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Migratory game bird hunting regulations

Before you go hunting for migratory game birds, be sure you know the rules. Read on to learn about regulations for hunting migratory game birds in Massachusetts.



The Migratory Game Bird Laws and Regulations are developed by both the Federal and State government. These laws and regulations are set annually in the spring by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board.

View the 2020-2021 Massachusetts migratory game bird seasons dates and bag limits.


You must register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) every year by taking the HIP survey if you to hunt woodcock, snipe, coots, rails, ducks, or geese.

Hunting hours

Hunting hours begin ½ hour before sunrise and end at sunset. (Except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season, hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.)

During Early Goose Season, hunting hours are half hour before sunrise  – half hour after sunset.

Click here for a sunrise/sunset table.

Required licenses and permits

To hunt migratory game birds in Massachusetts you must have certain licenses and permits, which you can buy through MassFishHunt.

Waterfowl (ducks, geese, sea ducks) requirements:

  • Massachusetts residents
    • Hunting or sporting license
    • Waterfowl stamp
    • Federal duck stamp* (needed to hunt ducks, geese, or brant)
  • Non-residents
    • Big game license (includes all game) or small game license (includes all game except deer, bear, turkey)
    • Waterfowl stamp
    • Federal duck stamp* (needed to hunt ducks, geese, or brant

*The Federal Duck Stamp is required for any hunters ages 16 years and older. Unlike state licenses which are valid from January 1 – December 31, the federal duck stamp is valid July 1 – June 30.

Other migratory game birds (woodcock, snipe, coot, rails) requirements:

  • Massachusetts residents
    • Hunting or sporting license
  • Non-residents
    • Big game license (includes all game) or small game license (includes all game except deer, bear, turkey)

Hunting implements

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. Waterfowl hunters must use non-toxic shot up to and including BBB shot while hunting ducks, geese, sea ducks, and coot. No lead shot may be in the hunter's possession while hunting ducks, geese, sea ducks, and coot. Non-toxic shot is not required for those hunting woodcock, snipe, or rails.

Archery Equipment: Expanding broadheads are legal. Poisoned arrows, explosive tips, bows drawn by mechanical means are prohibited. Crossbows may be used by certain permanently disabled persons by permit only.

Hunting methods

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.

Hunter Orange Requirements:

Waterfowl hunters are not required to wear hunter orange except: 1) An orange hat must be worn while hunting in WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant and quail season; 2) During the Shotgun Deer Season and the Youth Deer Hunt Day waterfowl hunters must wear hunter orange in transit to their blind or boat - it may be removed once in the blind or boat.

Tagging, transporting, and reporting requirements

Migratory birds do not need to be individually reported.

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.

    Hunting Prohibitions:

    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 injured 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.

    Migratory game bird regulations

    This page is to be used as a reference, it is not the entire law and is subject to change. You can refer to the Migratory Game Bird Hunting regulations in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 321 CMR 3.02(2), the Code of Federal Regulations, 50 CFR 20 et seq and to several other provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131 for information about migratory game bird laws and regulations.