DEEP: Migratory Bird Hunting Guide

2019-2020 Connecticut Migratory Bird Hunting Guide
Bureau of Natural Resources
Wildlife Division

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.

PDF version of the 2019-2020 Migratory Bird Hunting Guide
Printed copies will be available at DEEP offices, town clerks, and select vendors by late July 2019.

Licenses and the current Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp can be purchased at the
Online Sportsmen Licensing System

Table of Contents

New for 2019-2020

Everyone is reminded of the changes to the Connecticut Duck Stamp and HIP that occurred in 2016, which affected requirements to hunt migratory birds (waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, rails, and crows). The $13 Connecticut Duck Stamp was merged with the $4 Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit into a single $17 Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp. Crow hunters must purchase the Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, as well as ALL migratory bird hunters, regardless of age. Hunters under the age of 16 do not need to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp to hunt waterfowl. A 3-day, out-of-state (non-resident) bird hunting license, which costs $35, allows out-of-state hunters to hunt migratory and resident (non-migratory) game birds for 3 consecutive days. Depending on what species are being hunted, out-of-state hunters still need to purchase a Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp and/or Connecticut Resident (non-migratory) Game Bird Conservation Stamp.
The general duck season in the Atlantic Flyway is now being set based on the collective status of 4 species (wood duck, ring-necked duck, American green-winged teal, and common goldeneye). This is a vast departure from the way the general duck season has been set since 2000, which was based solely on the status of mallards breeding in the northeastern part of the Continent. This new approach has been in the works since 2012 and will result in a season setting process that better accounts for all duck populations and the status of waterfowl habitat in the Atlantic Flyway (more information).
The mallard bag limit has been reduced in half, from 4 to 2, with one hen in the daily bag. Mallard populations breeding in the northeastern U.S. have been declining for the past 20 years and these birds constitute over 70% of the mallard harvest in New England and 58% of the harvest in the Mid-Atlantic. This reduction in bag limit is across the entire Atlantic Flyway.
Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) about changes to mallard hunting regulations in the Atlantic Flyway for 2019-2020.
Brochure (PDF) explaining the changes in the Atlantic Flyway mallard bag limit.
The season length for the AP goose season has been reduced to 30 days with a 2 bird daily bag limit. The breeding pair count for the AP has been declining and that, coupled, with a total breeding failure in 2018, necessitates a restrictive season throughout the Atlantic Flyway for AP geese.
The Atlantic brant season will be reduced to a 30-day season with a 2 bird daily bag limit. The midwinter survey for Atlantic brant, the metric upon which the season is set, was at 120,109, which prescribes a restricted brant season in the Atlantic Flyway.
The pintail daily bag limit will change to 1. This change, despite a relatively high breeding population estimate, is based on the Continental pintail harvest strategy.
Black duck hybrids are now classified as black ducks. This should reduce the chances of a mistake and any confusion in the field.
A necessary change was made to the AFRP Canada goose zone, which also precipitated a change to the NAP zone (see map).
Waterfowl hunting will be temporarily closed through May 31, 2020, in the area of Calf Pasture Beach, Taylor Farm Park, and Veterans Park in Norwalk. This temporary closure shall apply from a distance 250 feet into Long Island Sound perpendicular to the shoreline, beginning at the easterly boundary of Taylor Farm Park and extending to the westerly boundary of Calf Pasture Beach, and include the Norwalk River from the Washington Street Bridge to a line extending from the westerly boundary of Calf Pasture Beach to the easterly terminus of Neptune Avenue.

{Black Duck}
Open Waterfowl Seasons and Bag Limits

Changes from 2018 are highlighted in bold
(All Dates Inclusive - Except Sundays)
NORTH ZONE: The portion of the state north of Interstate 95
SOUTH ZONE: The portion of the state south of Interstate 95.
SHOOTING HOURS: One-half hour before sunrise to sunset, except for the September Goose Season, when shooting hours end one-half hour past sunset.

