Migratory Gamebirds

What’s New for 2017-2018

  • The daily bag limit for black ducks has been increased from 1 to 2 per day.
  • The daily bag limit for pintails has been reduced from 2 to 1 per day.

General Information

Migratory Game Bird Hunters Get Hip!

All hunters who plan to hunt migratory game birds (including doves, waterfowl, rails, woodcock, snipe, coots, gallinules or moorhens) in Virginia, whether licensed or licensed exempt, must be registered with the Virginia Harvest Information Program (HIP). The HIP registration must be completed each hunting season. You will not be given a separate HIP number but your customer number will serve as your HIP registration. If you do not plan to hunt migratory game birds you do not need to register for HIP.

Migratory Game Birds

Migratory game birds means species of waterfowl (ducks, geese, brant, swans, and mergansers) and webless species (coots, doves, gallinules, moorhens, rails, snipe, and woodcock).

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). Non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl hunting and for rail and snipe hunting.

Possession Limits

The possession limit for migratory game birds is 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.

Sunday Hunting

Hunting for waterfowl (ducks, coot, geese, brant, and swan) and rails (including gallinules and moorhens) is allowed on Sundays subject to geographical limitations established by the Director of the department and except within
200 yards of a house of worship or any accessory structure thereof.

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-copper-nickel, tungsten matrix, tungsten-polymer, tungstentin-iron, tungsten-tin-bismuth, tungsten-tiniron-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 should be no larger than “T”.

Blaze Colored Requirement

The term “blaze colored” in reference to clothing or other items required for specific safe hunting practices shall be one of two colors: 1) traditional blaze orange or 2) bright pink or fluorescent pink which will be known as blaze pink.

When hunting any species during a firearms deer season and on youth/apprentice deer hunting weekend, every hunter (see exceptions here), or persons accompanying a hunter, shall wear a blaze colored hat or blaze colored upper body clothing that is visible from 360 degrees or display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze colored 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 color. 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 colored hat.

Hunters using ground (pop-up, chair, box, etc.) or tree stand blinds that conceal them from view must display a minimum of 100 square inches of blaze color, visible from 360 degrees, on the OUTSIDE of such blinds. This blaze color is in addition to any worn on the hunter’s person.

Exceptions

  • Blaze colored clothing is not required of waterfowl hunters, dove hunters, individuals participating in hunting dog field trials, and fox hunters on horseback without firearms.
  • 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, are exempt from the blaze color requirement.
  • Other than muzzleloader deer hunters, blaze colored clothing is not required of any hunters hunting during the muzzleloader deer seasons.

Dove

Season Dates:
September 2-8 (noon until sunset), September 9-October 29 (½ hour before sunrise until sunset)
November 22-29 (½ hour before sunrise until sunset)
December 23-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 is 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, Horsepen, James River, Little North Mountain, Mattaponi, Pettigrew, C.F. Phelps, Powhatan, Rapidan, Thompson, Ware Creek, and White Oak Mountain. The dove fields at the Carlisle Tract of Hog Island are being renovated/expanded this year and will not be planted for the 2017 season.

Season (pertains to the above-listed WMAs only; see general seasons above for other locations):
September 2-October 29
Hours:
September 2-8
12:00 noon until sunset.
Hunting permitted on Saturday, Labor Day, and Wednesday.
Hunting on Chickahominy WMA during the first week is by Quota hunt only.
September 9-October 29
One-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Hunting permitted on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Season (pertains to the above-listed WMAs only; see general seasons above for other locations):
November 22-29
December 23-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.

Rails

Season Dates:
September 9-November 17
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.

Sunday hunting for rails, gallinule, and moorhens is allowed on private lands and public lands as permitted by the landowner.

Snipe

Season Dates:
October 6-October 9
October 21-January 31
Bag Limit:
8 daily, 24 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.

No Sunday hunting of snipe on public waters or on public lands.

Gallinule and Moorhen

Season Dates:
September 9-November 17
Bag Limit:
15 daily, 45 in possession (singly or in combination)
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise until sunset

NOTE: Sunday hunting for rails, gallinule, and moorhens is allowed on private lands and public lands as permitted by the landowner.

Woodcock

Season Dates:
November 20-December 8
December 21-January 15
Bag Limit:
3 daily, 9 in possession
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise until sunset

NOTE: No Sunday hunting of woodcock on public waters or on public lands.

