For legions of New York waterfowlers, the autumnal arrival of ducks, geese, and other migratory game birds signals a cherished tradition passed through generations. Yet many hunters remain unaware of the precise regulations governing these species on federal and state levels. Given the complex interplay of rules dictating season lengths, bag limits, shooting hours, baiting and firearms specifications, this lack of understanding jeopardizes the future of the sport.
What are Migratory game birds?
New York state and federal laws and regulations define migratory game birds as wild ducks, mergansers, geese, brant, coot, rails, and gallinules. Also included are woodcock and snipe. Unlike federal rules, New York’s migratory game bird hunting regulations apply to crows with limited exceptions. Mourning doves, which are federally recognized as migratory game birds, have no shooting season in New York State.
Overview of Migratory Game Bird Species
New York regulates the following as migratory game birds:
- Ducks: Mallards, wood ducks, teal, pintails, wigeon and 20+ other species
- Geese: Canada geese, snow geese, brant
- American woodcock
- Wilson’s snipe
Rails and Gallinules
- Sora, Virginia rails, yellow rail, common moorhen
Understanding the diversity of New York’s migratory birds allows hunters to key in on preferred species. For example, targeting diving ducks demands different tactics than pass shooting mallards over a cornfield.
Licenses and Stamps
All migratory bird hunters must carry a valid New York hunting license, except exempt individuals like disabled veterans. Youth hunters ages 12-15 can hunt without a license but must meet hunter education requirements.
Harvest Information Program (HIP)
Annual HIP registration is mandatory for all migratory bird hunters in New York, including landowners exempted from holding a hunting license. Hunters must carry proof such as your HIP number or documentation while afield. Here’s a detailed summary of the registration process with two options:
Choice 1 – Seamless Online HIP Registration:
- Begin your HIP journey by visiting the DEC Hunting License website at decals.licensing.east.kalkomey.com/.
- Access the “Report Game Harvest/Register for HIP” section by clicking on the prominent header.
- While a DECALS login is optional, consider providing your DEC ID and Date of Birth when prompted for a more personalized experience.
- Execute a quick search to peruse your historical HIP registrations linked to your DEC ID.
- Absence of results post “Search” implies an inactive or non-existent hunting license, rendering HIP registration ineligible.
- Locate the ongoing HIP year registration survey and opt for “Register for HIP” from the dropdown menu.
- Engage in a thought-provoking series of inquiries about your prior year’s hunting exploits.
- Post-completion, hit “Submit” to securely store your data and procure the all-important HIP number, a mandatory companion during migratory bird hunting.
Choice 2 – Effortless HIP Registration via Automated Phone System:
- Dial 1-866-933-2257 to initiate HIP registration via the automated phone system.
- Choose the “HIP registration” option and seamlessly follow the automated instructions provided.
- Conclude your call armed with the HIP registration number, an essential companion for migratory game bird hunters during their hunting ventures.
Assure compliance with the HIP registration protocol to actively contribute to efficient harvest monitoring and strict adherence to hunting regulations. Always have your HIP number on hand during migratory bird hunting as conclusive proof of your registration.
Federal Duck Stamp Requirements:
- Mandatory Stamp Possession:
All waterfowl hunters over 16 must carry a duck stamp signed in ink across the face. The stamp need not be affixed to the license.
- E-Stamps Validated by Law:
Validated E-stamps from the Federal Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013 are also acceptable. This gives hunters a digital compliance option.
- Exemptions for Certain Game Birds:
Duck stamps are not needed for coot, rails, gallinules, woodcock, or snipe hunting. Minors 12–15 hunting migrating ducks in New York State are exempt from the duck stamp.
- Acquiring Federal Duck Stamps:
Most post offices and sporting goods shops sell $25 federal duck stamps. Contact 1-800-852-4897 to order. Phone and online purchases include shipping and handling fees.
Seasons and Shooting Hours
New York is divided into waterfowl hunting zones with 60-day duck seasons running from early October through late December. Goose seasons start in early September and may extend into February. Seasons for woodcock, snipe, rails and moorhens run from September through November.