Species Season North
Daily Bag
Ducks, Mergansers
and Coots
Oct. 12 - Oct. 19
Oct. 12 - Oct. 16
Ducks 6A,B
Coots 15
Nov. 9 - Jan. 9
Nov. 16 - Jan. 20
Sea DucksC
  (Scoter, Oldsquaw, Eider)
- -
Nov. 12 - Jan. 20
5D 15D
Canada GeeseE

Sept. 2 - Sept. 30

Sept. 14 - Sept. 30
15 45
AP UnitF
See Map
Nov. 30 - Dec. 16
Dec. 18 - Jan. 4
2 6
See Map
Oct. 12 - Oct. 19
Nov. 7 - Nov. 30
Dec. 18 - Feb. 15
Oct. 12 - Oct. 19
Nov. 7 - Nov. 30
Dec. 18 - Feb 15
5 15
See Map
Oct. 12 - Oct. 19
Nov. 9 - Jan. 9
Oct. 12-Oct. 19
Nov. 9 - Jan. 9
2 6
- -
Jan. 15 - Feb. 15I
5 15
Snow Geese
 (includes Blue Geese)
Oct. 1 - Jan. 14
Feb. 21 - Mar. 10
Oct. 1 - Dec. 2
Jan. 9 -Mar. 10
25 no limit
Dec. 6 - Jan. 9
Dec. 17 - Jan. 20
A Includes all species of ducks, with the following restrictions: MALLARD: daily limit 2 and may include only 1 HEN. WOOD DUCK: daily limit 3. BLACK DUCK: daily limit 2. SCAUP: daily limit 2. REDHEAD: daily limit 2. PINTAIL: daily limit 1. CANVASBACK: daily limit 2. HOODED MERGANSER: daily limit 2. Possession limits are three times the daily bag limit. SEASON FOR HARLEQUIN DUCKS IS CLOSED.
C In coastal waters and streams seaward of the first upstream bridge.
D Daily bag limit for sea ducks may include no more than 4 SCOTERS, 4 OLDSQUAW, 4 EIDER, 12 in possession.
E Daily bag limit includes white-fronted geese.
F AP Unit: Litchfield County and the portion of Hartford County, west of a line beginning at the Massachusetts border in Suffield and extending south along Route 159 to its intersection with I-91 in Hartford, and then extending south along I-91 to its intersection with the Hartford/Middlesex County line (Wethersfield/Cromwell).
G AFRP Unit: All of the rest of the state not included in the AP or NAP descriptions.
H NAP-H Unit: That part of the state east of a line beginning at the Massachusetts border in Suffield and extending along Route 159 to its intersection with I-91 in Hartford and then extending south along I-91 to State Street in New Haven. South along State Street to Route 34. West on Route 34 to Route 8 to Route 110, south along Route 110 to Route 15, north along Route 15 to the Milford Parkway, south along the Milford Parkway to I-95, north along I-95 to the intersection with the east shore of the Quinnipiac River, south to the mouth of the Quinnipiac River and then south along the eastern shore of the New Haven Harbor to the Long Island Sound.
I The portion of the South Zone east of the Quinnipiac River.

Connecticut Migrant Goose Zones

{Map of Connecticut Goose Hunting Zones}

{Clapper Rail}
Rail Season
Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp is required.
Legal Firearms
Species Daily
Season Dates Shooting
Virginia and Sora 25 75

Sept. 2 - Oct. 5 and
 Oct. 14 - Nov. 28

One-half hour before sunrise
until sunset

Clapper and King*
*Only 1 of the daily bag limit may be a king rail.

Woodcock and Snipe Seasons
Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp is required.
Species Daily
Season Dates Shooting
American Woodcock
Oct. 21 - Nov. 16 and
Nov. 18 - Dec. 11
One-half hour before sunrise
until sunset
Wilson's Snipe 
Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp is required.
While crow hunting from a stationary position, a hunter is exempt from the fluorescent orange clothing regulation.
Species Daily
Season Dates Shooting
No Limit No Limit
Hunting allowed only on certain days.
Aug. 10 - Oct. 11, 2019 
Wed., Fri., Sat.
Oct. 19 - Nov. 30, 2019 
Wed., Fri., Sat.
Jan. 11 - March 28, 2020
Mondays through Saturdays
(The dates for early 2020 are incorrect in the printed version of the guide.)

