Migratory Bird Regulations: License Stamps and Permits

Essential Requirements for Hunting Migratory Game Birds

To engage in lawful hunting of migratory game birds in Wisconsin, hunters must obtain and carry specific licenses, stamps, and permits:

  • Small Game License: This is a fundamental requirement for hunting any migratory game birds.

  • Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp: Necessary for hunters targeting waterfowl. This state-specific stamp is a mandatory addition to the small game license.

  • Federal Migratory Bird Stamp: Also known as the Duck Stamp, this is required for waterfowl hunting. Hunters must carry a hard copy of the stamp; a temporary stamp is issued initially until the actual stamp arrives.

  • Canada Goose Permit: This permit is essential for those hunting Canada geese, applicable in both the early and regular Canada goose seasons.

Exceptions and Specific Conditions

  • Stamp Exemptions:

    • State and federal stamps are not required for hunting certain species such as coot, common gallinule, rails, mourning dove, or woodcock.
    • Hunters under the age of 16 are exempt from needing these stamps.
  • Purchase of Licenses and Permits:

    • All required licenses, stamps, and permits can be purchased online at
    • Hunters should refer to the specified page (page 8 as mentioned) for information on acceptable forms of proof for these licenses and permits.

Key Points

  • Documentation: Carrying the appropriate documentation (licenses, stamps, and permits) is crucial while hunting.

  • Species-Specific Requirements: The type of bird being hunted determines the specific licenses and stamps required.

  • Age Considerations: Hunters under 16 have different requirements, notably the exemption from needing state and federal waterfowl stamps.

  • Legal Compliance: Adhering to these regulations ensures legal and ethical hunting practices, contributing to the conservation of migratory bird populations.

Firearms and Ammunition Regulations for Migratory Game Bird Hunting

Permitted Hunting Methods

When hunting migratory game birds, legal methods include:

  • Using a shotgun fired from the shoulder.
  • Employing a bow and arrow or crossbow.
  • Practicing falconry.

Prohibited Hunting Methods

It is illegal to hunt migratory game birds using:

  • Traps, snares, or nets.
  • Rifles or pistols/handguns.
  • Swivel guns, shotguns capable of firing shells larger than 10 gauge, punt guns, battery guns, or machine guns.
  • Fishhooks, poisons, drugs, explosives, or any stupefying substances.
  • Possession of shot shells larger than 10 gauge is also prohibited.

Shotgun Capacity Limitation

  • Hunters are not permitted to use shotguns that can hold more than three shells (including both magazine and chamber) unless the shotgun is plugged with a one-piece filler. This filler must require disassembly of the gun for removal.

Restrictions on Shot Type

  • Lead or toxic shots are banned for hunting ducks, geese, brant, snipe, rails, coot, and moorhen.
  • Similarly, the use of lead or toxic shot is forbidden while hunting mourning doves on DNR-managed land.
  • Only non-toxic shot sizes BB, BBB, T, or smaller are legal. Notably, size F shot is illegal in Wisconsin.
  • For hunting any migratory and upland game bird species, including wild turkey, on National Wildlife Refuges and Federal Waterfowl Production Areas, only non-toxic shot is permitted.]

Regulations on Structures, Boats, and Vehicles in Migratory Game Bird Hunting

Hunting from Structures

  • Prohibition: Hunting from artificial structures like piers, dams, docks, or breakwaters is illegal.
  • Exception for Disabled Hunters: Holders of a Class A Disabled Hunting Permit are exempt from this restriction.

Sink Box Usage

  • Illegality: Hunting from a sink box, a low floating device allowing concealment beneath water, is prohibited.

Boat Regulations

  • Movement Restrictions: Hunting or shooting from moving boats is illegal, except for those propelled by paddles, oars, or poles.
  • Motor/Sail Regulations: Motorboats and sailboats must have motors completely shut off and/or sails furled with progress ceased before loading or discharging a firearm.

Waterfowl Blind Regulations on State Property

  • Establishment Timeline: Blinds cannot be established on state property, including navigable lakes, more than 7 days before waterfowl season or left beyond 7 days after its closure.
  • Usage of Blinds: Any blind on state property must have the owner’s name, address, and DNR customer ID in English, with lettering one square inch or larger. This identification must be permanently affixed and legible at all times. Unmarked or improperly marked blinds cannot be used.

