The Migratory Game Bird Laws and Regulations are developed by both the Federal and State government. These laws and regulations are set annually in August by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board. Click here to view the 2015-16 Migratory Game Bird Regulations , which includes bag and possession limits, season dates, and information on the Youth Waterfowl Hunt.
REMINDER: Hunters planning to hunt woodcock, snipe, coots, ducks and geese must register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) by taking a HIP survey each calendar year. Read more below.
Half hour before sunrise – sunset. Except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season, hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.
Required License and Permits:
-Hunting or sporting license
-Federal Duck Stamp*
-Small game license
-Federal Duck Stamp*
*The Federal Duck Stamp is required for any hunters ages 16 years and older. It can be obtained at selected post offices, stores and online. Unlike our licenses which are valid from Jan 1st – December 31st, the federal duck stamp is valid July 1st – June 30th. The federal stamp must be signed across the face in ink. Stamps are required for hunting any ducks (including seaducks) geese or brant, but not required for hunting rails, snipe, woodcock, or American coot.
Click here to purchase licenses and permits through MassFishHunt.
Archery Equipment: Arrows must have a well sharpened steel broadhead blade not less than 7/8 inches in width. Expanding broadheads are legal. All bows must have a draw weight of at least 40lbs at 28 inches or at peak draw. Poisoned arrows, explosive tips, bows drawn by mechanical means are prohibited. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.
Shotgun: Migratory game birds may be hunted with shotguns no larger than 10 gauge, fired from the shoulder. Shotguns capable of holding more than 3 shells may not be used unless plugged with a one-piece filler which limits the gun’s total capacity to 3 shells and which cannot be removed without disassembling the gun. It is required for all waterfowl and coot hunting to use non-toxic shot up to and including BBB shot while hunting waterfowl.
Hunter Orange Requirements:
Waterfowl hunters are not required to wear hunter orange except on a WMA stocked with pheasant or quail and during shotgun deer season. On a WMA stocked with pheasant or quail a waterfowl hunter must wear an orange cap. During the Shotgun Deer Season and the Youth Deer Hunt Day (October 3, 2015), waterfowl hunters must wear hunter orange in transit to their blind or boat. It may be removed once in the blind or boat.
Falconry is legal All permitted ducks and coot may be taken by falconry October 4 - February 5. No geese. Limits in falconry are 3 daily, 9 in possession singly or in aggregate. Falconry closed Sundays.
Tagging, Transporting, and Reporting Requirements:
Migratory birds do not need to be individually reported, however you do need to complete one HIP survey each calendar year. More information about the HIP survey can be found on the next tab.
Any migratory game birds not in the custody of the hunter must be tagged with the hunter’s signature, address, total number of birds by species, and dates such birds were killed. No person shall receive or have in custody another's migratory game birds unless such birds are properly tagged.
The head and one fully-feathered wing must remain attached to each migratory game bird while it is transported to the hunter’s home or preservation facility.
If shipping any packages containing migratory game birds they must be marked on the outside with the name and address of the sender and recipient and number of birds, by species, contained inside.
-Baiting: No person shall take migratory game birds by baiting (placing corn or any other food to constitute a lure or enticement) or hunting over a baited area. An area is considered baited for 10 days after removal of the bait. It is not necessary for the hunter to know that the area is baited to be in violation of this section.
-Motorized Vehicles & Boats: A person shall not hunt migratory game birds from or in connection with a motor driven land conveyance, aircraft or any kind of motor or sail boat used in concentrating or driving birds either for himself or for others. Further, no person may hunt from or by means of any motor boat or sailboat unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or sails furled and all progress has ceased. However, a hunter may pick up or retrieve dead or crippled birds from a craft under power and may shoot injured birds from powered craft in coastal waters seaward of the first upstream bridge.
-Electric calls: No person shall take migratory game birds using pre-recorded calls or sounds or any electronic imitations of calls.