One-half hour before sunrise
until one-half hour after sunset
(On Oct. 19, 2019, legal hunting starts at 7:00 AM)

Special September and Late Canada Goose Seasons
The Special September and late Canada goose seasons will again be offered. No special permits are required. The early season in the North Zone will begin on September 2 and run through September 30. In the South Zone, the season will begin on September 14 and end on September 30. The daily bag limit for the early season continues to be 15, with a possession limit of 45. Shooting hours for the September season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour past sunset. Unplugged shotguns are legal to use during the September goose season. All September goose season hunters must have a federal Duck Stamp and a 2019 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, which includes the HIP permit.

The late goose season is from January 15, 2020, to February 15, 2020, in the South Zone only (east of the Quinnipiac River). Goose hunters are reminded the AFRP Unit has changed (see map) and that season runs until February 15, 2020. All late goose season hunters must have a federal Duck Stamp and a 2020 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, which includes the HIP permit.

Wing Characteristics of Black Ducks and Black Duck/Mallard Hybrids
Black Duck Wing
Black feathers surrounding the blue speculum with no evidence of white above the speculum.
{Black Duck Wing}
Black Duck/Mallard Hybrid Wing
Black feathers surrounding the blue speculum with white above the speculum.
{Black Duck/Mallard Hybrid Wing}
Black Duck/Mallard Hybrid Wing
Black feathers surrounding the blue speculum with faint white above the speculum.
{Black Duck/Mallard Hybrid Wing}

Black Duck Harvest Information
The daily bag limit for black ducks is two. NEW! Black duck hybrids are now classified as black ducks. This should reduce the chances of a mistake and any confusion in the field.

The best way to distinguish between black ducks and black duck/mallard hybrids is to look at the feathers above the wing speculum. Black ducks have no white coloration above the speculum.

For more information about the harvest and management of black ducks, read the Black Duck Management Strategy in North America (PDF) and the Black Duck Management Hunter Fact Sheet (PDF).

Youth Waterfowl Hunter Training Days
Connecticut will hold 2 statewide youth waterfowl hunter training days on Saturday, October 5, 2019 and Saturday, November 2, 2019. Junior hunters (ages 12 to 15) must have a valid small game junior hunting license and a 2019 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp (which includes the HIP permit) and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age. Sixteen and 17-year-old hunters can participate in the training days, but they must have a valid hunting license, a 2019 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, and a federal 2019-2020 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Adults must possess a valid hunting license; however, they are not allowed to carry a firearm. Ducks, geese, mergansers, and coots may be hunted. Bag limits and shooting hours are the same as for the regular duck and goose hunting seasons. (The
Junior Hunter webpage contains more details about Junior Hunter Training Days and Events.)

The Connecticut Waterfowl Association (CWA) sponsors a Waterfowl Hunter Mentoring Program, which pairs up experienced volunteer mentors with youths and adult novice waterfowl hunters. The goal is to encourage new participants in this great sport, who will then appreciate and help conserve our waterfowl resources. The mentors also have the opportunity to give back to the resource they cherish. Mentors of youths are able to enjoy all aspects of waterfowling (except shooting) during the two Youth Waterfowl Hunter Training Days offered each season when only youths can hunt. More information on this program can be found on CWA's website. (Read an article in the March/April 2014 issue of Connecticut Wildlife magazine about CWA's waterfowl mentoring program. - PDF)

Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp
The 2019 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, which expires on December 31, 2019, features buffleheads flying over Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, and was painted by two-time winner Jeffrey Klinefelter. The 2020 Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, which features a pair of wood ducks, was painted by Frank Dolphens, Jr. and will be valid from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

2019 Connecticut Migratory Bird Stamp Artist: Frank Dolphens, Jr., of Omaha Nebraska, came in second in Connecticut's 2016 contest. He has been passionate about art since his childhood. Frank's father, Frank Sr., used to draw for him when he was a young child and influenced his love for art. Frank attended Omaha Art Institute, a commercial art school, in 1973. He became sidetracked for a few years, but never left his passion for art. Still wanting to pursue an art career, Frank attended Dallas Art Institute in 1984 and received his degree. He had a rewarding career for 33 years working for as the Vice President of Print Operations. Recently retired, Frank now has more time to pursue his dream. He has been entering Duck Stamp contests for a few years and has placed in several, but this one is special because it is Frank’s first win. Now that Frank has more time, he will continue broadening his skills and love for painting and says he will never be bored as long as he has a brush in his hand!

