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Waterfowl Blind Laws

General

The laws governing the licensing and location of waterfowl blinds are included in the Code of Virginia, promulgated by the General Assembly. These are implemented by regulations adopted by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Blinds Generally

Blinds located west of I-95 are not subject to these laws and regulations, nor do they apply to blinds located in Accomack and Northampton counties. No new blind licenses will be issued for additional stationary blinds in the City of Virginia Beach. Floating blinds may not anchor within 500 yards of any licensed stationary blind, unless permitted by the stationary blind owner.

Stationary Blinds

Is a structure erected at a fixed location either on the shores of the public waters or in the public waters for the purpose of hunting and shooting waterfowl. A stationary blind shall be (1) of such size and strength that it can be occupied by and conceal one or more hunters, or (2) large enough to accommodate and conceal a boat or skiff from which one or more hunters intend to hunt or shoot waterfowl.

Floating Blind

Is a floating device, whether in motion or anchored, that can be occupied by and conceal one or more hunters, uses a means of concealment other than the device's paint or coloration, and is used in the public waters for the purpose of hunting and shooting waterfowl.

Offshore Blind Stake Site

Is a specific location in the public waters where a stake is licensed for the purpose of hunting and shooting waterfowl from a licensed floating blind. Valid only in the counties of Caroline, King George, Essex, Westmoreland, and Richmond.

Waterfowl Blind Licenses

Stationary, floating blind, and offshore blind stake licenses are available during the time periods listed below from any license agent through the Department's point of sale system, or online. Hunters have the option of requesting a blind plate be sent to them if they do not have one. The blind plate, if requested, and a decal for the plate will be mailed within 3 to 5 business days. Hunters who purchase a blind license online will be able to print out a copy of their application information. A license for their blind will be emailed immediately after the sale is complete. The license plate furnished must be affixed to the blind at a location where it can be easily seen.

When Blind Licenses Are Sold:

Riparian landowners or their lessees or permittees licensing a stationary blind that was not licensed the previous year by the riparian owner, lessee, or permittee may purchase a stationary blind license from February 1 through June 15. A stake or a stationary blind shall be erected on the site, and a license plate supplied with the license for that season shall be affixed thereto, by June 30. If a stake has been erected on the site of a stationary blind, such stake shall be replaced by a blind by November 1.

Riparian owners or their lessees or permittees licensing a stationary blind that was licensed the previous year by the riparian owner, lessee, or permittee may purchase a stationary blind license from February 1 through August 15. A stake or a stationary blind shall be erected on the site, and a license plate supplied with the license for that season shall be affixed thereto, by August 31. If a stake has been erected on the site of a stationary blind, such stake shall be replaced by a blind by November 1.

A nonriparian license for a stationary blind in the public waters that was licensed the previous year as a nonriparian stationary blind may be obtained by the previous year's licensee beginning July 1 through August 15. A stake or blind shall be erected on the site, and a license plate supplied with the license for that season shall be affixed thereto, by August 31. If a stake has been erected on the site of a stationary blind, such stake shall be replaced by a blind by November 1.

A stationary blind or a site in the public waters that is not licensed and posted by August 31 can be licensed as a nonriparian blind beginning September 1 through October 15. A stake or blind shall be erected on the site, and a license plate supplied with the license for that season must be affixed thereto. If a stake has been erected on the site of a stationary blind, such stake must be replaced by a blind by November 1.

Floating Blind licenses: on or after July 1.

Offshore Blind Stake Site license for nonriparian owner who has not already licensed and erected a stationary blind in counties where floating blinds are prohibited: November 1-10.

Offshore Blind Stake Site license for riparian owner who has already licensed and erected a stationary blind in counties where floating blinds are prohibited: November 11-15.

Spacing of Blinds Generally

Except for adjacent landowners, licensed stationary blinds may be placed no closer than 500 yards to each other, except they may be placed closer together with the mutual consent of the licensees involved. Except for county exceptions, listed on page 23, floating blinds may be positioned no closer than 500 yards to any licensed stationary blind, whether it is occupied or not, without consent of the owner of the neighboring blind. Stationary blinds cannot be located in any water having a depth of more than eight feet at mean high water.

