Virginia.gov

Virginia Migratory Waterfowl

What's New for 2014-2015

Sunday Hunting

  • Sunday hunting for waterfowl is now legal throughout Virginia (except within 200 yards of a place of worship), including Wildlife Management Areas, unless otherwise restricted. See the wildlife management area section of the department's website for specific waterfowl seasons or restrictions.

Waterfowl Seasons & Bag Limits

  • The bag limit for canvasback has been reduced to 1 per day.
  • The opening date for the tundra swan season has been moved to November 15th.

General Information

Shooting Hours

No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting as prescribed. Shooting hours for all waterfowl, all seasons is one-half hour before sunrise until sunset, (except when otherwise permitted in the September Canada Goose season and the Light Goose Conservation Order season). See sunrise-sunset timetable on page 28. Non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl hunting.

Possession Limits

After opening day, the possession limit is now 3 times the daily bag limit, (except for light geese and tundra swans), but no one is allowed to have more than one daily bag limit of game in his possession while in the forests, fields, or waters of this state. Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.

Non-toxic Shot

Non-toxic shot approved by the Department [steel, bismuth-tin, Iron-tungsten, Irontungsten- nickel (HEVISHOT), copper-clad iron, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-ironcopper- nickel, tungsten matrix, tungstenpolymer, tungsten-tin-iron, tungsten-tinbismuth, tungsten-tin-iron-nickel, and tungsten-iron-polymer] is required for hunting all waterfowl, mergansers, coots, moorhens, gallinules, snipe, and rails. Lead shot is not allowed for hunting these species and cannot be in possession in the field while hunting these species. Shot size can be no larger than "T".

September Canada Goose

Season Dates:
September 1 - September 25
Bag Limit:
10 daily, 30 in possession
Hunt Area:
Statewide
Shooting Hours:
East of I-95
  • September 1 - 16: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset
  • September 17 - 25: ½ hour before sunrise to sunset
West of I-95
  • September 1 - 21: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset
  • September 22 - 25: ½ hour before sunrise to sunset

September Canada goose hunting is not permitted within the boundaries of the Amelia and Dick Cross Wildlife Management Areas.

Special Requirements:
In addition to a HIP registration number, a federal migratory duck stamp, and a Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (unless license exempt) are also required to hunt geese during this season.
Note: Electronic calls and unplugged shotguns are not allowed for hunting Canada geese.

September Teal

Season Dates:
September 17 - September 30
Hunt Area:
East of I-95
Season Dates:
September 22 - September 30
Hunt Area:
West of I-95
Bag Limit:
6 daily, 18 in possession* (any combination of blue-winged and green-winged teal)
* Note: Hunters are cautioned to positively identify their ducks before shooting, since other species, such as wood ducks, may be in the area.
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise to sunset
Special Requirements:
In addition to a HIP registration number, a federal migratory duck stamp, and a Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (unless license exempt) are also required to hunt teal during this season.

Duck Seasons

  • October 10 - October 13 (Black duck closed)
  • October 25, 2014 and January 31, 2015 (Youth Days)
  • November 15 - November 30
  • December 17 - January 25

Daily Bag Limit: 6 ducks of any species except for the following restrictions: can include no more than 4 mallards (only 2 can be hen mallards), 4 scoters, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 scaup, 2 pintails, 1 black duck (except closed during Oct. 10-13), 1 canvasback, 1 mottled duck, and 1 fulvous whistling duck.

Closed season on harlequin ducks.

The possession limit is three times the daily bag limit. No person may take more than one daily bag limit in any one day.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days: October 25, 2014 and January 31, 2015

Statewide. Resident and nonresident youth hunters 15 years of age and under may harvest the allowed daily bag limit of ducks (see above), and other waterfowl, including coots, mergansers, gallinules, moorhens, 2 Canada geese in the Atlantic Population Zone, 5 Canada geese in the Southern James Bay Population and Resident Population zones, and 1 tundra swan (if the youth possesses a tundra swan permit) on the designated youth days. Resident youth age 12-15, and nonresident youth age 15 or under, need a valid Virginia hunting license, unless license exempt. All participating youth must be HIP registered. All youth must be accompanied and directly supervised by an adult at least 18 years of age or older who has a valid Virginia hunting license (unless license exempt). The accompanying adult cannot hunt ducks, but may hunt for those species for which there is an open season.