Vehicle Usage

  • Restriction on Vehicles: The use of any vehicle (excluding boats) to take migratory game birds is prohibited, except by qualified disabled persons holding a valid DNR permit.
  • Conveyance Usage: It is illegal to use any air, water, or motor-driven land conveyance, including unmanned aircraft or drones, to concentrate, drive, rally, or stir up migratory game birds for hunting purposes.

Migratory Game Bird Hunting: Regulations on Devices

Illegal Practices in the Use of Decoys

When hunting migratory game birds, hunters must adhere to specific regulations regarding the use of decoys:

  • Placement and Removal of Decoys:

    • Decoys must not be placed more than 200 feet from the cover where the hunter is located.
    • Decoys cannot be placed in the water earlier than one hour before the opening of waterfowl shooting hours.
    • Decoys must be removed from the water within 20 minutes after the close of waterfowl shooting hours.
    • Leaving decoys in the water unattended is prohibited. However, decoys may be left unattended on dry land.
  • Prohibition on Live Decoys:

    • The use of living decoys, regardless of their distance from the hunter, is illegal.
    • Live, tame, or captive ducks and geese must be removed from the hunting area for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to hunting. They should be confined in an enclosure that significantly reduces the audibility of their calls and completely hides them from the sight of migratory wild waterfowl.

Restrictions on Electronic and Recorded Bird Calls

The use of certain devices to mimic or attract birds is strictly regulated:

  • Electronic Bird Calls: The use of electronic bird calls is illegal while pursuing migratory game birds.

  • Recordings or Imitations of Bird Calls: While hunting waterfowl, hunters are prohibited from using recordings or imitations of bird calls.

General Restrictions

Daily bag limit

It is illegal to take or attempt to take more than the daily bag or aggregate daily bag limit.

Possession limit

  • It is illegal to possess more than 3 times the daily bag limit.
  • It is illegal to possess more than the daily bag limit while at or in between where the game birds were harvested and the hunter's temporary or permanent abode.


It is illegal to kill or cripple any game bird without making every reasonable effort to retrieve such bird. Until every reasonable effort is made, crippled birds shall be included in the daily bag. Crippled birds should be immediately pursued to prevent loss of the bird.

Open water retrieval

Crippled birds which fall or move into open water should be immediately pursued. A hunter may shoot crippled birds from a boat propelled by paddle, oars or pole. A shotgun may be uncased but may not be loaded or discharged while in a boat with the motor running and until all forward motion from the motor has ceased.

Retrieval in refuges

Dead or crippled game may be retrieved from any refuge or closed area by hand either without a firearm, with an unloaded firearm which is enclosed in a proper carrying case or with the aid of a dog unless posted to prohibit public entry.


  • It is illegal to give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the possession of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the:
    • hunter’s signature
    • hunter’s address
    • total number of birds involved, by species dates such birds were killed
  • No person or business may receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged and a record of such receipt is kept by the person or business.

Possession of live birds

Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.


It is illegal to ship migratory game birds unless the package is marked on the outside with the:

  • Name and address of the person sending the birds
  • Name and address of the person to whom the birds are being sent
  • Number of birds, by species, contained in the package.


Migratory game birds may be field dressed before they are transported from the field. However, the head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached to all migratory game birds while in the field or being transported from the field to the person’s permanent abode.

Note: This includes birds being transported between a hunting cabin, camp, motel or other temporary abode to the person’s permanent abode or preservation facility.

Open Water Restrictions for Waterfowl Hunting

General Illegal Practices

It is prohibited to hunt waterfowl in open water with the aid of any blind, including boats, canoes, rafts, or similar devices, except under specific conditions outlined below.