All migratory bird hunters (waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, rail, and crow), including 12 to 15-year-olds, are required to purchase and carry the current Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, and hunters 16 years and older are required to purchase and carry the federal Duck Stamp. However, conservationists, stamp collectors, and others may also purchase stamps in support of wetland habitat conservation. Revenue from the sale of Migratory Bird Stamps is a major source of funding for wetland restoration projects in our state. Since 1994, Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp funds have been used to restore and enhance over 3,145 acres of wetlands, encompassing nearly 50 sites, mostly on state-owned wildlife management areas. Funds also have been used to purchase specialized large equipment to conduct extensive marsh restoration work, particularly along the coast.

The Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp (which also includes the HIP permit) can be purchased for $17.00 wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold: participating town clerks and retail agents, select DEEP offices, and through the DEEP's Online Sportsmen Licensing System. (The CT Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp is $9 for hunters aged 12 to 17 years old.) Upon request, stamps can be sent through the mail.

Federal Duck Stamp
All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry the current federal Duck Stamp (also known as the Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp). Proceeds (98%) go into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which supports the purchase of wetlands for inclusion into the National Wildlife Refuge System. Federal Duck Stamp sales raise about $25 million each year to fund wetland habitat acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System. To date, Duck Stamp funds have been used to acquire over 6 million acres of critical habitat at hundreds of refuges in nearly every state in our nation. In Connecticut, 39% of the acreage of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge was purchased with federal Duck Stamp funds. Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased for $25 each at most post offices. They also are available by telephone or online. Go to for more information. Stamp must be signed in ink across its face.

Don't Forget About HIP
Migratory bird hunters are reminded that the HIP permit is purchased as part of the Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp. Those hunting for ducks, coots, geese, brant, woodcock, rails, snipe, or crows are required to obtain the Stamp along with their license. The Migratory Bird Stamp can be purchased
online or at select town halls for $17.00. The Stamp must be purchased annually. Information derived from HIP permits is used to estimate the total waterfowl harvest across the country. These estimates are very important because they help determine federal waterfowl regulations. Please fill out the survey truthfully and entirely.

Report Waterfowl Bands
Reporting waterfowl bands is crucial for management decisions. Leg band return data help managers track waterfowl movements, timing of these movements, harvest rates, and other important information. Bands and other markers, such as neck collars, can be reported at When you report band recoveries, you will receive immediate feedback on where the bird was initially banded and can print a Certificate of Appreciation.

State-owned or Controlled Hunting Areas
The following areas are open for waterfowl hunting. This list is not inclusive; however, it represents areas where a majority of waterfowl hunting occurs and that have good access. Maps and a full list of areas that are open to waterfowl hunting are on the hunting area map section of the DEEP website (select the query button on the top right of the map to obtain a list of areas open to waterfowl hunting).




Bishops Swamp WMA


Peoples State Forest


Bloomfield Flood Control Area (Site 2) d


Bolton Aread


Sessions Woods WMA a, d


Robbins Swamp WMA

Canterbury, Plainfield

Quinebaug River WMA


Salmon River State Forest (including Holbrook Pond)

Colebrook, Hartland

MDC-Colebrook Reservoir/Hogback Dam


Wyantenock State Forest

Cromwell, Middletown

Cromwell Meadows WMA


Durham Meadows WMA

East Haddam, Colchester

Babcock Pond WMA a

East Haddam, Haddam

Salmon River Cove and Haddam Neck b

East Lyme

Nehantic State Forest c

East Windsor, Enfield

East Windsor-Enfield Area d

East Windsor

Scantic River State Park c, d


Natchaug State Forest c

Eastford, Union, Ashford

Yale Forest (owned by Yale University) d

Enfield, Suffield

NU-Kings Island Cooperative WMA d


East River Marsh WMA b


Great Harbor WMA


Higganum Meadows WMA


Cockaponset State Forest c


Tunxis State Forest


Roraback WMA


Raymond Brook Marsh


Housatonic River WMA

Killingly, Sterling

Ross Marsh WMA


Bartlett Brook WMA


Red Cedar Lake (Camp Moween)

