Virginia.gov

Webless Migratory Gamebirds

What's New for 2014-2015

Dove Season

  • The Dove season has been increased from 70 to 90 days in length.

Sunday Hunting

  • Sunday hunting for migratory game birds including doves, woodcock, rails, snipe, gallinule and moorhen, is now legal on property where written permission has been obtained from the landowner.
  • In addition, 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.

Stationary Blind Licenses

  • The dates for riparian owners to purchase stationary blind licenses have changed.

General Information

Non-toxic Shot

Non-toxic shot approved by the Department [steel, bismuth-tin, Iron-tungsten, Iron-tungsten- nickel (HEVISHOT), copper-clad iron, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-iron-coppernickel, tungsten matrix, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-tin-iron, tungsten-tin-bismuth, tungsten-tin-iron-nickel, and tungsten-ironpolymer] 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 should be no larger than "T".

Blaze Orange Requirement

When hunting any species during the firearms deer seasons and youth deer day, every hunter (see exceptions below) or person accompanying a hunter shall wear a blaze orange hat or blaze orange upper body clothing that is visible from 360 degrees or display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze orange material at shoulder level within body reach and visible from 360 degrees. Hats may have a bill or brim color or design other than solid blaze orange. Hats shall not be in "camo" style, since the latter is designed to prevent visibility. A logo which does not detract from visibility may be worn on a blaze orange hat.

During the muzzleloader seasons for hunting deer with a muzzleloading rifle only, every muzzleloader deer hunter and every person accompanying a muzzleloader deer hunter shall wear blaze orange as specified above except when they are physically located in a tree stand or other stationary hunting location.

Exceptions

  • Not required by waterfowl hunters, dove hunters, individuals participating in hunting dog field trials, and fox hunters on horseback without firearms.
  • Not required of any hunters hunting during the muzzleloader deer seasons, other than muzzleloader deer hunters, as specified above.
  • Not required of hunters hunting with archery tackle during an open firearms deer season, in areas where the discharge of firearms is prohibited by state law or local ordinance.

Dove

Season Dates:
September 1 - September 5 (noon until sunset), September 6 - October 31 (½ hour before sunrise until sunset)
November 22 - November 30 (½ hour before sunrise until sunset)
December 27 - January 15 (½ hour before sunrise until sunset)
Bag Limit:
15 per day, 45 in possession. Composed of mourning doves and white-winged doves, singly or in combination.

Dove Hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)

Dove hunting permitted within the boundaries of the following wildlife management areas:

  • Amelia
  • Briery Creek
  • Cavalier
  • Chickahominy
  • Clinch Mountain
  • Crooked Creek
  • Dick Cross
  • Fairystone
  • Featherfin
  • Gathright
  • Goshen
  • Hardware River
  • Highland
  • Hog Island (Carlisle Tract only)
  • Horsepen
  • James River
  • Little North Mountain
  • Mattaponi
  • Pettigrew
  • C.F. Phelps
  • Powhatan
  • Rapidan
  • Thompson
  • White Oak Mountain

Maps of managed dove fields on WMAs are available on this website.

Season:
September 1 - October 31
Hours:
September 1-5
12:00 noon until sunset.
Hunting permitted on Labor Day and Wednesday only.
September 6-October 31
One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Hunting permitted on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Season:
November 22 - November 30
December 27 - January 15
Hours:
One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Hunting permitted daily except Sundays.
Bag Limit:
15 per day, 45 in possession. Composed of mourning doves and white-winged doves, singly or in combination.

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.

Rails

Season Dates:
September 8 - November 16
Bag Limit:
Clapper/King: 15 - counted together daily, 45 in possession
Sora/Virginia: 25 - counted together daily, 75 in possession
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise until sunset

NOTE: Virginia requires the use of non-toxic shot for hunting rails and snipe. Non-toxic shot is required for hunting all waterfowl, mergansers, coots, rails, snipe, moorhens, and gallinules.

Snipe

Season Dates:
October 10 - October 13
October 21 - January 31
Bag Limit:
8 daily, 24 in possession
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise until sunset

Gallinule and Moorhen

Season Dates:
September 8 - November 16
Bag Limit:
15 daily, 45 in possession (singly or in combination)
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise until sunset

Woodcock

Season Dates:
November 24 - December 6
December 15 - January 15
Bag Limit:
3 daily, 9 in possession
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise until sunset

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 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.

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 migratory 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 migratory 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 migratory 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: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/

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 sinkbox 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 birds from 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.

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.
  • 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.