Hunting regulations for migratory birds (2023)

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The laws and regulations related to migratory wild birds are developed by both the federal and state governments. These laws and regulations are set annually in the spring by the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board. Seasons and catch limits for the upcoming season are published on this page in mid-May each year.

Check out the 2022-2023 dates and catch limits for migratory birds in Massachusetts.

Neu:The daily bag limit for sea ducks has been reduced from 5 to 4; Sea ducks are now part of the daily baggage limit of 6 ducks (the daily limit is 6 ducks, of which a maximum of 4 can be sea ducks). Hooded Merganser daily bag limit increased from 2 to 5.

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(Video) 2018 Final Migratory Bird Hunting Season Structure

Special hunts

youth waterfowl hunt
During the youth waterfowl season, only waterfowl hunters aged 12-17 years are allowed to hunt ducks, coots, mergansers and geese. All youth hunters must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter with a valid MA waterfowl stamp. Just a gun. Adult hunters are prohibited from hunting and may only carry firearms when unloaded and sheathed.All regular season waterfowl hunting regulations and catch restrictions apply.

ActiveMilitaryand Veteran Waterfowl Hunt
Two statewide season dates for veteran waterfowl hunting are open to waterfowl hunting by active-duty armed forces members, including members of the National Guard and active-duty reserves (except for training), and veterans. The term "veteran" is defined per Section 101 of Title 38, United States Code, as a person who has served on active military, naval, or air service and who has been discharged or discharged on terms other than dishonorable conditions. Proof of eligibility is required and must be carried when hunting.All regular season waterfowl hunting regulations and catch limits apply.

Hunting time

The hunting season begins ½ hour before sunrise and ends at sunset. (Except on WMAs which are stocked with pheasant or quail during pheasant or quail season, hunting times are sunrise to sunset.)

During early goose season hunting times are half an hour before sunrise - half an hour after sunset.

Click here for a sunrise/sunset chart.

(Video) OFAH Inside Access -- Migratory Game Bird hunting regulation changes

Required licenses, stamps and permits

In order to hunt migratory birds in Massachusetts, you must have certain licenses, stamps, and permits that you can haveBuy through MassFishHunt.

Waterfowl (ducks, geese, sea ducks) Requirements:

  • Massachusetts residents
    • hunting or sports license
    • Waterfowl Stamp
    • Federal duck stamp* (required for hunting ducks, geese or ringlets)
  • non-residents
    • Big game license (includes all game species) or small game license (includes all game species except deer, bear, turkey)
    • Waterfowl Stamp
    • Federal duck stamp* (required for hunting ducks, geese or ringlets)

*ThatFederal duck markis required for all hunters aged 16 and over. Unlike state licenses, which are valid from January 1 through December 31, the federal duck stamp is valid from July 1 through June 30.

Other migratory wild birds (whale snipe, snipe, coot, rail) Requirements:

  • Massachusetts residents
    • hunting or sports license
  • non-residents
    • Big game license (includes all game species) or small game license (includes all game species except deer, bear, turkey)

Licensing/stamping required for young waterfowl hunters

Small hunting licenseState Stamp for WaterfowlFederal duck stamp
Alter 12-14
Alter 15XX
Alter 16-17XXX


You must register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) every yearParticipation in the HIP surveyif you hunt woodcock, snipe, coot, rail, duck or geese. Purchasing a state waterfowl stamp automatically registers waterfowl hunters with HIP.

hunting equipment

shotgun:Migratory wildfowl may be hunted with shoulder fired shotguns no larger than 10 gauge. Shotguns that hold more than 3 shells may not be used unless they are breech with a one-piece filler that limits the total capacity of the gun 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 when hunting ducks, geese, sea ducks and coots. When hunting ducks, geese, sea ducks and coots, no lead shot may be in the possession of the hunter. Non-toxic shot is not required for those hunting woodcock, snipe or rail. (Find out about types of non-toxic shot.)

Archery equipment:Expanding broadheads are legal. Crossbows may only be used by certain permanently disabled persons with permission. Poisoned arrows, explosive tips, mechanically drawn bowsare forbidden.

hunting methods

Dogs: Dogs may be used to hunt migratory birds. NOTE: During deer shotgun season (including Youth Deer Hunt Day) dogs may only be used in coastal waters and salt marshes for waterfowl, snipe, rail and falconry hunting.

Falconry:Ducks and coots may be caught by falconry. No geese. Falconry closed on Sundays.

Random waste: A reasonable effort is required to recover all killed or crippled migratory birds. Wounded birds should be killed immediately and must be kept by the hunter as part of the daily game bag along with all other captured birds.

Blaze Orange and life jacket requirements

Waterfowl hunters are not required to wear fire orange except: 1) An orange hat must be worn while hunting in WMAs staffed with pheasant or quail during pheasant and quail season; 2) During Shotgun Deer Season and Youth Deer Hunt Day, waterfowl hunters must wear an orange hat and vest on their way to their hide or boat - they may be discarded once at the hide or boat.

Anyone sitting in a canoe or kayak from September 15 to May 15 must wear a life jacket or vest.

(Video) 2021-22 Migratory Gamebird Season and Regulations Preview

Identification, transport and reporting obligations

Migratory birds do not have to be reported. Hunters recovering ringed birds are encouraged to report

All migratory wild birds not in the hunter's care must be tagged with the hunter's signature, address, total number of birds by species, and the date those birds were killed. No one may accept or take custody of another person's game birds unless such birds are properly identified.

Felddressing: The head and one fully feathered wing must remain attached to any migratory wild bird while it is being transported to the hunter's home, shelter, or port of entry.

When shipping packages containing migratory game, they must be labeled on the outside with the name and address of the sender and recipient, and the number of birds contained within by species.

hunting bans

Bait:No one shall capture migratory wild birds by baiting (placing corn or other food as bait or enticement) or by hunting over a baited area. An area is considered baited 10 days after the bait has been removed. It is not necessary for the hunter to know that the baited area violates this section.

Motorized Vehicles & Boats:A person shall not hunt migratory wild birds from or in connection with any motor-powered land vehicle, aircraft, or any type of motor or sailboat used for the concentration or herding of birds, either for himself or for others. In addition, no one may hunt from or in a motorboat or sailboat unless the engine has been completely stopped and/or the sails furled and all movement has ceased. However, a hunter may pick up or retrieve dead or injured birds from a powered vessel and may shoot injured birds from motor vessels in coastal waters seaward of the first upstream bridge. Exception: Paraplegic hunters may wildfowl from a stationary motor vehicle or other land transport

Ride:No one shall drive (herd) migratory wild birds from or by the aid of a motor vehicle or other motor-powered land vehicle or aircraft or any type of motor or sailboat for themselves or others.

Electric Calls:No one shall record migratory wild birds with recorded calls or sounds, or electronic mimics of calls.

Other Prohibited Devices:Rifle, pistol, airgun, swivel gun, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, trap, sling, net, fishhook, gully, poison, drug, explosive or narcotic substance.

live baits:No one shall hunt migratory game birds with the aid of live decoys or domestic fowl of any kind. These fowl must be removed prior to hunting for 10 consecutive days and kept in an enclosure that reduces the audibility of their calls and protects them from the sight of migratory waterfowl.

More about the bird protection regulations

This page is for your reference, it is not the entire law and is subject to change. You can refer to the provisions on hunting migratory game in theCode of Massachusetts Regulations, 321 CMR 3.02(2), the Code of Federal Regulations, 50 CFR 20 et seq. and several other provisions ofGeneral Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 131Information on laws and regulations for migratory wild birds.

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