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Duck Hunting FAQs

Hunting & Fishing in Massachusetts Jack Charters, LLC

Information provided by The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Q. What are the requirements for hunters hunting ducks and geese?
A. All hunters 15 and over must have a valid Massachusetts hunting license, certain stamps and HIP number. See the Waterfowl Hunting page for the necessary details.
Q. Why does waterfowl hunting end at sunset?
A. Shooting hours for waterfowl hunting run from ½ before sunrise until sunset. In the morning, light conditions continue to improve as the day progresses, providing adequate light to find birds that are knocked down. In the evening, light conditions are rapidly deteriorating, making it difficult to search for birds downed. Because light conditions are failing after sunset, identifying species becomes more difficult as it gets darker. Also, while light conditions may be good after sunset on a cloudless day in the middle of an open salt marsh, a waterfowler hunting in wooded swamps on a cloudy day will find it becomes quite dark within a few minutes after sunset.
Q. Are goldeneyes and buffleheads considered "sea ducks"?
A. No. While taxonomically, goldeneyes, bufflehead, and mergansers are lumped in with scoters, eiders, long tailed ducks (formerly old squaw), and harlequins in the sea duck tribe, for regulatory purposes, goldeneyes and buffleheads are considered “regular” ducks, the same as scaup or mallards and covered under the bag limits for ducks. Goldeneyes, buffleheads and mergansers are not part of the special sea duck season.
Q. I shot a duck and when I breasted the bird out, the breast muscles were full of little white things. What are they? Is it safe to eat?
A. Sarcocystis is an infection caused by a parasitic protozoan. It is commonly called Rice Breast Disease because the elongated macrocysts produced in the muscles of the breast and legs resemble grains of rice. It is non-fatal to the duck and poses no known health hazard to humans. Hunters who do not skin their birds may consume infected birds without ever noticing the infection, while hunters to skin their birds do. It is more common in puddle ducks such as black ducks and mallards than in diving species like scaup.
Q. Why don't you increase the bag limit on black ducks? I see more and more every year.
A. Waterfowl bag limits are set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While a state may be more restrictive when establishing hunting season regulations, it cannot be more liberal. The bag limit on black ducks has been kept a 1 bird a day since the mid 1980s. MassWildlife has been urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow an increase in the bag limit on black ducks, offset by a an equal period of days closed to black duck harvest within the regular duck season as a way to restore at least some traditional black duck hunting. Black ducks have declined as a breeding bird in the northeastern states, but numbers in Canada are stable or increasing and this, coupled with declining numbers northeastern waterfowl hunters, should allow for a larger bag limit. However, until the USFWS changes the bag limit, it will remain at 1.
Q. Why are the waterfowl abstracts so late in getting to the town clerks and other license vendor locations?
A. Unlike local wildlife such as deer or pheasants, waterfowl are protected by the federal government under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The regulations for hunting waterfowl undergo a long and thorough review process every year. Regulations are not set until after annual production indices are determined in mid summer. Then, proposed regulations must be published in the Federal Register, followed by a public comment period, after which final regulations must be published in the Register. This entire process means that states don’t know for certain what hunting seasons will be available until late summer.

The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board then holds a public hearing (usually at the end of August) after which the date selections must be sent to a printer to have the abstracts printed and then distributed. Immediately, after the public hearing, , season dates and bag limits are available from the various MassWildlife offices and are also posted in the Regulations and Waterfowl Hunting pages.

Q. Why are we not allowed to hunt Canada geese during the late season in the Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay parts of the coast waterfowl zone? There are plenty of geese.
A. The late Canada goose season did not exist until 1988. Prior to that, the only goose hunting was during the regular waterfowl season which ended January 20 most years. The late season was an extra season designed to harvest resident Canada geese, which had increased to the point of becoming nuisances, after wild geese had migrated through the state. However, we have discovered that many migrant geese that used to winter as far south as North Carolina no longer go that far.

One study found that over 70% of migrant geese from Maritime Canada now winter on Long Island, NY and along the southern New England coast line. Neck collar observations indicated that over 40% of the Canada geese now wintering along Massachusetts’ southern coast are migrant geese, twice as many as allowed for a late resident goose season. You are seeing more Canada geese because more migrant birds are wintering in the southern Coastal waterfowl hunting zone.

Q. Do I need to purchase a stamp before I hunt woodcock?
A. Woodcock hunters must obtain a Massachusetts HIP (Harvest Information Program) number, but federal and state stamps are not required for woodcock, snipe, rail or coot. More information on HIP requirements. Woodcock hunters must comply with the same 3 shell limit in their shotguns as do waterfowl hunters.


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Jack Charters, LLC.

46 Nahant St, Wakefield, MA 01880

Phone: (781) 246-0141