Federal, State, and Local Regulations
This guide provides a summary of the most pertinent laws and regulations concerning the hunting of migratory birds. No attempt has been made to employ the exact wording of laws and regulations, nor to provide their complete listing. For legal purposes, the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies and the General Statutes of Connecticut should be consulted.
How Annual Waterfowl Regulations Are Set
The annual process of setting migratory gamebird hunting regulations in the United States begins in January and ends in September and is based on a system of resource monitoring, data analyses, and regulation development. Hunting regulations for ducks, geese, woodcock, mourning doves, and other migratory gamebirds are set annually and based on the population status of each species. Estimates of both the number of birds and hunting harvests are needed to monitor and ensure appropriate and sustainable populations of each species.
Each year, surveys, such as the waterfowl breeding pair, woodcock singing ground, and dove call count, are conducted. The results of these various surveys are used to assess the populations. In addition, leg banding of various waterfowl species and others, such as mourning doves, is used to determine harvest and survival rates for use in harvest and population models. Information on hunter numbers and harvests is obtained from the Harvest Information Program (HIP). Habitat conditions also are annually assessed across the waterfowl breeding ranges of North America.
All these data are analyzed annually by the biologists of each of the 4 Flyway Councils (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific). The councils develop waterfowl and other migratory gamebird hunting regulation proposals, which are, in turn, submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for evaluation and approval or denial.
After extensive public review, the USFWS Regulations Committee (SRC) sets migratory bird hunting regulations by establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory bird hunting. For example, the current duck hunting season frameworks in the Atlantic Flyway are a 60-day season with a 6 bird daily bag limit that must occur between the Saturday nearest September 24 and the last Sunday in January. Individual states may then choose their hunting seasons from within those frameworks. States can be more restrictive than the allowable framework, but never more liberal.
On the heels of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (2013), beginning in 2015, regulations for the upcoming hunting seasons will be based on data from the previous year, not the current year. Canada has been setting duck hunting regulations in this manner for many years, and woodcock hunting seasons are currently set in this manner. The movement towards this system will simplify the annual regulations process. Also, because of many years of monitoring and research, the waterfowl management community is confident that moving in this direction will cause little risk to the resource.
Regardless of what data are used, the setting of waterfowl hunting seasons and regulations is a balancing act. Hunters request different season dates, bag limits, shooting hours, etc., depending on the species they want to pursue and when they want to pursue them. Hunters appear to want maximum hunting opportunity. DEEP’s challenge is to balance these demands with the ability of waterfowl populations to remain healthy over the long-term. This is never easy and will likely become more difficult in the future.
The material below is only a summary. Each hunter should also consult the actual federal regulations which may be found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 20. In addition to state regulations, the following federal rules apply to the taking, possession, shipping, transporting, and storing of migratory game birds. The Synopsis of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations should also be consulted.
Restrictions: Unless specifically authorized for a special season, no person 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, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance.
- With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler which is incapable of removal without disassembling the gun.
- From a sink box (a low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of water).
- From or with the aid or use of a car or other motor-driven land conveyance, or any aircraft, except that paraplegics and single or double amputees of legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance. "Paraplegic" means an individual afflicted with paralysis of the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs, usually due to disease or injury to the spinal cord.
- From or by means of any motorboat or sailboat, unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sail furled, and its progress therefrom ceased. However, crippled ducks in tidal waters seaward of the first upstream bridge may be taken under power.
- By the use or aid of live decoys. All live, tame or captive ducks and geese shall be removed for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to hunting and confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such tame birds from the sight of 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.
- By driving, rallying or chasing birds with any motorized conveyance or any sailboat to put them in the range of hunters.
- By the aid of baiting (placing feed such as corn, wheat, salt, or other feed to constitute a lure or enticement), or on or over any baited area where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. Hunters should be aware that a baited area is considered baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait.
Closed Season. No person shall take migratory game birds during the closed season.
Shooting Hours. No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting as prescribed.
Daily Bag Limit. No person shall take in any one day more than one daily bag limit.
Field Possession Limit. No person shall possess more than one daily bag limit while in the field or while returning from the field to one's car, hunting camp, home, etc.
Wanton Waste. All migratory game birds killed or crippled shall be retrieved, if possible, and retained in the custody of the hunter in the field.
Tagging. No person shall give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the following information:
- The hunter's signature.
- The hunter's address.
