The first week of September might seem too early for fall hunting, but migratory bird hunting seasons for doves, ducks, and geese all start up this month! One advantage of these early hunts is that the birds are “uneducated” and unwary and can really zoom into your set ups and respond to your calls.
But do you know the migratory bird hunting regulations? They can be confusing! Migratory bird hunting is regulated by numerous state and federal game laws. Laws can vary considerably between states, which means even the most conscientious waterfowl and dove hunters can find themselves paying fines instead of enjoying the hunt.
Here’s what you need to know before you head afield this month for some bird hunting…
Duck, Duck, Goose!
Migratory bird hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods are state specific, so check with your state game agency beforehand. A handy list of agencies and links is provided by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies here.
Early September is the traditional opener for that speedy little duck, the teal. This year, for example, the teal hunting season in Texas and many other states runs from September 10th through the 25th, yet in Louisiana, the same hunt is held from September 15th through the 30th. Cinnamon, blue-wing, and green-wing teal are all legal game.
Early Canada Goose seasons also open this month. In Colorado, for example, early Canada Goose season runs from September 1st through the 9th, 2017, but only West of the Continental Divide. Wisconsin has a longer season, September 1st thru the 15th, 2017, and allows hunters up to five geese per day.
Doves and Zones
Seasons for mourning and white-winged doves start now, too. The best hunting occurs in the mornings and late afternoons when the birds come to watering holes and agricultural fields in search of food and a chance to wet their beaks.
Again, though, many regulations are at work here. In Texas, for example, hunting in the North and Central Dove Zones starts on September 1st, 2017. The regular season opening day in the South Dove Zone is September 22nd, 2017—but there’s a special season for white-winged doves in the South Zone during the first two weekends (Saturday and Sunday) of September. Make sure you know your zones.
Know the Migratory Bird Hunting Laws!
The most common migratory bird hunting violations concern baiting. Simply put, you can’t hunt ducks, geese or doves over bait. But what constitutes bait?
It’s not that easy to define. Consider this from “Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting,” published online by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.
“Hunting waterfowl over a crop that has not been harvested but that has been manipulated (rolled/disked) is considered baiting under current regulations. The presence of seed or grain in an agricultural area rules out waterfowl hunting unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, normal agricultural harvesting, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice.”
What is “normal?” Every year, what seems “normal” to duck and dove hunters near ag fields won’t be “normal” to the game wardens who cite them for illegal baiting! Best advice: chat with local game wardens for their take on baiting.
The other most common violation is not having a plug in your pump or semi-automatic shotgun that limits only two shells in the magazine. Frequently, hunters get dinged on this because they removed the plugs for upland game hunting and just forgot to replace them before the migratory opener.
Legal Help for Hunters, Anglers.
Members of Texas LawShield’s HunterShield program have access to attorneys for the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members receive discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. These seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add HunterShield to your existing membership for only $2.95 per month.
Not a member of Texas LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a hunting sportsman or woman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law. —Brian McCombie, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield Blog