Specific Conditions and Restrictions

Waterbody-Specific Restrictions

  1. Mississippi River, Lake Pepin & Grant County Portions:

    • Distance from Shore: No minimum distance required.
    • Anchoring of Blinds: Yes, blinds must be anchored.
    • Daily Removal: Blinds must be removed daily.
  2. Mississippi River, All Other Portions:

    • Distance from Shore: Maximum 100 feet.
    • Anchoring of Blinds: Required.
    • Daily Removal: Mandatory.
  3. Great Lakes and Other Specified Lakes:

    • Distance from Shore: Minimum 500 feet.
    • Anchoring of Blinds: Not required.
    • Daily Removal: Blinds must be removed daily.
    • Applicable Lakes: Includes Beaver Dam Lake, Castle Rock Lake, Fence Lake, Grindstone Lake, Green Lake, Lake Puckaway, Lake Winnebago, Lake Wisconsin, Lake Wissota, North Twin Lake, Petenwell Flowage, Shawano Lake, and Trout Lake in specified counties.

Conditions for Open Water Hunting with Blinds

  • Blinds are permitted if:
    • They are within 3 feet of any shoreline or island.
    • They are near un-manipulated vegetation rooted to the waterway's bed or shoreline, concealing at least 50% of the hunter and blind from one direction.
  • Disabled Hunters with Class A or B Permits:
    • May hunt close enough to emergent vegetation for boat operation.
    • Blinds should be removed daily after shooting hours.

Additional Provisions

  • Jump Shooting from Non-motorized Boats: Legal in narrow streams where shore-to-shore shooting is feasible.

  • Hunting in Open Water Areas: Allowed if hunters are standing on the bottom without the aid of a blind.

Baiting Regulations for Migratory Game Birds

Definition of a Baited Area

A baited area is any location where salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, or scattered, potentially attracting migratory game birds for hunting purposes. Crucially, an area remains classified as baited for 10 days following the complete removal of the bait.

Legal Restrictions

When hunting migratory game birds such as waterfowl, coots, or mourning doves:

  • It is illegal to hunt by the method or aid of baiting on or over any baited area. This applies if the hunter knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.
  • Hunters must exercise due diligence to determine whether an area has been baited before hunting.

Legal Hunting Scenarios

  • Hunting over crops resulting from normal agricultural planting or harvest is legal. This includes fields post-harvest, where no additional baiting has occurred.
  • Mourning doves can be legally hunted over manipulated agricultural crops or wildlife food plots. However, manipulation does not include the act of distributing or scattering seeds, grains, or other feeds after they have been harvested or removed from the field.

Seeking More Information

For detailed information on baiting regulations:

  • Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website at and search for “baiting.”
  • For federal regulations regarding waterfowl and dove baiting, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at provides comprehensive guidelines.

Youth Waterfowl Season Guidelines in Wisconsin

Age Restrictions and Participation

  • Eligibility: Exclusively for individuals aged 15 and younger.
  • Permissible Game: Participants are allowed to harvest any lawful species of waterfowl, including geese.

Adult Mentor Requirements

  • Mentor Age: Each youth hunter must be accompanied by an adult mentor who is at least 18 years old.
  • Accompaniment Limits:
    • An adult mentor can accompany only one youth hunter.
    • Exception: An adult can accompany two youth hunters if at least one is between 12 to 15 years old and has completed a Hunter Education Safety Course.

Mentor Hunting Limitations

  • Geese Harvesting: The adult mentor is permitted to harvest geese during this season, provided:
    • The goose season is open.
    • The mentor possesses an appropriate Canada Goose Permit for the current season.

Harvest Registration

  • Requirement: All hunters, including youth, must register their harvest through the Harvest Information Program (HIP).

Licensing and Permits

  • Waivers: All license and stamp requirements are waived for eligible youth waterfowl hunters.
  • Canada Goose Permit:
    • Required regardless of other waivers.
    • Type of Permit Required:
      • Early Season (Sept. 1–15): Early Canada Goose Hunting Permit.
      • Regular Season (Post-Sept. 16): Regular Canada Goose Season Hunting Permit.

Other Applicable Regulations

  • Standard Regulations: All other standard hunting regulations apply, including:
    • Shooting hours.
    • Blind and ammunition restrictions.
    • Daily bag limits.
    • Hunting Mentorship Program rules.

Other Important Information for Hunters

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) Precautions

  • VHS Overview: VHS is a viral disease affecting fish, posing significant risks to fish populations.

