should apply via

Sunday Hunting

  • Waterfowl Hunting on Sundays: Permitted on both private and public lands. This includes state or federal lands controlled by the West Virginia DNR for wildlife management purposes and all waterways.

National Wildlife Refuges

  • Rules and Regulations: Specific guidelines for hunting on National Wildlife Refuges can be obtained directly from the refuges.
  • Ohio River Islands NWR: Located at 3982 Waverly Road, Williamstown, WV. Contact number: 304-375-2923.
  • Canaan Valley NWR: Situated at 6263 Appalachian Highway, Davis, WV. Contact number: 304-866-3858.

Understanding Federal Hunting Regulations for Migratory Game Birds

The United States federal law, outlined in the 50 CFR Part 20, sets specific regulations for hunting migratory game birds. These rules are vital for hunters to understand, as they govern the legal hunting of various bird species. Notably, when state laws differ, hunters are obliged to adhere to the more restrictive of the two. For detailed information, hunters can visit

Key Terminologies in Migratory Bird Hunting

Migratory Birds

Protected under federal law due to international treaties, most bird species in the U.S. are considered migratory birds. Exceptions include house sparrows, feral pigeons, European starlings, Eurasian collared-doves, mute swans, and upland game birds. Among these, a subset is categorized as migratory game birds, like ducks, geese, doves, and others, which can be hunted per regulations.

Daily Bag and Aggregate Daily Bag Limits

The daily bag limit refers to the maximum number of a single species or a species combination a hunter can legally harvest in a day within a specific area. The aggregate daily bag limit is similar but applies when hunting across multiple areas or for multiple species. It's capped at the highest daily limit set for any species or area.

Possession and Aggregate Possession Limits

The possession limit is the maximum number of migratory game birds a hunter can legally possess at a time. This is specific to the area and species. The aggregate possession limit extends this concept to multiple areas or species, limited by the highest set possession limit for any single area or species.

Personal Abode and Migratory Bird Preservation Facilities

A personal abode is defined as one's primary residence, distinguishing it from temporary hunting accommodations. Migratory bird preservation facilities are entities that for hire or other considerations, handle migratory game birds for purposes like cleaning or storage.

Agricultural and Soil Practices

Normal agricultural activities include planting and harvesting according to U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service guidelines. Soil stabilization practices involve agricultural soil erosion control planting, again adhering to official recommendations.

Baited Areas and Baiting

A baited area is any location where attractants like salt or grain are used to lure game birds. These areas remain under the baited category for ten days post the removal of such attractants. Baiting is the act of using such substances to attract birds for hunting, with specific additional provisions in states like West Virginia.

Manipulation and Natural Vegetation

Manipulation covers altering vegetation or crops through methods like mowing or burning, but excludes the distribution of grain post-harvest. Natural vegetation refers to non-agricultural plants that grow naturally, excluding planted millet, though millet that regrows in subsequent years is classified as natural vegetation.

Illegal Hunting Methods for Migratory Game Birds

Prohibited Methods and Equipment

  1. Traps and Firearms Restrictions: The use of traps (like snares and nets), rifles, pistols, swivel guns, shotguns exceeding 10 gauge, punt guns, battery guns, machine guns, fish hooks, poisons, drugs, explosives, or stupefying substances is strictly prohibited in the hunting of migratory game birds.

  2. Shotgun Limitations: Hunting with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells is illegal unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler. This filler must be such that it cannot be removed without disassembling the gun, limiting its capacity to three shells.

  3. Floating Devices and Concealment: Utilizing devices like sinkboxes or other types of low floating devices, which provide a means of concealment beneath the water surface, is forbidden.

  4. Motorized Transport: Engaging in hunting from or by means of motor vehicles, motor-driven land conveyances, or aircraft is illegal. Exceptions are made for paraplegics and individuals with leg amputations, who may hunt from stationary vehicles or conveyances.

  5. Boats and Craft Restrictions: Using motorboats or crafts with attached motors, or sailboats for hunting, is illegal unless the motor is completely shut off and/or the sails are furled, with the craft's movement fully ceased.