Lebanon, Colchester

Lebanon Coop Mgmt. Area d


Lord's Cove WMA b


Nott Island b


Selden Neck State Park (Selden Island) b


Mansfield State-Leased Field Trial Area

Mansfield, Chaplin

Mansfield Hollow Lake (excluding State Park)


Black Pond WMA

New Harford

MDC-Greenwoods Pond

North Franklin

Franklin Swamp WMA

 North Haven

 Quinnipiac River Marsh b

Old Lyme

Roger Tory Peterson Wildlife Area b

Old Saybrook

Plum Bank Marsh

Old Saybrook

Ragged Rock Creek WMA b

Old Saybrook

South Cove

Oxford, Beacon Falls

Naugatuck State Forest


Wangunk Meadows

Portland, etc.

Meshomasic State Forest

 Ridgefield  Bennett's Pond State Park


Zemko Pond WMA


East Twin Lakes Water Access Area


Mohegan State Forest (including Waldo Tract)


NU-Skiff Mtn. Coop WMA (leased from Eversource) d


Housatonic State Forest


Simsbury WMA


Ellithorpe Flood Control Area


Shenipsit State Forest


Barn Island WMA


Stewart B. McKinney NWR (Great Meadows Unit) e

Stratford, Milford, Orange

Charles E. Wheeler WMA b


West Thompson Dam (federal public land)


Kollar WMA


John Minetto State Park


Paugnut State Forest


Sunnybrook State Park (west of Newfield Rd.)


Nipmuck State Forest


Pachaug State Forest c

a Handicap accessible blind available
b Access by boat only
c Some areas designated as firearm restricted, bowhunting only
d Permit required
e Permit required through Stewart B. McKinney NWR at 860-399-2513

Waterfowl Hunter Water Survival Tips

Why do some waterfowl hunters lose their lives by drowning? Drownings occur because the victim made the wrong decision; did not realize the dangers of boating in rough, cold water; was not properly prepared; had the wrong equipment; or failed to wear a life jacket, also known as a personal floatation device (PFD).
Victims of small boat accidents often did not realize that small watercraft can be extremely unstable. Once a waterfowl hunter falls overboard into cold, rough water, the chances for survival are slim. Cold water kills – even those in excellent condition who know how to swim.
The vast majority of those who die in boating accidents were not wearing a PFD. A PFD could save a person's life, but it will be of little use if it is not worn and does not fit properly. Connecticut boating law states that anyone on board a manually propelled craft between October 1 and May 31 must wear a life jacket at all times. The life jacket must be a Type I, II, III, or V-Hybird. DEEP recommends all persons boating on cold waters wear a life jacket.
Important information waterfowl hunters need to read through and keep in mind if they plan to use a boat to hunt:
Boating Safety Checklist
  • Always leave a FLOAT PLAN with someone ashore. Be specific about where you are going and when you expect to be back. Make sure you report in when you return.
  • Know the weather forecast, particularly wind and wave conditions.
  • One PFD for each occupant of the boat.
  • Throwable ring bouy or floatation device
  • Emergency gear-flares, whistle, and air horn
  • Extra anchor
  • Oars
  • Bailing bucket
  • First aid kit
  • Tool kit
  • Extra propeller
  • Extra clothes in a waterproof bag
  • VHF radio or cellphone that is waterproof
  • Compass
  • Do NOT drink alcohol.
Loading the Boat and Under Power
  • ALWAYS wear your PFD.
  • Hand equipment, decoys, etc., to someone already in the boat.
  • Do not board boat with hands occupied with gear.
  • Make sure weight is evenly distributed throughout the boat, this includes you and your dog!
  • Keep center of gravity in boat low. Do not stack equipment high as this can lead to instability.
  • Stow and tie down all loose anchor lines and bow lines to avoid tripping and to keep the lines from getting caught in the propeller.
  • Keep track of your dog.
  • Keep navigation lights on.
Kayaking/Canoeing and Hunting
  • ALWAYS wear your PFD (required by state law from October 1 through May 31).
  • Be aware of weather conditions and know your limitations.
  • Always steer into boat wakes or waves in a perpendicular manner.
  • Never stand in a kayak or canoe.
  • Do not overload your kayak or canoe with gear.
  • All manually propelled vessels must have a noise-producing device (e.g., whistle) on-board.
Cold Water Boating
  • ALWAYS wear your PFD.
    •  88% of boating deaths are from drowning.
    •  90% of these are from people not wearing a PFD.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear synthetic fabrics or wool.
  • Wear a hat; over 50% of heat loss is through the head.
  • If shooting from the boat, stay seated.
  • Keep lower unit of motor in water to keep it from freezing.
  • Mind your dog and make sure it remains still and does not create added instability.
If You Fall in the Water
  • Do not panic! After the initial shock, take a deep breath and think – assess the situation.
  • Unless you are close to shore or in a safe spot, do not swim as you will waste valuable heat and energy.
  • If you are in waders, float on your back and keep your feet elevated.
Those who operate boats in Connecticut that are required to be registered, documented, or numbered must obtain a Safe Boating Certificate. In order to meet the requirements for a certificate, an individual must have successfully completed an approved basic boating course or received a passing grade on an equivalency examination administered by DEEP. The Connecticut Boater's Guide is a handbook of boating laws and regulations, registration information, and guidelines for safe boat operation. Printed guides can be obtained from DEEP and Department of Motor Vehicle offices, marinas, and town halls.
Report Violations
Poaching is stealing! Shooting before or after hours, overbagging, shooting out of season, and rallying birds are all unethical and illegal hunting behaviors. If you see violations, report them to the DEEP's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-842-HELP (4357). All calls are confidential.