  • Preventative Measures: To prevent the spread of VHS:

    • Water must be drained from all boats, boat trailers, and equipment immediately after exiting any water body.
    • This procedure should be done before leaving the bank or shore of any water body statewide.

Boating Safety and Regulations

  • Hunting with Boats: When hunting with the aid of a boat, it's crucial to be properly equipped and adhere to safety regulations.

  • Accessing Information:

    • Boating regulation pamphlets are available at local DNR offices.
    • For detailed guidelines, visit and search for “boat”.

Reporting Bird Bands

  • Bird Band Recovery:
    • If you recover a bird with a band, report it online at
    • Include the date and location of recovery to receive information about the banded bird.

Importation of Migratory Game Birds

  • Regulations on Importation:

    • Hunters should consult 50 CFR 20.61 - 20.66 for rules regarding the importation of migratory game birds killed in another country.
    • This information can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Contact Information:

    • Address: 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458.
    • Phone: (612) 713-5320.
    • Website:

Health Advisory: PCBs and Mercury in Waterfowl

Understanding the Risks

Contaminants like PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) and mercury can accumulate in the body over time, leading to potential health issues. These may range from minor effects such as poor balance or memory issues to an increased risk of serious diseases like diabetes or cancer. Limiting exposure to PCBs and mercury in the diet is strongly advised by health professionals.

Specific Advisories for Wisconsin Areas

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has issued targeted health advice to minimize exposure to PCBs and mercury in waterfowl from specific regions:

  1. Lower Fox River (Lake Winnebago to Northeast Kaukauna):

    • For dabbling ducks: Remove all skin and visible fat before cooking.
  2. Lower Fox River (De Pere Dam to Green Bay) and Lower Green Bay:

    • Limit consumption of dabbling ducks to one meal per week for children and women of child-bearing age.
  3. Sheboygan River (Sheboygan Falls to Lake Michigan) and Sheboygan Harbor:

    • For Canada geese from Sheboygan River: Remove all skin and visible fat before cooking.
    • For lesser scaup (bluebills) from Sheboygan Harbor: Advised not to consume.
  4. Milwaukee River (Thiensville to Grafton) and Cedar Creek (up to Bridge Road):

    • Advised not to consume mallard ducks from these waters.
  5. Milwaukee Harbor:

    • Advised not to consume black ducks, mallards, ruddy ducks, or any diving ducks from this water.
  6. City of Cedarburg Waters:

    • Advised not to consume Canada geese from these waters.
  7. Whitewater Lake and Rice Lake, Walworth County:

    • Limit consumption of Canada geese to one meal per month.

FDA Standards for PCBs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard for PCBs in poultry is 3 parts per million, calculated on a fat basis. This standard is crucial for assessing the safety levels of contaminants in waterfowl.

Wisconsin Migratory Bird Hunting Laws & Regulations

Protection of Swans and Identification of Legal Game Species

Swans: Protected Species in Wisconsin

  • Legal Status: All wild swans are legally protected in Wisconsin.
  • Penalties for Shooting a Swan:
    • Fine: Up to $2,327.
    • Revocation: A 3-year suspension of all hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges.

Identification Features of Swans

  • Plumage: Swans are primarily white.
  • Size: They range from 4 to 5 feet in length.
  • Neck: Swans are notable for their long necks.
  • Weight: They weigh between 15 to 30 pounds.
  • Wingspan: Their wingspan extends from 5.5 to 7 feet.
  • Juvenile Appearance: Swans appear gray during their first year of life.

Snow Goose: Legal Game Species

  • Plumage: Snow geese have white plumage with distinctive black wing tips.
  • Neck: They have shorter necks compared to swans.
  • Size: Snow geese are smaller, approximately 1.5 feet in length.
  • Wingspan: Their wingspan is about 3.5 feet.

Importance of Target Identification

  • Geographical Note: The primary range of snow geese is west of Wisconsin, with few migrating through the state.
  • Target Verification: Hunters are advised to be absolutely certain of their target before shooting, as misidentification can lead to severe legal consequences and harm protected wildlife.

Conservation and Ethical Hunting

  • The protection of swans underscores the importance of conservation and ethical hunting practices.
  • Understanding and respecting wildlife laws is essential for the sustainability of species and the integrity of the hunting community.
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.