  6. Live Decoys: The use of live birds as decoys is prohibited. This includes areas where tame or captive ducks or geese are present, unless these birds are confined in a way that conceals them from wild migratory waterfowl and reduces the audibility of their calls.

  7. Recorded Calls and Sounds: The use of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds, or their imitations, is not permitted in hunting migratory game birds.

  8. Motor-Driven Conveyances for Concentrating Birds: Using any motor-driven land, water, or air conveyance, or sailboat, for the purpose of concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up migratory birds is illegal.

  9. Baiting: Hunting by the aid of baiting, or on or over baited areas where one should reasonably know the area is or has been baited, is prohibited.

Legal Methods for Taking Migratory Game Birds

  1. Natural and Agricultural Environments: It is lawful to hunt migratory game birds, including waterfowl, coots, and cranes, in standing or flooded crops, natural vegetation, flooded harvested croplands, or areas with seeds or grains from normal agricultural practices.

  2. Blinds and Concealment: Hunting from blinds or other places of concealment camouflaged with natural or agricultural crop vegetation is legal, provided the camouflaging does not involve scattering grain or feed.

  3. Unintentional Scattering: Taking game birds in agricultural crops where grain is inadvertently scattered due to hunter activity (like placing decoys or retrieving birds) is permissible.

  4. Manipulation of Agricultural Crops: Hunting migratory game birds, excluding waterfowl, coots, and cranes, is allowed on lands where grain or feed distribution results solely from agricultural crop manipulation or standard agricultural operations.

Wanton Waste of Migratory Game Birds

Hunters are obligated to retrieve and retain any migratory game bird they kill or cripple. This responsibility extends from the point of retrieval to transporting the bird to one of the following locations: the hunter's vehicle, residence, temporary lodging, a migratory bird preservation facility, post office, or a common carrier facility.

Non-Toxic Shot Requirement

The law stipulates that hunters must not possess any lead-based shot when hunting ducks, geese (including brant), or coots. Only approved non-toxic shot is permitted. A comprehensive list of approved non-toxic shot types can be found on the official website

Opening Day Bag Limit

On the opening day of hunting season for migratory game birds, hunters are prohibited from possessing more than the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever is applicable, of freshly killed migratory game birds.

Field Possession Limit

The total number of migratory game birds a hunter can possess, transport, or have in custody cannot exceed the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit. This applies to both tagged and untagged birds, from the hunting location to the hunter's vehicle, residence, temporary lodging, a migratory bird preservation facility, post office, or a common carrier facility.

Tagging Requirement for Migratory Game Birds

Migratory game birds left at any location other than the hunter's personal abode, or in the custody of someone else for processing, storage, transportation, or taxidermy services, must be tagged. The tag must include the hunter's address, the total number and species of birds, and the date of the kill. Birds transported as personal baggage are exempt from this requirement.

Custody of Birds Belonging to Another

Receiving or having in custody any migratory game birds that belong to another person is only permissible if the birds are properly tagged according to the regulations.

Termination of Possession

A hunter’s possession of migratory game birds is considered to end when the birds are given away as gifts, or sent via post office, common carrier, or a migratory bird preservation facility to someone other than the hunter.

Gift of Migratory Game Birds

Migratory game birds can be received, possessed, or given as gifts only at the personal abodes of the donor or recipient, and must be accompanied by a tag signed by the hunter. This tag should include the hunter's address, the number and species of birds, and the date they were taken.

Transportation of Birds Belonging to Another

Transporting migratory game birds that belong to another person is subject to the requirement that the birds be properly tagged.

Species Identification Requirement During Transport

While transporting migratory game birds within the United States, except for doves and band-tailed pigeons, the head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached to each bird for species identification purposes.

Marking Package or Container for Bird Transport

Any package or container used to transport migratory game birds via the Postal Service or a common carrier must clearly display the shipper's and consignee’s names and addresses. It must also accurately state the number of each bird species contained within.

Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp

Waterfowl hunters aged 16 and older must carry a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp), signed in ink across the face of the stamp, while hunting.

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.