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Federal Regulations Pertaining to Migratory Birds

Federal Regulations Pertaining to Migratory Birds

The following is a synopsis of Federal Regulations that pertain to the
hunting of migratory game birds. Persons requiring more information
should go to http://www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html, where they will find
a complete version of 50 CFR Part 20. When State law is different from the
following Federal law the hunter must comply with the most restrictive law.
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 and may be hunted in accordance with State and Federal
regulations. The list of migratory game birds includes species of ducks, geese (including
brant), swans, doves and pigeons, cranes, rails, coots, gallinules and moorhens, woodcock
and snipe, if there is an open season.
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, 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, 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 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.
What hunting methods are illegal?
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, machinegun, 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 during dates States haves selected under the
Conservation Order for light geese (i.e. greater and lesser snow and Ross’s geese)
or those selected for the control of resident Canada geese.
Exception: In New Jersey, hunters can use shotguns capable of holding up to seven
shells (including magazine and chamber) during Canada goose seasons in September
and during any Light Goose Conservation Order. See the current years New Jersey
Migratory Bird Regulations for season dates.
• 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 motordriven 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 there from 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 during dates States haves selected under the
Conservation Order for light geese (i.e. greater and lesser snow and Ross’s geese)
or those selected for the control of resident Canada geese.
Exception: In New Jersey, hunters can use electronic calls during:
-Canada goose seasons in September
-Light Goose Conservation Order
-Crow seasons
See the current years New Jersey Migratory Bird Regulations for season dates.
• 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.
It is legal to take migratory game birds including waterfowl, coots, and cranes, 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, coots and cranes, 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), or coots 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
(http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/issues/nontoxic_shot/nontoxic.htm)
Note: In New Jersey, non-toxic shot is also required for hunting all rails, sora, snipe and
gallinules (moorhens).
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.
Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp The law requires that each
waterfowl hunter 16 years of age and older must carry on his person a Migratory Bird
Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) that is validated by the hunter
signing the stamp in ink across the face of the stamp.
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/

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2022
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625
609-777-3373
Last Update: June 10th, 2022