Know Your Limits - Federal Duck Hunting Regulations & You
It doesn’t have to be the on-season for you to start brushing up on the rules and regulations of duck hunting. As a waterfowl hunter, it is your responsibility to know the laws of the state where you are hunting. Fortunately, most regulations are straightforward making it easy for you to comply. For example, you are required to sign your federal duck stamp before going hunting and have it in your possession at all times during the hunt.
Other laws might not seem as obvious but are just as important for you to keep. From baiting and planting to hunting over agricultural crops, it’s essential that you know every law so that you stay within your rights. Otherwise, your last hunt might have been the final nail in your duck hunting coffin.
Here’s our list of all of the federal duck hunting do’s and don’ts so you can enjoy next season and every season after that.
Before you go on your next hunt make sure that you signed your federal duck stamp in ink across the face of the stamp. You are also required to have it in your possession at all times while you are hunting.
You might be tempted to exceed your daily bag limitations once it is full—don’t do it. Once you have reached your limits, you must stop shooting even when the rest of your group continues hunting. Also, you are also not allowed to help others obtain their limit. Federal law strictly states that each hunter is only allowed their daily bag limit and nothing more.
You cannot hunt ducks over any area you reasonably know is baited. That area remains off-limits to shooting for ten days after all salt, grain, or other bait has been completely removed.
Hunting Area Rules & Restrictions
You can hunt waterfowl on or over or from:
- Standing crops or flooded standing crops, including aquatic plants.
- Standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation.
- Flooded harvested croplands.
- Lands or areas where grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation.
- Lands or areas where top-sown seeds have been distributed solely as the result of a normal agricultural sowing, or a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation.
- A blind or other places of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation.
- A blind or other place of concealment hidden with vegetation from crops, provided your use of such vegetation does not expose, deposit, distribute or scatter grain or other feed.
- Standing or flooded standing crops where grain is inadvertently spread solely as the result of hunters entering or leaving the area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds. Hunters are cautioned that while conducting these activities, any intentional scattering of grain will create a baited area.
Some examples of areas where you cannot hunt waterfowl include:
- Areas where grain or seed has been top-sown.
- Crops that have been harvested outside of the recommended harvest dates.
- Unharvested crops that have been trampled by livestock or subjected to other types of manipulations that distribute, scatter, or expose grain.
- Areas where grain is present and stored, such as grain elevators and grain bins.
- Areas where grain is present to feed livestock.
- Freshly planted wildlife food plots that contain exposed grain.
- Croplands where a crop has been harvested, and the removed grain is redistributed or “added back” onto the area where grown.
Many hunters pile their birds on their boat before adequately tagging them. Make sure that before you add to the pile, you are properly assigning your game with your name and address, total number and species of birds taken, and the date. You must also sign the tag once you have done all of this feel free to throw your bag into the mix.
Proper Duck Identification
When you are transporting your ducks, you must leave the head or one fully feathered wing intact (some states require both). These parts must remain intact until the bird is at your home or until you use it in other ways like cooking it outside of your home.
Always have your shotgun plugged to prevent them from firing more than three rounds before reloading. Removing the plug to allow for more than three shells is a blatant violation of the law. It doesn't matter if the gun came from the manufacturer without a plug installed— you will still be in violation.
You cannot hunt waterfowl except during the hours open to shooting and during open season.
You must make a reasonable effort to retrieve all ducks that you kill or cripple and keep these birds in your possession while in the field. You must immediately kill any wounded birds that you recover and count those birds toward your daily limit.
Now that you understand the majority of federal duck hunting laws. Here’s a comprehensive list of where you can find state law information.
- Alabama Game & Fish Dept.
- Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game
- Arizona Game & Fish Dept.
- Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
- California Department of Fish and Game
- Colorado Department of Natural Resources
- Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
- Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- Hawaii Div. of Forestry and Wildlife
- Idaho Fish and Game Department
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources
- Indiana Dept. Fish & Game
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources
- Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
- Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
- Maine Department of Conservation
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
- Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks Department
- Missouri Department of Conservation
- Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department
- Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
- Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
- New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
- New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
- New Mexico Game and Fish Department
- New York Department of Environmental Conservation
- North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources
- North Dakota Game and Fish Department
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
- Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
- South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
- Utah Department of Natural Resources
- Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Visit our homepage for additional help with your duck hunting & duck mud motor needs. Additionally, find answers to the most common duck hunting questions here.