The first week of September might seem too early for fall hunting, but 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 ins and outs of migratory-bird hunting regulations? They can get confusing: Migratory-bird hunting is regulated by numerous state and federal game laws, and those laws can vary considerably from state to state. That means even the most conscientious waterfowl and dove hunters can find themselves paying fines instead of enjoying the hunt.
Brush up on 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’s game agency beforehand. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies has provided an easy-to-reference list of agencies and links, which can be found here.
September is the traditional opener for that speedy little duck, the teal. The Georgia early teal season runs September 9 to 24 statewide, with bag and possession limits being 6 teal daily and 18 in possession. Cinnamon, blue-wing, and green-wing teal are all legal game. The early Canada goose season also opens this month, running from September 2-24, 2017 statewide. The bag and possession limits are 5 daily, 15 in possession.
According to Matthew Kilgo, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Georgia, the state’s Canada Goose season runs various specific weeks of each month from September, 2017, through the end of January, 2018. “Being on the right side of the law means knowing for sure you’re in the season,” says Kilgo. “As varied as Georgia’s bird seasons can be, the correct information is vital to staying legal and enjoying the hunt, rather than dreading a trip to the courthouse.”
Doves and Zones
Seasons for mourning 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. In Georgia, according to Kilgo, dove season statewide is September 2-17, 2017; October 14 – November 2; and November 23-January 15, 2018. In any state, make sure you know your zones and specific laws. Bag and possession limits are 15 daily, 45 in possession.
Know the Law
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 here.
“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 agricultural fields isn’t the same kind of “normal” to the game wardens who cite them for illegal baiting. Best advice: Contact your local game wardens for their definition of baiting.
Another 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 and Anglers
Members of U.S. 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 U.S. 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