Access Restrictions Due to Heightened Security
Waterfowl hunters are reminded that restrictions are in place in many areas due to heightened security concerns. Of note, per the United States Coast Guard:
1. No boat may be anchored within 25 yards of any bridge along any navigable waterway.
2. There is a 700-yard security zone around the Millstone Power Plant in Niantic.
3. No boats are allowed within 1,500 feet of the downstream side of the Shepaug and Lake Housatonic Dams (Derby/Shelton); 700 feet of the downstream side of the Stevenson Dam (Oxford/Monroe); 300 feet of the downstream side of the Bleachery Dam (New Milford); and 300 feet upstream of all these dams.

Hunter Ethics, and Waterfowl Hunting in Urbanized Settings
As Connecticut becomes more urbanized, a smaller percentage of our population participates in hunting and is familiar with the traditions and values associated with hunting. The image that individual hunters portray to the non-hunting community is often the image that is placed upon the hunting community as a whole. Thus, the way hunters present themselves to the public is very important to the future of the hunting tradition.

Due to the high visibility areas that some waterfowlers use, particularly along the coast, it is imperative that hunters maintain the highest integrity and remain responsible while out in the field. Waterfowl hunting along the Connecticut coast is a long-running, cherished tradition. It has taken place for many years in close proximity to areas of high human use. For the most part, there have been very few conflicts. However, in recent years, some negative encounters have occurred between waterfowl hunters and the non-hunting public. The Connecticut Waterfowl Association (CWA) has devised a list of tips through their “Hunt Smart” program aimed at ways waterfowlers can minimize the concern the non-hunting public may have about hunting.  More information about this program can be found on the CWA website.

If you choose to hunt in areas that are in the public eye, you must exercise unquestioned ethical hunting practices, avoid conflicts with the non-hunting public, and use common sense. If you do not, the alternative is clear … hunting opportunities will be greatly reduced. To conduct yourself in an ethical and responsible manner, you should: 

  1. Respect property and landowners. Always obtain permission to hunt on private land - this is a legal requirement in Connecticut.
  2. Know and obey the laws.
  3. Hunt safely. Shoot in a safe direction. Treat all guns as loaded. Always dress appropriately and be prepared for changes in the weather.
  4. Avoid potential conflicts with non-hunters.
  5. Respect the environment and wildlife.
  6. Don't "skybust." Calling waterfowl in to appropriate gun range is one of the greatest challenges and rewards of waterfowling.
  7. Don't shoot ducks on the water.
  8. If a nearby hunting party is working birds, don't try and call those birds to you.
Remember, hunting is a privilege, not a right. The hunting privilege you enjoy could be curtailed due to the unethical and unsportsmen-like actions of a few hunters.