Don't Forget: HIP and Migratory Duck Stamps!

All hunters (whether licensed or exempt from being licensed) who plan to hunt doves, waterfowl, rails, woodcock, snipe, coots, gallinules, or moorhens in Virginia must be registered with the Virginia Harvest Information Program (HIP). A new HIP number is required each year and is valid from July 1 to the following June 30. You can register online or call 1-888-788-9772. Note: If you travel out of state to hunt migratory game birds you are required to obtain a HIP number for each state you hunt in. Contact each state for their HIP registration process

Also, Virginia waterfowl hunters must obtain a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp and the Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (unless license exempt) to hunt waterfowl in Virginia.

Special Sea Duck Season in the *Special Sea Duck Zone

Sea duck species are scoter, long-tailed duck (formerly oldsquaw), and eider.

  • October 17 - January 31

Bag limit: 7 per day (21 in possession), but may include no more than 4 scoters (12 in possession).

*Special Sea Duck Zone Boundary

Those waters at a distance greater than 800 yards from any shore, island, or emergent vegetation in the following areas: the ocean waters of Virginia, the tidal waters of Northampton and Accomack counties, and the Chesapeake Bay and each of its tributaries up to the first highway bridge. Back Bay and its tributaries are not included in the special sea duck hunting area.

Outside the Special Sea Duck Zone

Sea ducks may be taken during the regular duck season outside the Special Sea Duck Zone but must be counted as part of the regular duck season daily bag limit.

Coots

  • October 10 - October 13
  • November 15 - November 30
  • December 17 - January 25

Bag limit: 15 per day, 45 in possession.

Mergansers

  • October 10 - October 13
  • November 15 - November 30
  • December 17 - January 25

Bag limit: 5 birds daily, of which only 2 birds may be a hooded merganser (15 in possession, only 6 of which may be hooded mergansers).

Waterfowl Hunting On Wildlife Management Areas

For information about quota or managed hunts for waterfowl on Department Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's), refer to the "2014-2015 Hunting & Trapping in Virginia, Regulations and Information Digest."

Note: Waterfowl hunting on the Amelia, Briery Creek, and James River Wildlife Management Areas is permitted only on the opening day, Wednesdays, and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons. Waterfowl hunting on the Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area, is permitted only on October 10, 11, 12, and 13 and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons.

Light Goose (Greater and Lesser Snow Geese and Ross's Geese)

Regular Season

  • October 17 - January 31; statewide

Bag limit: 25 per day, no possession limit.

Conservation Order Season (see hunt zone below)

Bag limit: No daily or possession limit.

Special Hunting Methods: Electronic calls and unplugged shotguns are allowed.

Shooting Hours: ½ hour before sunrise and extended to ½ hour after sunset only in areas and at times when other waterfowl seasons are closed.

All hunters who plan to participate during this season must register either online or by phone (866-721-6911), and obtain a Hunter Activity Report prior to hunting. The Hunter Activity Report must be submitted to the Department within two weeks following the close of the season, either through the agency website (above) or by mail (Light Goose Conser vation Order, 3801 John Tyler Memorial Highway, Charles City, VA 23030). Registration will begin December 1, 2014.

Conservation Order Season Zone: Same as the AP Canada Goose Zone– The area east of the Stafford/King George County line from the Potomac River south to the Rappahannock River, then west along the Stafford County line to Interstate 95, then south along Interstate 95 to Route 460 in Petersburg, then southeast along Route 460 to Route 32 in the City of Suffolk, then south along Route 32 to the North Carolina border.

Conservation Order Season Hunt Zone

Canada Goose

(Note: The Canada goose bag limit in all zones includes Canada geese, cackling geese and white-fronted geese singly or in aggregate.)