- The total number of birds involved, by species.
- The dates such birds were killed.
No person or business shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.
Possession of Live Birds. Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.
Dressing. No person shall completely field dress any migratory game bird and then transport the birds from the field. The head or one fully feathered wing must remain attached to all such birds while being transported from the field to one's home or to a migratory bird preservation facility.
Shipment. No person shall ship migratory game birds unless the package is marked on the outside with: (a) the name and address of the person sending the birds, (b) the name and address of the person to whom the birds are being sent, and (c) the number of birds, by species, contained in the package.
Importation. For information regarding the importation of migratory game birds killed in another country, hunters should consult Title 50, CFR, 20.61-20.66. One fully feathered wing must remain attached to all migratory game birds being transported between the port of entry and one's home or to a migratory bird preservation facility. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another person.
Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. The law requires that waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older must carry on their person a valid federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (duck stamp) signed in ink across the face. A duck stamp is not required to hunt woodcock, snipe, coot, rail or gallinule.
Dual Violation. Violation of state migratory bird regulations is also a violation of federal regulations.
Reference. Federal regulations related to migratory game birds are located in Title 50, CFR, Part 20.
Caution. More restrictive regulations may apply to national wildlife refuges open to public hunting. For information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 413-253-8274.
- While hunting migratory game birds, all hunters must have valid Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp authorization on their license or have in their possession a CT Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp signed in ink across the face of the stamp. A stamp IS REQUIRED to hunt waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, rails, and crows.
- Only the following shot shall be used for hunting waterfowl, coots, and rails: (1) non-toxic steel shot no larger than BB steel, or (2) any other federally approved non-toxic shot type, such as bismuth-tin alloy, tungsten iron, tungsten polymer, tungsten-matrix or tungsten-nickel-iron (Hevishot) shot no larger than #2. No person may possess lead shot while waterfowl hunting. Learn more about Nontoxic Shot Regulations For Hunting Waterfowl and Coots in the U.S.
- Crows may be hunted with shotguns holding more than 3 shells. There are no non-toxic shot requirements for hunting crows.
- Hunting, shooting or carrying of loaded firearms within 500 feet of any building occupied by people or domestic animals or used for storage of flammable material, or within 250 feet of such buildings when waterfowl hunting in tidal areas from land shooting positions or from floating blinds anchored adjacent to land or from rock positions, is prohibited, unless written permission from lesser distances is obtained from the owner and carried. Landowners, their spouses and lineal descendants are exempt from this restriction, providing any building involved is their own.
- Shooting toward any person, building or domestic animal when within range is prohibited.
- All waterfowl hunting on state-controlled lands and water of Great Island, Old Lyme, and Ragged Rock, Old Saybrook, shall be from temporary waterfowl hunting blinds only, except that cripples may be recovered by shooting within the area open to hunting.
- Boats left unattended at DEEP lands must be marked so that identification of the owner can be made.
- No person shall kill or wound any waterfowl without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird. Any bird which is killed or wounded and not retrieved shall count in the daily bag total.
- A hunting party shall include no more than six individuals, with a minimum distance of 100 yards between parties.
- No person may construct or place any permanent blind or structure for hunting of waterfowl on state-controlled lands or waters.
DEEP has closed certain areas to waterfowl hunting or imposed additional restrictions at some sites. These actions are taken when the Department finds that the physical setting of a particular locality presents an unreasonable risk that hunters may violate the regulations regarding minimum distances to dwellings or the regulations regarding shooting towards dwellings or people. Become familiar with these local sites and always use good judgment when hunting near any populated area. Maps of these closure areas are available upon request at 860-424-3011.
Just because an area is not specifically listed here does NOT mean it is open to waterfowl hunting. Hunters must always comply with existing regulations regarding minimum distances from dwellings and shooting towards persons, buildings, and domestic animals within range.
- Waterfowl hunting is permitted at Selden Neck Natural Area Preserve in Lyme.
- Waterfowl hunting in the Niantic River in the towns of Waterford and East Lyme is subject to the following regulations:
(a) Hunting is prohibited from the shore or in the intertidal area without permission of the riparian property owner.
(b) Hunting is prohibited in the water area northerly of an east and west line which touches the southern tip of Sandy Point and includes Kenny Cove.
(c) Hunting from boats is permitted only along the midline of the river.