September Teal

Season Dates:
September 16 – September 30
Hunt Area:
East of I-95
Season Dates:
September 21 – 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.

Ducks

Season Dates:
October 6-9 (Black duck closed)
November 15-26
December 16-January 28
Bag Limit:
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, 4 long-tailed ducks, 4 eiders, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 scaup, 1 pintail, 2 black ducks (except closed during Oct. 6–9), 2 canvasbacks, 1 mottled duck, and 1 fulvous whistling duck.
Shooting Hours:
½ hour before sunrise to sunset.
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.

Special Sea Duck Season in the *Special Sea Duck Zone

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

Season Dates:
November 10-January 8
Bag Limit:
5 per day (15 in possession), but may include no more than 4 scoters, 4 eiders or 4 long-tailed ducks.
*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
In addition to the “Special Season in the Special Sea Duck Zone,” scoters, long-tails and eiders can also be taken during the regular duck season (Oct. 6–9, Nov. 15–26 and Dec. 16– Jan. 28) in areas outside the Special Sea Duck Zone since these species are included as part of the regular duck season bag limit (6 ducks total which can include no more than 4 scoters, 4 long-tails or 4 eiders.

Mergansers

Season Dates:
October 6-9
November 15-26
December 16-January 28
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).

Coots

Season Dates:
October 6-9
November 15-26
December 16-January 28
Bag Limit:
15 per day, 45 in possession.

Canada Goose

(Includes White-fronted Geese)

Atlantic Population Zone (AP) Seasons
November 15-26
December 22-January 28
Bag Limit:
2 geese per day (6 in possession).
Resident Population Zone (RP) Seasons
November 15-26
December 16-February 21
Bag Limit:
5 geese per day (15 in possession).
Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP) Seasons
November 15-26
December 18-January 14
January 15-February 15
Bag Limit:
3 geese per day: Nov. 15-26 and Dec. 18-Jan. 14.
5 geese per day: Jan. 15-Feb. 15.

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.
map-canada-goose-zones

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 – 15: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset
  • September 16 – 25: ½ hour before sunrise to sunset
West of I-95

  • September 1 – 20: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset
  • September 21 – 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.

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, unplugged shotguns, and extended shooting hours are allowed.
Shooting Hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.
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 Conservation Order, 3801 John Tyler Memorial Highway, Charles City, VA 23030). Registration will begin December 1, 2017.
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

map-conservation-order-season-hunt-zone

Atlantic Brant

Season Dates:
November 15-26
December 16-January 31
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 30, 2017. The Department will issue no more than 750 swan hunting permits. The drawing is open only to holders of a valid Virginia hunting license. A hunter may only apply for a swan permit online through the Department’s website at gooutdoorsvirginia.com.

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 a tundra swan report online on our website at the end of your hunt. Those who fail to submit their hunt report by February 15, 2018 are ineligible for future drawings.

Waterfowl Hunting On Wildlife Management Areas

Waterfowl hunting on the James River WMA 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 6, 7, 8 and 9, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons.

Game Farm Marsh WMA is open for hunting on Friday, Saturday and Monday of the October segment of the duck season (Oct. 6, 7 and 9), and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays during the November (Nov. 15–26), and December–January (Dec. 16–Jan. 28) segments of the duck season. Hunters may not occupy the area before 5:00 a.m. and must vacate the area by 1:00 p.m. Hunting on Friday and Saturday of the October segment (Oct. 6 & 7) and on the opening day of the November segment (Nov. 15) and the December–January segment (Dec. 16) will be by Quota hunt only. Outside of the duck season segments listed above, waterfowl hunting on Game Farm Marsh is open with no restrictions on hunt days, times, or hunter numbers.

Waterfowl hunting on and within 500 yards of the Ware Creek WMA is permitted (except portions of Philbates Creek) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays of the duck and goose seasons. Hunters may not occupy their hunting location until 5 a.m. and hunting must end by 1 p.m.

Waterfowl hunting at Doe Creek WMA is open to walk-in hunting on Saturdays only for
half days during the last two segments of the general waterfowl season. Hunters may hunt until 1:00 p.m. and must have all decoys up and be away from the impoundments by 2:00 p.m. The area is open on Sundays for scouting and wildlife viewing.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days

October 21, 2017 and February 3, 2018
Statewide. Resident and nonresident youth hunters 15 years of age and under may harvest the allowed daily bag limit of ducks, and other waterfowl, including Atlantic brant, coots, mergansers, gallinules, moorhens, light geese, 2 Canada geese in the Atlantic Population Zone, 5 Canada geese in the Southern James Bay Population and Resident Population zones, 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 Virginia 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.

