Hunting Waterfowl and Migratory Game Birds
Hunting articles by Tony Young, the media relations coordinator for the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. You can reach him with questions about hunting at Tony.Young@MyFWC.com.
Tony Young, FWC, 850-488-7867
There’s finally a chill and a certain festiveness in the air as most of us try to take time off from work to enjoy spending quality time with family and friends and reflect on the passing year. Children will be out of school on winter break soon, and while the holiday season is upon us, so are several traditional hunting opportunities.
The second phase of waterfowl and coot season comes in statewide Dec. 11 and runs through Jan. 30. In addition to the usual hunting license and permit requirements, duck hunters also must have a Florida waterfowl permit ($5) and a federal duck stamp ($15).
The daily bag limit on ducks is six, but you need to know your ducks before you pull the trigger, because there are different daily limits for each species. For instance, within the six-bird limit there may be only one black duck, one mottled duck, one fulvous whistling-duck and one canvasback.
Only two of your six-bird limit may be pintails, redheads or scaup, and three may be wood ducks. And you may have no more than four scoters and four mallards (of which only two may be female) in your bag. All other species of ducks can be taken up to the six-bird limit, except harlequin ducks.
The daily limit on coots is 15, and there’s a five-bird limit on mergansers, only two of which may be hooded.
When hunting waterfowl, hunters may use only non-toxic shotgun shells. In fact, it’s illegal for hunters even to possess lead shot when waterfowl hunting. Only iron (steel), bismuth-tin and various tungsten-alloys are permissible.
For something different, try woodcock hunting. Woodcock season runs Dec. 18 – Jan. 16. Woodcocks are excellent game birds because they hold well for pointing bird dogs and provide a challenging shot when flushed. The daily bag limit is three.
The third phase of mourning and white-winged dove season opens Dec. 11 and runs through Jan. 9. The daily bag limit is 15 birds.
From November on, shooting hours for all migratory birds are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. You must get a no-cost migratory bird permit where you purchase your hunting license before you hunt any of these birds, though.
The only firearm you can use to hunt migratory game birds is a shotgun, no larger than 10-gauge. Shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined). Bows also are legal.
Retrievers and bird dogs can be useful in hunting migratory game birds. Artificial decoys, as well as manual or mouth-operated bird calls, also are legal and essential gear for duck hunters.
You may hunt migratory game birds over an agricultural field, as long as the crop’s been planted by regular agricultural methods. However, don’t even think about “sweetening” the field by scattering agricultural products over it – or anywhere near it – or you could wind up in serious trouble. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t the one who scattered the bait. If you knew or should’ve known that such bait was present, you’re accountable under federal law.
Public Hunting Land (WMA)