Avian Influenza
What Is It?
Avian influenza is a naturally occurring virus. Type A viruses (referred to as avian influenza or “bird flu”) cause infection in birds, humans, and some other mammals, such as pigs. There are 144 identified subtypes (strains) of Type A influenza. Wild birds, especially shorebirds and waterfowl, are the natural host for all the known strains of Type A influenza viruses. Most strains of Type A influenza are low pathenogenic. Typically, wild birds do not become sick when they are infected with avian influenza A viruses, and humans are not affected either. Sometimes, however, the virus is introduced into a new host, such as domestic poultry, and evolves into a more lethal (high pathenogenic) strain.

In early 2017, a number of cases were reported in the Mississippi Flyway. The CT DEEP, CT Department of Agriculture, and USDA continue to conduct passive surveillance throughout the state on waterfowl and poultry. If hunters observe dead waterfowl, particularly Canada geese which are very susceptible to the HPAI strains, please report those on the DEEP website at DEEP's Wild Bird Mortality Database or by calling 860-424-3011.

Should hunters be concerned? The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), referred to in the media as bird flu, is not easily transmitted to animals other than birds. It has resulted in massive mortality in commercial turkeys and laying chickens in the western and midwestern U.S. Regardless of the fact that transmission has not occurred between wild birds and humans, hunters should take basic precautionary measures, if they do not already, when handling harvested waterfowl:

  1. Do not handle birds that are obviously sick or birds found dead.
  2. Keep your game birds cool, clean, and dry
  3. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning your birds.
  4. Use rubber gloves when cleaning game.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes after dressing birds.
  6. Clean all tools and surfaces immediately afterward; use hot soapy water, then disinfect with a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
  7. Cook game meat thoroughly (165°F) to kill disease organisms.

For more information on avian influenza:
DEEP's Avian Influenza Webpage
Connecticut Department of Agriculture
Connecticut Department of Public Health
State of Connecticut Flu Watch
National Wildlife Health Center
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
World Health Organization

Contaminants in Waterfowl
Studies conducted in Pennsylvania and New York have shown that some samples from mergansers, especially common and red-breasted, had high levels of contaminants, including PCBs. Mergansers feed primarily on fish that may concentrate contaminants.

Other studies have shown that diving ducks (e.g., scaup, bufflehead, goldeneye) also may have high levels of contaminants; dabbling ducks (e.g., mallards, black ducks, teal, wigeon, gadwall) generally have lower levels; and wood ducks and Canada geese are the least contaminated.

Many sportsmen are aware of health advisories regarding high PCB concentrations in ducks from Massachusetts (Canada geese were not included in those advisories). Sportsmen and their families that want to minimize any potential exposure to contaminants should limit their consumption of mergansers and other waterfowl and remove the skin and fat before cooking. This consideration is especially important for pregnant women due to the effects of PCBs on reproduction.

Removing the skin from the breasts of waterfowl substantially reduces the amount of contaminants. If birds are stuffed, the stuffing should not be consumed. Drippings should not be used for gravy. If you would like more information regarding the health effects of PCBs, call the Connecticut Department of Public Health at 860-509-7742.

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. 

Explaining Migrant Canada Goose Seasons
Three distinct populations of Canada geese are present in Connecticut during fall, winter, and early spring – the Atlantic Population (AP), North Atlantic Population (NAP), and Atlantic Flyway Resident Population (AFRP). The AP nests in northern Quebec and winters from Massachusetts southward to North Carolina, although primarily in the Chesapeake region of the Atlantic Flyway. The NAP breeds in the Canadian Maritime provinces and western Greenland, and winters primarily in southern New England and eastern Long Island. The AFRP geese breed throughout Connecticut, but are at their highest densities in the more urbanized areas of the state where hunting exposure is low.

As AFRP goose numbers began to expand throughout Connecticut, so did the number of nuisance complaints. As such, Connecticut was the first state in the nation to establish a season specifically designed to harvest AFRP geese while ensuring a minimal harvest of migrant Canada geese. This special late season began in 1986 and continues today, with minor modifications, in the South Zone. A similar September season was established in 1996 to target AFRP geese before migrant geese arrive in the state. These special seasons are monitored through the analysis of band recovery data and neck collar observations.