(d) Hunting is prohibited in Smith Cove and the channel entering Smith Cove in East Lyme.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited in Alewife Cove and entrance channel, Waterford and New London, and in Jordan Cove north from the mean high water line on the northern side of the sand spit and island.
- In Westport, waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters shoreward of lines extending from the tip of Cedar Point to: a) the southerly tip of the stone breakwall at the eastern end of Compo Beach; and, b) the southwest tip of Hendrick’s Point.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in the tidal waters of Cove Harbor within 100 feet of the mean high tide mark of the Darien shore.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in Cove Pond (Holly Pond), Stamford and Darien, north of the dam.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in Poquetanuck Cove, bordered by the town of Preston and Ledyard.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited in the area of Mason's Island known as Ram Point Cove inland of a line extending from the high water mark of the southernmost tip of Ram Point to the southernmost tip of Mason's Island bordering the eastern side of Ram Point Cove.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited in the Black Hall River in Old Lyme in the area bordered on the south by Route 156 and on the north by the first upstream railroad crossing.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in Assekonk Swamp WMA, North Stonington.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in any direction within a 500-foot radius of the mean high tide mark at Merwin Point in Milford or from within an area bounded by the shoreline and a line from the southernmost extension of the 500-foot radius at Merwin Point westward to the southeastern shoreline at Pond Point in Milford.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited in Bantam Lake in Litchfield and Morris.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in the Mystic River from Route 27 south to Route 1 in Mystic and Groton.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting in or from the banks of Ash Creek north of the line drawn from the northern end of the steel railing on the fishing pier in Fairfield to the northern end of the stone sea wall in Bridgeport at the mouth of the creek where it enters Long Island Sound.
- Waterfowl hunting in the Thames River in the town of Waterford is prohibited in Smith Cove northwest and above the railroad tracks, and from the shores and waters in the vicinity of Mamacoke Island in Mamacoke Cove westward of a line running from the easternmost point of land at Harrison's Landing due north to the point where it intersects the southernmost tip of Mamacoke Island, and from the shores and waters within the unnamed cove west of the southernmost point of shoreline of the unnamed waterbody west of the railroad tracks, the shores and waters of which shall also be closed to waterfowl hunting, to a point intersecting the shoreline of Mamacoke Island.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shore and water in the Giant's Neck area of East Lyme at the mouth of the Pataguanset River northward of a line running due west from the south end of the fixed pier located at the Giant's Neck Boat Association Launch to the south end of the breakwall located at the end of Point Road.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters of Long Island Sound in Greenwich as follows:
- In Greenwich Cove, north of a line extending from the easternmost point of land at Willowmere Point to the northernmost point of land on the peninsula immediately north of Meadow Place.
- In Cos Cob Harbor, north of a line extending due east from the southernmost point of land at the power plant property off of Sound Shore Road to the shoreline adjacent to Glen Avon Road.
- In Greenwich Harbor, Smith Cove and Indian Harbor, north of a line extending from the northernmost tip of the area known as Round Island on the west side of Greenwich Harbor to the southernmost tip of the peninsula at the end of Indian Field Road.
- In Byram Harbor, north of a line extending northeastward from the end of Dock Road to the southeastern most tip of Gamecock Island across Byram Harbor to the southernmost tip of the unnamed peninsula immediately west of Harbor Drive.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters of the Branford River in Branford from Route 1 south to Montowese Avenue.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters in Post Cove in Deep River southward of the dike that extends across the northern edge of the cove.
- Waterfowl hunting at Plum Bank WMA in Old Saybrook is prohibited north and east of a line extending from Southview Circle southeast to Gull Lane.
- Hunting is prohibited in that part of Gulf Pond in Milford between the Milford breakwater and Metro North railroad tracks and in Milford Harbor from the Milford breakwater north to the Memorial Bridge.
- Hunting is prohibited in Lake Wononscopomuc in Salisbury.
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters of the Housatonic River in Stratford and Milford southward from the I-95 bridge to a line running east and west across the river that includes the northern-most tip of the island in the river that occurs adjacent to the end of Riverview Place in Stratford.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting on the West River in West Haven south of Route 1 and north of Route 122 (Kimberly Avenue).
- Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters of the Quinnipiac River downstream from the Middletown Avenue Bridge south to the Amtrak/Route 1 bridge near the mouth of New Haven Harbor.
- There shall be no waterfowl hunting on the West River in Guilford south of Route 1 and north of Route 146.
Content last reviewed in June 2023.