- Woodcock: Sunrise to sunset
- Other Migratory Birds: Half-hour before sunrise until sunset
- Special extensions:
- Canada geese in September
- Snow geese during conservation order
Hunters should consult regulations for specific season dates and shooting hours in their zone. Setting early alarms is rewarded with spectacular sunrises in marshlands!
Firearms and Ammunition Regulations
Migratory bird hunters may only use shotguns (10 gauge or smaller) capable of holding no more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined. Exceptions exist for snow goose and September Canada goose seasons.
Lead shot is banned for hunting all migratory game birds except woodcock. Hunters must use approved non-toxic loads including steel, tungsten, bismuth and others. Possession of lead shot afield is prohibited.
Concealed Carry Handguns
New York does not prohibit concealed carry pistol permit holders from possessing handguns while migratory bird hunting. However, handguns cannot be used to harvest migratory game birds.
Prohibited Methods and Activities
Migration game bird hunting is heavily restricted, and the following tactics are prohibited:
Restricted Weapons and Devices:
Hunting migratory game birds using traps, snares, nets, rifles, pistols, swivel guns, shotguns bigger than 10-gauge, punt guns, battery guns, machine guns, fishhooks, poisons, narcotics, explosives, or stupefying substances is illegal.
Shotguns with more than three rounds are illegal unless they have a single-refill system that requires disassembly. Waterfowl hunting is limited to six shells in semi-automatic shotguns at all times, save for snow geese in certain locations and Canada geese in September.
Hunting from a sink box, motorized or sailing boat (unless stationary, engine off, and sail furled), or powered land vehicle or aircraft is prohibited. A DEC permit lets paraplegics hunt from a car.
The employment of live decoys is banned. For 10 days before hunting, all tame ducks and geese must be kept in a cage that muffles their sounds and conceals them from migrating waterfowl.
Sound Imitation Devices:
Recorded migratory bird sounds, sound imitations, and electrically amplified bird call imitations are prohibited, save for snow geese in defined regions and Canada geese in September.
Motorized Conveyance and Baiting:
Motorized vehicles and sailboats cannot be used to hunt birds. Unless permissible over standing crops or flooded harvested agricultural areas, baiting—placing feed to attract birds—is restricted with a 10-day post-baiting limitation.
Violating these prohibitions threatens migratory bird hunting privileges.
Possession, Tagging, Shipping and Import Rules
Hunters may personally possess no more than triple the daily bag limit of migratory game birds following a hunt. For example, if the daily limit for ducks is 6, you could possess 18 after successful outings. The exception is snow geese, which have no possession restrictions.
The hunter’s name, address, signature, dates taken, and bird identification must be included on every migratory birds left with others for processing/shipping/preservation.
Parts in Possession
Hunters transporting dressed migratory game birds must leave ONE fully feathered wing or the head attached to demonstrate species and compliance.
Consult federal/state regulations for requirements on legally shipping migratory birds within/out of New York.
Special Seasons and Opportunities
Snow Goose Conservation Order
Most parts of New York have a special conservation order allowing additional snow goose hunting from January 15 – April 15, including extended shooting hours and electronic calls.
Military Veterans and Active Duty Personnel Exclusive Hunting:
To celebrate military veterans and active-duty hunters, migratory game bird hunting is allowed on two days in each hunting zone for individuals with permits, HIP registration, and duck stamps. The daily bag limit matches the normal hunting season for fair hunting. Adult migratory game bird hunters must carry one of the following identification documents in addition to their license:
1. Active Military ID Card: These unique hunting days are for active military ID holders.
2. Actively Participating Guard/Reservist Identification Card: Military duty individuals must carry their ID abroad.
3. Retired Military Identification Card: Exclusive hunting chances for retired military people.
4. Veteran’s New York State Driver’s License: Hunters may also show a veteran-related New York driver’s license.
5. Form DD214, Discharge Certificate: People possessing DD214s, Certificates of Discharge, may participate in these special hunting days.
6. Corrected Discharge Certificate Form DD215: Eligible hunters may use Form DD215, Corrected Certificate of Discharge, as identification.
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