Atlantic Population Zone (AP)

  • November 15 - November 23
  • December 20 - January 29

Bag Limit: 2 geese per day (6 in possession).

Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP)

  • November 15 - November 25
  • December 17 - January 14
  • January 15 - February 15

Bag Limit: 3 geese per day: Nov. 15-25 and Dec. 17-Jan. 14; 5 geese per day: Jan. 15-Feb. 15

Resident Population Zone (RP)

  • November 15 - November 30
  • December 17 - February 18

Bag Limit: 5 geese per day (15 in possession)

Canada Goose Zones

The dividing lines between the hunting zones are as follows:

  • Atlantic Population (AP) Hunt Zone: The area east of the Stafford/King George County line from the Potomac River south to the Rappahannock River, then west along the Stafford County line to Interstate 95, then south along Interstate 95 to Route 460 in Petersburg, then southeast along Route 460 to Route 32 in the City of Suffolk, then south along Route 32 to the North Carolina border.
  • Southern James Bay Population (SJBP) Hunt Zone: The area to the west of the AP Hunt Zone boundary and east of the following line: the "Blue Ridge" (Loudoun County- Clarke County line) at the West Virginia- Virginia border, south to Interstate 64 (the Blue Ridge line follows county borders along the western edge of Loudoun- Fauquier-Rappahannock-Madison-Green- Albemarle and into Nelson counties), then east along Interstate 64 to Route 15, then south along Route 15 to the North Carolina line.
  • Resident Population (RP) Hunt Zone: The portion of the state west of the SJBP Hunt Zone.

Atlantic Brant

  • December 27 - January 25

Bag limit: 2 per day, 6 in possession.

Tundra Swan

  • November 15 - January 31

Bag limit: 1 per permit.

Tundra Swan Hunt Area

Hunting will be permitted in all counties and portions of counties lying east of I-95 and south of the Prince William/Stafford County line in Chopawamsic Creek at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Tundra Swan Permit

Before any person may hunt tundra swans in Virginia, he or she must first apply for and receive a tundra swan hunt permit. Permits are issued through a special drawing. The deadline to submit applications for this drawing is September 26, 2014. The Department will issue no more than 600 swan hunting permits. The drawing is open onlyto holders of a valid Virginia hunting license. Hunters may apply for a swan permit by mail, online, or by telephone at 1-877-VAHUNTS (824-8687).

Swan hunting permits are non-transferable and are valid for use only by the person to whom issued. Permits must be in the immediate possession of the permit holder while swan hunting. Immediately at the time and place of kill successful permittees must cancel their swan hunting permit by permanently recording the month and day of kill and by attaching the permit to the swan as instructed. The DGIF is required to obtain hunter participation and harvest information to offer this tundra swan hunting season. Hunters are required to complete the accompanying tundra swan hunt questionnaire and return it to the address listed on the questionnaire at the end of your hunt. Those who fail to return a completed questionnaire by February 15, 2015 are ineligible for future drawings.

What Terms Do I Need to Understand?

Migratory birds are birds protected by federal law as a result of treaties signed with other countries. Protected migratory birds are listed in Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Section. 10.13. This list includes almost all birds found in the United States with the exception of the house sparrow, feral pigeon (commonly called rock dove), European starling, Eurasian collared-dove, mute swan, and upland game birds (which are protected by state laws).

All migratory birds are protected. How - ever, a subset of migratory birds classified as migratory game birds may be hunted in accordance with state and federal regulations. The list of migratory game birds includes species of ducks, geese (including brant), swans, mergansers, doves, rails, coots, gallinules and moorhens, woodcock, and snipe.

Daily bag limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination (aggregate) of species permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season in any one specified geographic area for which a daily bag limit is prescribed.

Aggregate daily bag limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season when such person hunts in more than one specified geographic area and/or for more than one species for which a combined daily bag limit is prescribed. The aggregate daily bag limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest daily bag limit prescribed for any one species or for any one specified geographic area in which taking occurs.