-Live decoys: No person shall hunt migratory game birds with the aid of live decoys or domesticated fowl of any kind. Such fowl must be removed for 10 consecutive days prior to hunting and be confined in an enclosure which reduces the audibility of their calls and conceals them from the sight of migratory waterfowl.
-Traps: No one shall hunt migratory birds using a sinkbox, trap, snare, net or any other type of trap.
What is HIP?
Woodcock, snipe, rail, duck, and goose hunters must register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Harvest Information Program (HIP) by taking a HIP survey each calendar year. HIP surveys can only be completed through the online MassFishHunt system; the HIP survey is no longer available by telephone and HIP numbers are no longer issued. Non-resident hunters are reminded they must complete a HIP survey for each state they hunt in. HIP data gathered from migratory game bird hunters is used by state and federal biologists to better evaluate hunter effort and harvest.
Duck and goose hunters must purchase a state waterfowl stamp and are automatically prompted to complete the HIP survey during the transaction. Waterfowl hunters who purchased a state waterfowl stamp to hunt in January and February of 2015 are already registered for the entire calendar year and do not need to take any action. Migratory game bird hunters who ONLY hunt woodcock, snipe, or rail do not need a waterfowl stamp and must complete a HIP survey as a separate step during or after their hunting/sporting license purchase.
How Do I Complete My Hip Survey?
Your hunting/sporting license will indicate whether you have completed a HIP survey. Check near the top of your license for the words “HIP Survey Completed.” If you do NOT see this phrase, you can complete the survey through any computer with Internet access via the MassFishHunt system (see instructions below). You can also visit any MassWildlife office or license agent location to complete the HIP survey. Be sure to reprint your license after registering.
Instructions for registering with HIP through the MassFishHunt system:
Purchasing a waterfowl stamp and completing HIP (for duck and goose hunting):
Go to the MassFishHunt website and enter your Customer ID number. A page with your personal information will appear; click the Enter Sales button. Next, select Hunting Permits and Stamps. On the next screen, choose Waterfowl Stamp. You will then be prompted to answer eight questions regarding migratory game bird hunting. After answering the questions, click Accept and proceed to Check Out. Be sure to reprint your license which will now indicate that you have purchased the waterfowl stamp and completed the HIP survey.
Completing the HIP Survey only (for woodcock, snipe, and rail hunting but no waterfowl):
Go to the MassFishHunt webste and enter your Customer ID number. A page with your personal information will appear; click the Enter Sales button. On the next screen, select HIP Survey. You will then be prompted to answer eight questions regarding migratory game bird hunting. After answering the questions, click Accept and proceed to Check Out. Be sure to reprint your license which will now indicate that you have completed the HIP survey.
NOTES ABOUT 2016/17 REGULATIONS:
- New time table: Next season’s regulations will be set in the spring of 2016.
- Also expect significant changes regarding sea duck hunting.
Sea ducks are long-lived birds that have fairly low reproductive rates compared with other ducks, which suggests that population abundance of these species may be sensitive to factors that influence adult survival (e.g., harvest). The population status of many sea duck species are poorly understood relative to other North American waterfowl, because they breed in remote areas that are not covered well by current surveys. However, recent analyses indicate that annual production is not sufficient to offset the annual mortality levels currently experienced by some sea duck populations, and this is causing gradual declines in their numbers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s obligation is to ensure that populations of migratory birds remain sustainable. While the total sport harvest of sea ducks in the Atlantic Flyway is low relative to other waterfowl species, we believe that reductions in harvest levels may be needed to help stabilize those populations following a recent assessment of the harvest potential for sea ducks. The Service and Atlantic Flyway States have identified steps for reducing the harvest of sea ducks, and the proposed changes in season length and bag limits are expected to achieve an approximate harvest reduction of 25%.
Concurrently, efforts are being made within the scientific and management community to improve information about the population status of sea ducks and address monitoring and research priorities needed to support harvest management decision-making.