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. However, 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. In Virginia, this also applies to food plots that are planted for the purpose of hunting migratory game birds.
Relevant factors include recommended planting dates, proper seed distribution, seed bed preparation, application rate, and seed viability. These practices are to be conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For official recommendations visit https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/424/424-100/424-100_pdf.pdf.

  • Official recommendations state the guidelines for planting wheat in Virginia are one week before to one week after the first killing frost, October 15–November 15 in eastern Virginia; October 1–November 1 in the Piedmont; October 1–October 25 west of the Blue Ridge. Plant 120–150 lbs. per acre (36 seeds per sq. ft. or 20 seeds per drill ft. in 7″ rows). Plant in 6–8″ rows or solid seeded.
  • Wheat planted or scattered outside of these guidelines does not satisfy the definition of normal agricultural planting. Therefore, it is unlawful to hunt migratory game birds over such areas.

Normal agricultural operation means a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, postharvest 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, dicing, 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 non-agricultural, 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.

Waterfowl Hunting Safety Tips

Cold water combined with foul weather can create hazardous conditions for waterfowl hunters. Because these conditions can be dangerous, some safety tips are provided (below) so hunters can be better prepared before heading out on the water.

Weather

To stay warm and avoid the risks of hypothermia or cold water immersion:

  • Control wind and wetness by using waterproof jackets, waders, and boots.
  • Wear a belt around your waders to prevent water from entering.,
  • Wear wool clothing or clothing that stays warm when wet, like some fleece products. Bring extras in a waterproof bag.
  • Wear a hat. Most warmth escapes through your head.
  • Bring a variety of high energy/sugar content food bars for quick energy and calories.
  • Your extremities are very important. It’s no fun to hunt with cold feet, hands, or head. Bring waterproof gloves and footwear, and chemical hand and foot warmers that you can put inside your gloves or boots.
  • If you fall in—go home! Or, take a break and change into warm, dry clothes.

Duck Boat Safety

When planning a hunt, check to be sure the boat is in good working condition and includes enough gas for the trip, all necessary safety gear, and boat lights and flashlights in good working order. Hunters must follow all boating rules, and everyone on board should wear a properly fitted U.S.C.G. approved life jacket, vest, or flotation coat anytime while on the water. Cell phones and radios are important communication
devices and should be properly charged and kept in a waterproof bag. A GPS unit is helpful in finding your way but don’t depend solely on it as a means of navigation, as reception varies and units can fail.

  • Check the weather before leaving.
  • Choose a route close to shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
  • Anchor from the bow, never from the stern.
  • Don’t overload your boat. Check the capacity plate and keep the amount of gear, dogs, and people within your weight limits. Also, be sure the load is properly balanced and try to keep movements and weight shifts (dogs and people) to a minimum. Overloading, sudden shifts in weight, or excessive weather conditions are the most common causes of boats capsizing or swamping.
  • If your boat does capsize or swamp, stay with it. Even when filled with water it will provide some floatation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.
  • Firearms should be unloaded and properly secured in a case while being transported in a boat. Floating gun cases earn their keep if one happens to go overboard.
  • Be extra careful when shooting from a boat. Small boats often have little room to swing a shotgun, so be aware of where dogs and other partners are, and only shoot when all is clear. Never stand in an unsecured boat to shoot.
  • Leave a float plan with a responsible person that includes the names of all persons in your party, type and registration number of your boat, time and location of your hunt, and when you expect to return.

Waterfowl hunting can be safer and more enjoyable if you plan ahead and make safe practices part of your water-based hunt. Safety is always the first and most important measure of a successful hunt.

Duck boat safety tips contributed by the Virginia Waterfowlers Association: www.vawfa.org

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 (ducks, coot, geese, brant, and swans), and rails, gallinules, and moorhen 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 have 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 have 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. Additional information, including a map of this area, can be found at
    www.dgif.virginia.gov/wmas.
  • The waters of the Great Hunting Creek embankment 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 northeasterly 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.
  • The waters of Kittewan Creek Refuge in Charles City County, west (upstream) of the posted refuge boundary markers (latitude-longitude coordinates 37.29831 – 77.05134) located approximately one mile upstream from the James River.