Possession limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or a combination of species permitted to be possessed by any one person when lawfully taken in the United States in any one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed.

Aggregate possession limit means the maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination of species taken in the United States permitted to be possessed by any one person when taking and possession occurs in more than one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed. The aggregate possession limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest possession limit prescribed for any one of the species or specified geographic areas in which taking and possession occurs.

Personal abode means one's principal or ordinary home or dwelling place, as distinguished from one's temporary or transient place of abode or dwelling such as a hunting club, or any club house, cabin, tent or trailer house used as a hunting club, or any hotel, motel, or rooming house used during a hunting, pleasure, or business trip.

Migratory bird preservation facility means:

  1. Any person who, at their residence or place of business and for hire or other consideration; or
  2. Any taxidermist, cold-storage facility or locker plant which, for hire or other consideration; or
  3. Any hunting club which, in the normal course of operations, receives, possesses, or has in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person for purposes of picking, cleaning, freezing, processing, storage, or shipment.

Normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation means a planting or harvesting undertaken for the purpose of producing and gathering a crop, or manipulation after such harvest and removal of grain, that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Normal agricultural operation means a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or agricultural practice that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of state Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Normal soil stabilization practice means a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation conducted in accordance with official recommendations of state Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for agricultural soil erosion control.

Baited area means any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for ten days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.

Baiting means the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

Manipulation means the alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities that include but are not limited to mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. The term manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of grain, seed, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown.

Natural vegetation means any nonagricultural, native, or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules. The term natural vegetation does not include planted millet. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years after the year of planting is considered natural vegetation.

Lawful Hunting Methods

It is legal to take migratory game birds including waterfowl and coots on or over the following lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas:

  • Standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics);
  • Standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice;
  • From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation;
  • From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with vegetation from agricultural crops, as long as such camouflaging does not result in the exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of grain or other feed; or
  • Standing or flooded standing agricultural crops where grain is inadvertently scattered solely as a result of a hunter entering or exiting a hunting area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds.

It is legal to take migratory game birds, except waterfowl and coots, on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.

Wanton waste of migratory game birds No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird, and retain it in his actual custody, at the place where taken or between that place and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.

Non-toxic Shot No person may take ducks, geese (including brant), swans, coots, mergansers, moorhens, gallinules, rails or snipe while possessing shot (either in shotshells or as loose shot for muzzleloading) other than approved non-toxic shot. For a list of approved non-toxic shot, see the section above.

Opening Day of a Season No person on the opening day of the season shall possess any freshly killed migratory game birds in excess of the daily bag limit, or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies.

Field Possession Limit No person shall possess, have in custody, or transport more than the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies, of migratory game birds, tagged or not tagged, at or between the place where taken and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migra - tory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.

Tagging requirement No person shall put or leave any migratory game birds at any place (other than at his personal abode), or in the custody of another person for picking, cleaning, processing, shipping, transportation, or storage (including temporary storage), or for the purpose of having taxidermy services performed, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter, stating his address, the total number and species of birds, and the date such birds were killed. Migratory game birds being transported in any vehicle as the personal baggage of the possessor shall not be considered as being in storage or temporary storage.

Custody of birds of another No person shall receive or have in custody any migra tory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.

Termination of possession Subject to all other requirements of this part, the possession of birds taken by any hunter shall be deemed to have ceased when such birds have been delivered by him to another person as a gift; or have been delivered by him to a post office, a common carrier, or a migra tory bird preservation facility and consigned for transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier to some person other than the hunter.

Gift of migratory game birds No person may receive, possess, or give to another, any freshly killed migratory game birds as a gift, except at the personal abodes of the donor or donee, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter who took the birds, stating such hunter's address, the total number and species of birds and the date such birds were taken.

Transportation of birds of another No person shall transport migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.

