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Duck Hunting Laws & Regulations

Duck Hunting

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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.

Duck Stamp

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.

Bag Limits

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.

Assigning Birds

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.

Firearm Safety

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.

Shooting Times

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.

State-by-State Laws

Now that you understand the majority of federal duck hunting laws. Here’s a comprehensive list of where you can find state law information.

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.

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