Rights of Riparian Landowner

The owners of riparian rights or their invitees shall not be required to obtain a stationary blind license when hunting waterfowl from such a blind located on the riparian owner's property. However, a stationary blind license shall be required in order to afford the riparian owners the protections provided by Virginia law. The owner of riparian rights, his lessee or permittee has exclusive privileges of licensing blinds on his shoreline and prior rights of licensing and erecting blinds in the public waters in front of such shoreline. These blinds shall not be located in water deeper than eight feet at mean high tide, nor shall they be farther than halfway across the body of water from the riparian owner's shoreline, except on the shores and waters of Back Bay in the City of Virginia Beach where such blinds are limited to (i) the riparian owner's shoreline at the mean low water mark or (ii) blinds erected and licensed by the riparian owner in 2011. No other blind may be located within 500 yards of this stake or blind without consent of the owner, permittee, or lessee. The stake must be replaced by an erected stationary blind as specified by Code by November 1 to be a licensed blind under the law. Where the lands of two property owners adjoin, each may place blinds on his property or in the public waters in front of his property without regard to the placement of blinds on his neighbor's property.

Rights of Non-riparian Owner

Although the law states that a riparian owner who does not license a blind on his shore forfeits the privilege for that season, it does not mean a nonriparian owner can erect or license a blind on the property of another without permission. If a landowner has not licensed a stake or a blind, a non - riparian owner may license a location in the public waters in front of such land, providing no other location within 500 yards has been so licensed. Again, such blind cannot be located in water in excess of eight feet in depth at mean high tide (see exception for Back Bay in Rights of Riparian Landowner). A nonriparian license for a blind that was licensed the previous year as a nonriparian blind can be purchased from July 1 through August 15, and a plate with current decal must be affixed to a stake or blind by August 31. A nonriparian license for a blind or blind site not previously licensed the year before can be purchased from September 1 through October 15, and a plate and current decal must be affixed to it by November 1.

Of course, if a location is secured through agreement with a riparian landowner having control of the near shoreline, the site may be licensed as applies to a permittee or lessee of a land owner. A nonriparian owner, having licensed a blind in a given location, has first option to license such blind each year unless the riparian landowner having claim to that location exercises his right to license it.

Riparian Owner's Rights Renewed Annually

If a riparian owner fails to exercise his options, he may elect to do so the following year, thus preempting any rights of non - riparian owners who have erected blinds in the public waters in front of his shoreline.

Penalty for Violations

Any person who hunts or shoots migratory waterfowl in the public waters of this Commonwealth from a boat, float, raft or other buoyant craft or device within 500 yards of any legally licensed erected stationary blind of another without the consent of the licensee shall be guilty of a criminal offense that is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor. This provision shall not apply to any person when in active pursuit of a visible crippled waterfowl which was legally shot by the person.

Additionally, any person who erects a stationary blind within 500 yards of another licensed blind without permission of the licensee is guilty of a trespass, and the owner of the blind so encroached upon may maintain an action for damages. It should be noted that this is a criminal offense. It should also be noted that by November 1 a stationary blind must be erected; therefore, a stake with a stationary license affixed thereto cannot be considered to be a stationary blind after November 1.

Loss of Blind License

The violation of any of the provisions of law or regulations as to hunting migratory waterfowl from licensed blinds shall constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor and, in addition to other authorized penalties, the trial court shall immediately revoke the license of the blind owner who will have the same privileges as a new applicant to apply for a blind license the following year. Any blind for which the license has been revoked shall be destroyed by the former licensee or a conservation police officer.

Accidental Destruction of Blind

If a blind is destroyed in any manner beyond the control of the owner, it may be replaced within 30 days without losing the position it formerly occupied.

Number of Stationary Blinds Permitted

Clubs or individuals who do not own riparian rights shall be permitted to license no more than two stationary blinds in the public waters in any one season.

Floating Blinds, Where Prohibited

The use of floating blinds is prohibited in the counties of Caroline, King George, Essex, Westmoreland, and Richmond in any of the public marshes, guts, streams, branches, creeks, or bays, including among others, Green Bay and Port Tobago Bay, flowing into the Rappahannock River or in any of its tributaries, or in Buckner's Creek, Nomini Creek and Nomini Bay, flowing into the Potomac River or any of its tributaries, except from a licensed Offshore Blind Stake Site. (See below for details.)