Species identification requirement No person shall transport within the United States any migratory game birds, except doves and band-tailed pigeons, unless the head or one fully feathered wing remains attached to each such bird at all times while being transported from the place where taken until they have arrived at the personal abode of the possessor or a migratory bird preservation facility.

Marking package or container No person shall transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier migratory game birds unless the package or container in which such birds are transported has the name and address of the shipper and the consignee and an accurate statement of the numbers of each species of birds therein contained clearly and conspicuously marked on the outside thereof.

More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges opened to public hunting. For additional information on refuge specific regulations see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's website.

Unlawful Hunting Methods

  • Hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm, or other weapon, or to hunt or kill any deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the aid or assistance of dogs, on Sundays. Exceptions to Sunday hunting prohibition:
    1. Raccoons may be hunted until 2:00 A.M. on Sunday mornings.
    2. Waterfowl may be hunted on Sundays subject to geographical limitations established by the Director and except within 200 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
    3. Any landowner or member of his family or any person with written permission from the landowner may hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, on the landowner's property on Sunday, except within 200 yards of a place of worship or any accessory structure thereof.
    4. Hunting is permitted on licensed shooting preserves.

No persons shall take migratory game birds:

  • With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance;
  • With a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does not exceed three shells. This restriction does not apply to crows and during dates states haves selected under the Conservation Order for light geese (i.e., greater and lesser snow and Ross's geese);
  • From or by means, aid, or use of a sink - box or any other type of low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water;
  • From or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft of any kind, except that paraplegics and persons missing one or both legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance;
  • From or by means of any motorboat or other craft having a motor attached, or any sailboat, unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sails furled, and its progress therefrom has ceased;
  • By the use or aid of live birds as decoys; although not limited to, it shall be a violation of this paragraph for any person to take migratory waterfowl on an area where tame or captive live ducks or geese are present unless such birds are and have been for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to such taking, confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such birdsfrom the sight of wild migratory waterfowl;
  • By the use or aid of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds, or recorded or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls or sounds. This restriction does not apply to crows or during dates states haves selected under the Conservation Order for light geese (i.e., greater and lesser snow and Ross's geese);
  • By means or aid of any motor-driven land, water, or air conveyance, or any sailboat used for the purpose of or resulting in the concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up of any migratory bird;
  • By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.

Waterfowl Blind Laws »

Areas Closed To Waterfowl Hunting

The discharge of firearms is prohibited within 750 yards of a wildlife sanctuary in any city in Virginia.

Taking, attempting to take, pursuing, or disturbing waterfowl is prohibited in the following areas:

  • In Virginia Beach on the waters and from the shores of Crystal Lake, Linkhorn and Broad Bay, and Long Creek and their tributaries.
  • Hog Island State Waterfowl Refuge in Surry County and all of the waters of the James River within a radius of 1,000 yards around that island, with the exception of blinds erected by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
  • The waters of the James River around Presquile National Wildlife Refuge (except for the Turkey Island Cutoff navigational channel) to the mean low water mark on the opposite shore.
  • Gaston Reservoir (Roanoke River) from a point beginning at High Rock and extending to the John H. Kerr Dam.
  • The public waters extending 1,000 yards out from the marked shoreline of the Lands End WMA on the Rappahannock River in King George County, with the exception that adjacent landowners may still exercise their riparian rights. Additional information, including a map of this area, can be found on our VDGIF website.
  • The waters of the Great Hunting Creek embayment within the City of Alexandria, and the waters of the Potomac River in Fairfax County north of Dyke Marsh and south of the City of Alexandria and between the shore and a line 1,000 feet from the Maryland State Line, although waterfowl that have been wounded elsewhere may be pursued into this area.
  • The waters of Kane Creek Waterfowl Refuge within the boundaries of Mason Neck State Park in Fairfax County.
  • The waters of the Potomac River in Fairfax County adjacent to the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge extending from Sycamore Point north easterly to Hallowing Point including all tributary creeks, guts, and inlets along the shoreline.
  • The portion of the New River that lies entirely within the boundaries of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in the counties of Montgomery and Pulaski.