The status of migrant goose populations drives the regular goose season regulations in the Atlantic Flyway. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) closed the regular Canada goose season in the Atlantic Flyway because the AP breeding pair estimate declined to such low levels that it was evident that the AP could not support any sport harvest. The AP season was closed in Connecticut until 1999. The presence of large numbers of NAP geese in New England led to the initiation, in 1998, of migrant Canada goose hunting once again in Connecticut. This season was only offered in certain areas of the state and targeted NAP geese. 1998 marked the first year that the USFWS separated the AP from the NAP during regular goose hunting seasons. In Connecticut, band return data and neck collar observations indicate that AP geese occur primarily in Litchfield County and western Hartford County, whereas NAP geese tend to be found east of the Connecticut River, predominantly in Windham and New London Counties. Thus, due to the presence of 3 different goose populations in Connecticut, the state has been divided into 3 goose hunting zones, each with different regulations, based on the status of the population and the overall management goal for each population. As data are compiled and analyzed, changes are made accordingly. 

Federal Regulations
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:

  1. The hunter's signature.
  2. The hunter's address.
  3. The total number of birds involved, by species.
  4. 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.

Connecticut Regulations

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Crows may be hunted with shotguns holding more than 3 shells. There are no non-toxic shot requirements for hunting crows.
  4. 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.
  5. Shooting toward any person, building or domestic animal when within range is prohibited.
  6. 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. 
  7. Boats left unattended at DEEP lands must be marked so that identification of the owner can be made.
  8. 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.
  9. A hunting party shall include no more than six individuals, with a minimum distance of 100 yards between parties.
  10. No person may construct or place any permanent blind or structure for hunting of waterfowl on state-controlled lands or waters. 

Local Regulations
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. 

  1. Waterfowl hunting is permitted at Selden Neck Natural Area Preserve in Lyme.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. There shall be no waterfowl hunting in Cove Pond (Holly Pond), Stamford and Darien, north of the dam.
  7. There shall be no waterfowl hunting in Poquetanuck Cove, bordered by the town of Preston and Ledyard.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. There shall be no waterfowl hunting in Assekonk Swamp WMA, North Stonington.
  11. 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.
  12. Waterfowl hunting is prohibited in Bantam Lake in Litchfield and Morris.
  13. There shall be no waterfowl hunting in the Mystic River from Route 27 south to Route 1 in Mystic and Groton.
  14. 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.
  15. Waterfowl hunting at King's Island in Enfield is by written permit only; call the Wildlife Division (860-424-3011) for details.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters of the Branford River in Branford from Route 1 south to Montowese Avenue.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Hunting is prohibited in Lake Wononscopomuc in Salisbury.
  24. 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.
  25. NEW! There shall be no waterfowl hunting on the West River in West Haven south of Route 1 and north of Route 122 (Kimberly Avenue).
  26. 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.
  27. NEW! There shall be no waterfowl hunting on the West River in Guilford south of Route 1 and north of Route 146.
  28. NEW! Waterfowl hunting will be temporarily closed through May 31, 2020, in the area of Calf Pasture Beach, Taylor Farm Park, and Veterans Park in Norwalk. This temporary closure shall apply from a distance 250 feet into Long Island Sound perpendicular to the shoreline, beginning at the easterly boundary of Taylor Farm Park and extending to the westerly boundary of Calf Pasture Beach, and include the Norwalk River from the Washington Street Bridge to a line extending from the westerly boundary of Calf Pasture Beach to the easterly terminus of Neptune Avenue.

Falconry Seasons
Falconers possessing valid permits (state and federal falconry permits, Connecticut small game license, Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, and federal Duck Stamp) may take migratory game birds during any established migratory game bird season. Allowable species for falconry are: ducks, coots, mergansers, seaducks, woodcock, snipe, and rails. Species-specific bag limits do not apply to falconry take. However, the daily bag limit for falconry is 3 migratory game birds in aggregate per day and 6 in possession. The daily and possession limit may contain any species that is legal during any regulated firearms migratory game bird season. The falconry bag limit is not in addition to gun limits.

Content last updated on January 21, 2020.