Offshore Blind Stake Sites

Offshore blind stakes shall be removed from the public waters within 15 days of the close of the waterfowl season.

Non-Riparian Owner

A nonriparian owner who has not already licensed and erected a stationary blind for the year in the 5-county area identified above and who holds a valid hunting license, may apply for a license for offshore blind stake sites. The license for an offshore blind stake site may be obtained from November 1 through November 10 of each year. Up to 4 offshore blind stake site licenses may be purchased per licensee. Once obtained, a stake shall be erected on the site and a license plate supplied with the license for that season shall be affixed thereto by November 10.

Riparian Owner

From November 11 through November 15 of each year, any riparian owner and any other person who has already licensed and erected a stationary blind for the year in the areas noted above, and who holds a valid hunting license, may apply for a license for any remaining offshore blind stake sites. Up to 4 offshore blind stake site licenses may be purchased per licensee. Once obtained, a stake shall be erected on the site, and a license plate supplied with the license for that season shall be affixed thereto by November 15.

Placement of Blinds in Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties

No stationary blind shall be more than 300 yards from shore, except in waters less than 600 yards wide, in which case the blind may be no more than half the width of the water from shore. This distance is measured from the low water mark.

No license shall be issued for stationary waterfowl blinds on the Potomac River in Fairfax County adjacent to National Park Service lands in the Great Hunting Creek and Dyke Marsh areas.

Floating Blinds in Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties

Floating blinds must be anchored and located no closer to another's blind than 400 yards unless person has written permission of blind owner. Such blinds must be taken in at a half hour after sunset.

In the area adjacent to the National Park Service lands in the Great Hunting Creek and Dyke Marsh areas floating blinds must be attached to a Game Department-placed post or buoy. Only one floating blind per post. These are on a first-come, first-served basis, sites to be occupied no earlier than 4:00 A.M. or later than one half hour after sunset, and blinds removed each day. Hunters in licensed floating blinds can hunt from designated locations during legal shooting hours on Thanksgiving Day and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the open season.

Placement of Blinds Adjacent to Certain Wildlife Management Areas

No stationary blinds shall be licensed in the waters adjacent to the Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Charles City County, the Game Farm Marsh WMA in New Kent County, and the Ragged Island WMA in Isle of Wight County. In addition, it is unlawful to hunt, pursue or disturb waterfowl in the public waters within 1,000 yards of the Lands End Waterfowl Management Area located adjacent to the Rappahannock River in King George County, provided, however, that this section shall not abridge the privileges prescribed for landowners, and their lessees and permittees in section 29.1-344 and 29.1-347 of the Code of Virginia.

Occupied or Unoccupied Blinds

No person shall hunt or shoot migratory waterfowl in the public waters of this Commonwealth from a boat, float, raft or other buoyant craft or device within 500 yards of any legally licensed erected stationary blind of another, whether occupied or not, without the consent of the licensee, except when in active pursuit of a visible crippled waterfowl which was legally shot by the person.

Crippled Waterfowl

When in active pursuit of a visible waterfowl which was legally shot, the hunter may pursue such waterfowl without regard to the 500 yard prohibition protecting licensed waterfowl blinds.

Jump Shooting from Boats

Permitted where appropriate landowner permission has been secured or where generally permitted on public waters. Consult with the local conservation police officer to learn local restrictions. Not permitted within 500 yards of a licensed stationary blind, except with consent of blind owner. If a boat is used for jump shooting and is modified for the purpose of concealing the hunter, it is a floating blind and must be licensed as such. Jump shooting is not permitted from a boat 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.

Abandoned Blinds

Those licensing stationary blinds in the public waters shall remove same when licenses are allowed to expire or when they no longer intend to use them.

Waterfowl Blind Cleanup

Hunters are asked to remove unnatural materials, such as netting, camouflage cloth, wire, or twine from stationary blinds after the waterfowl hunting season. Birds such as ospreys, eagles, and owls often use blind structures for perching and/or nesting. Such materials, if left after the hunting season, can cause injury and even death to these birds if they become entangled in the material.