1. SCOPE: These regulations address the hunting of migratory game birds, including ducks, geese, woodcock, snipe, and rails.

2. SEASON DATES: The dates of the open seasons are set annually, in accordance with guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As of 2016, due to changes in the federal regulatory cycle, the public hearing to set these seasons is in April. The "Migratory Game Bird Regulations" are published on the MassWildlife website soon afterwards and a pamphlet is printed in August for distribution to license outlets, prior to the season openings.

3. ZONES: For the hunting of waterfowl (ducks and geese), Massachusetts has been divided into three zones: Coastal, Central, and Berkshire. The boundaries of these 3 zones are described in detail in the annual "Migratory Bird Regulations" as well as in the formal text of these regulations.

4. HUNTING HOURS: The hunting hours are generally from ½ hour before sunrise to sunset. However, this is subject to change and should be checked annually. Note that, on wildlife management areas stocked with pheasant and quail, during the pheasant and quail seasons, the hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset.

5. BAG AND POSSESSION LIMITS: The bag and possession limits for migratory game birds are set annually, in accordance with guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The public hearing to set these is normally held in late August. A special "Migratory Game Bird Regulations" pamphlet is then issued by MassWildlife about October 1, prior to the season openings.

6. LICENSES AND PERMITS: A resident Massachusetts hunter must have a resident hunting or sporting license. A non-resident hunter must have a non-resident small game or big game license (a non-resident big game license includes small game also). There are no general permits required for waterfowl hunting (but see "Stamps" below).

7. STAMPS: A person shall not hunt, take, or possess waterfowl in Massachusetts unless that person possesses on his person while hunting a current and valid Massachusetts waterfowl stamp. Stamps are required by all hunters aged 15 years or older. In addition, all waterfowl hunters aged 16 years and older must possess a current and valid federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp ("Duck Stamp"). All stamps shall be signed across the face in ink, and are not transferable. Stamps are not required for the hunting of woodcock, snipe, rails, or American coot. Stamps should not obscure the face of the license. When electronic licenses are issued, the Massachusetts stamps may be imprinted on the license or on an accompanying form and the person's signature on the license or other form constitutes signature of the stamp.

8. HUNTING IMPLEMENTS: Migratory game birds may be hunted or taken only by means of a shotgun, not larger than 10 gauge, fired from the shoulder, or by archery, or by falconry. Muzzle-loading shotguns are lawful if they comply with these requirements. Repeating shotguns capable of holding more than 3 cartridges in chamber and magazine combined must be plugged with a one-piece filler incapable of being removed without disassembling the shotgun, so as to render the shotgun incapable of holding more than 3 cartridges.

9. FALCONRY. Falconers may have an extended season (see annual Migratory Game Bird Regulations ) but may not hunt waterfowl on Sundays.


(a) hunting, taking, or enticing of migratory game birds by means of salt, bait, grain or other means used to lure or attract them to areas where hunters are taking or attempting to take them;

(b) hunting migratory game birds by means or aid of any motor-driven land, water or air conveyance or any sailboat, or to use the same for the purpose of concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up migratory game birds, except as provided in #8 above, and except that paraplegics may hunt from a stationary motor vehicle or other land conveyance;

(c) hunting migratory game birds by means of or aid of any sinkbox or battery, or by means or air of any live waterfowl decoys or domesticated fowl of any kind;

(d) hunting migratory game birds by the use or aid of recorded or electronically amplified bird calls or sounds, or recorded or electronically amplified imitations of bird calls or sounds;

(e) killing or crippling of migratory game birds without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird and including it in one's daily bag;

(f) hunting or taking of migratory game birds by means of a trap, snare, net, crossbow, rifle, pistol or revolver, swivel or punt gun, fish hook, poison, drug, or stupefying substance;

(g) hunting or taking of waterfowl or American coot with any shot other than non-toxic shot, or possession of any shot, including loose shot for a muzzle-loading firearm, other than non-toxic shot, while hunting migratory game birds. NOTE: non-toxic shot is not currently required for the hunting of woodcock, snipe, or rails.

(h) hunting of migratory game birds with any shotgun cartridge loaded with shot larger than FF shot.

11. LOADED SHOTGUNS IN MOTOR BOATS: A person may have a loaded shotgun in his possession or under his control in a motor boat while such boat is beached, resting at anchor, or fastened within or tied immediately alongside any type of fixed hunting blind. Loaded shotguns may not be possessed in a motor boat at any other time.

12. RETRIEVAL OF DEAD OR CRIPPLED BIRDS: A hunter may pick up or retrieve dead or crippled migratory game birds from a water craft under power, but shall not shoot any birds from such craft except that wounded or crippled waterfowl or American coot may be shot from a powered craft in coastal waters or waters of rivers and stream seaward of the 1st upstream bridge.

13. IMPORTATION AND SHIPMENT: No person shall import migratory game birds killed in any foreign country except Canada unless such birds are dressed, drawn, and the head and feet removed. One fully feathered wing must remain on each bird transported between the port of entry and the hunter's home or preservation facility. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another. Any package containing migratory game birds must be marked on the outside with the name and address of the sender and recipient, and the number of birds, by species, contained inside.

14. TAGGING REQUIREMENT: 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 the dates such birds were killed. No person shall remove or have in custody another's migratory game birds unless such birds are tagged as herein provided.

15. MIGRATORY GAME BIRD HARVEST INFORMATION PROGRAM: Effective January 1, 1998, a person shall not hunt migratory game birds unless that person has obtained a H.I.P. number and written that number on his or her hunting license. The telephone number to call to obtain the H.I.P. number is printed on the annual "Abstracts" or available from MassWildlife. This procedure differs when electronic licensing is used; a person should follow the on-line instructions. A person needs a different H.I.P. number for each state in which he or she hunts migratory game birds.

16. DEFINITIONS: There are technical definitions of certain terms, including "migratory game birds", "non-toxic shot", "primitive firearm loaded with shot", "sea ducks", and "waterfowl". These terms are formally defined in 321 CMR 3.02(2)(a).

This is not the entire law, and is subject to change. Refer to the Migratory Game Bird Hunting regulations in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 321 CMR 3.02(2) as well as to the Code of Federal Regulations, 50 CFR 20 et seq. Several other provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131, also apply.

Last Revised: 10-30-09