Migratory game bird hunting: frequently asked questions
Exporting migratory gamebirds in the United States
Hunters intending to travel to the United States with migratory game birds harvested in Canada should familiarize themselves with the United States regulations regarding the importation of migratory game birds. Please check the U.S. code of Federal regulations: eCFR: 50 CFR Part 20 Subpart G - Importations
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the Government of Canada, as well as provincial and territorial governments, continue to adjust their guidance and directives accordingly. Please check the Government of Canada Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) website for information, including the requirements for Travel, testing and borders.
For detailed information about migratory game bird hunting in Canada:
- Migratory Game Birds Hunting (MGBH) permit
- Charity Permit
- Retriever Dog Registry
- Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022
- Status update on the modernization of the Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022
- Migratory Game Bird Hunting Summaries
Refer to the province or territory where you plan to hunt for additional provincial or territorial regulations that may be applicable.
Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit
Question: Is a digital copy of the electronic permit sufficient?
Answer: Yes. If the permit was acquired through the electronic permitting system then the hunter may either print this permit, or keep it on an electronic device that is with them, and functional, while hunting. Only a printed copy of the online purchased e-permit or a PDF of the e-permit on electronic devices are acceptable.
Question: Can I buy more than one permit as a way to increase my allowable take (daily bag and possession limit)?
Answer: No. A person cannot increase their allowable take by purchasing additional MGBH permits. The daily bag and possession limits apply to the person and not to the permit.
Question: Can I purchase a Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit for another individual?
Answer: Yes. You can purchase a MGBH permit for another person as long as you have all of their required information.
Question: I have misplaced my Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit. Do I have to purchase a new permit before I go out hunting migratory game birds?
Answer: It depends. If you have purchased an e-permit, you can simply reprint a new copy of it from the confirmation email received at the time of purchase, or keep it on your electronic device that you have on your person while hunting. This is one of the benefits or purchasing a permit through the MGBH e-Permitting system.
If you have lost or misplaced your physical MGBH permit purchased through Canada Post or an independent vendor, unfortunately, you must purchase a new permit at your own expense. Canada Post and independent vendors do not keep records of individuals who purchased permits. Although ECCC does receive this information through the return of the permit stub, it takes several months to receive and record the data electronically.
Question: Who is eligible for the Youth MGBH permit? How much does it cost? What are the rules associated with the permit?
Answer: The Youth MGBH permit is available to hunters who are minors (under the age of 18). It provides youth with the opportunity to practice their skills under the supervision of an adult hunter throughout the full open seasons and the special conservation season in spring, and provides them with their own daily bag and possession limits.
- The Youth MGBH permit and the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp that appears on it are free of charge
- An adult (over 18 year of age) hunter, known as a mentor, must always accompany minors who hunt under a Youth MGBH permit. The Youth MGBH Permit is not transferable and can only be used by the person who is named on the permit
- Youth hunters must always carry their permits while hunting, or when in possession of unpreserved migratory game birds, or any murre, in a place other than the permit holder’s residence. The permit must be presented to game officers upon request
The Youth MGBH permit is a new option offered as part of the Migratory Birds Regulations modernization in 2022, With his introduction, the Waterfowler Heritage Days have been abolished.
Hunting methods and equipment
Question: What weapons are authorized for hunting migratory game birds in Canada? May I hunt waterfowl with a crossbow?
Answer: Permitted weapons for hunting migratory game birds in Canada are bows, crossbows, and shotguns not larger than 10 gauge. The capacity of shotguns must be either designed or modified so that they can hold no more than three cartridges in the magazine and chamber combined.
Question: What are the legal draw weight for bows and arrow/bolt specifications that are required to hunt migratory game birds?
Answer: Bows that are authorized for hunting migratory game birds in Canada must have a minimum draw weight of 18 kg (40 lbs) and an arrow with a broadhead that has at least two sharp blades and is a minimum of 22 mm wide. Authorized crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 45 kg (100 lbs) and a bolt that has a broadhead with at least two sharp blades and is a minimum of 22 mm wide.
Question: Is it okay to have more than one shotgun in a hunting blind while hunting waterfowl?
Answer: Yes. It is legal to possess more than one shotgun while hunting. However, the extra shotgun must be unloaded and disassembled or unloaded and in a closed case. Shotgun must be not larger than 10 gauge holding no more than three cartridges in the magazine and chamber combined.
Question: Is it authorized to add a detachable magazine (clips) to my shotgun?
Answer: Yes. However, the detachable magazine must not be capable of holding more than two cartridges. The chamber and detachable magazine together may have a combined capacity of no more than three cartridges. Only one shotgun may be ready for use at a time.
Question: Can I hunt migratory game birds with a drone?
Answer: No. It is prohibited to use remotely piloted aircraft (commonly know as drones) for hunting migratory game birds in Canada.
Question: May I hunt from a motorized boat, and may I leave the motor on?
Answer: Yes, you can hunt from a boat (including any boat, canoe or yacht) that is equipped with a motor, as long as the boat is not moving under the power of the motor or sail when hunting.
There is an exception for murres, who may be shot from a boat that is moving by the power of its engine in Newfoundland and Labrador, by residents of that province.
Everywhere in Canada, injured or dead migratory game birds that have been shot while hunting may be retrieved by using a boat that is moving under the power of the engine. When wounded birds are being retrieved, they can only be shot when the boat has stopped moving.
Question: What are the regulations around retrieving migratory game birds?
Answer: You are required to have adequate means at your immediate disposal to retrieve a downed bird, and to do so as soon as the circumstances allow it. In the case where a migratory game bird has been injured, you must retrieve and kill the bird as soon as the circumstances allow it.
Question: What are the rules for retriever dog training with migratory bird carcasses?
Answer: Those individuals or training clubs that wish to exceed the possession limit of migratory birds, as is indicated in Schedule 3 of the Migratory Birds regulations 2022, in order to train retriever dogs, must register with Environment and Climate Change Canada. [Link to come]
Question: Is it legal to hunt in areas where bait, such as grain or corn, has been deposited in order to attract waterfowl?
Answer: No. It is illegal to hunt migratory birds within 400 metres (437 yards) of a place where bait has been deposited, unless that place has been free of bait (no bait remains) for at least seven (7) days. In addition, baiting must cease 14 days before the first day of any open season for that place.
Question: Can I use imitation corncobs (e.g., yellow pop bottles) to attract waterfowl?
Answer: No. It is prohibited to use bait 14 days prior and during an open season to attract migratory game birds. The definition of bait includes all feed and anything that may look like it and attract waterfowl.
Possession of migratory birds
Question: What is the difference between the daily bag limit and the possession limit?
Answer: The daily bag limit is the maximum number of birds (by species or group of species; e.g., ducks) that a hunter may harvest during any single day of hunting. The possession limit is the maximum number of unpreserved birds, or any murres, that a person may have in their possession at any time. The possession limit applies to all persons (including non-hunters who receive unpreserved birds or any murres as a gift), and for all birds.
For murre hunters, the possession limit includes both unpreserved and preserved birds.
Question: If I hunt the same day in multiple areas, how do daily bag limit and possession limit apply?
Answer: It is important to note that if you hunt in different areas that have varying bag and/or possession limits, you must respect the daily bag limit and possession limit of each area. You may not combine the total of the daily bag or possession limits for the various areas where you hunt. You would be limited to the higher daily bag limit and possession limit of those areas where you hunt.
Question: Do harvested migratory game birds count in the possession limit when they are preserved? What is the process to preserve harvested birds?
Answer: Once a bird is preserved for future use, it no longer counts as part of a hunter’s possession limit, with the exception of murres. A bird is preserved when it has
- been eviscerated and plucked in any location and then been frozen, made into sausage, cooked, dried, canned or smoked in a location other than the hunting area
- in a location other than the hunting area, had its edible portions removed from its carcass and then been frozen, made into sausage, cooked, dried, canned or smoked; or
- been mounted for taxidermy
The daily bag limit still applies to birds that are preserved the day they were harvested. A hunter that harvested their daily bag limit, and then immediately preserves their birds may not continue hunting on the same day for those species.
Question: Where is it legal to preserve harvested birds?
Answer: Preservation is a two-step process. In the first step, birds may be partially preserved, i.e. plucked and eviscerated in any location, including in the hunting area. However, meat and a fully feathered-head or wing must remain attached to the carcasses until the birds are later completely preserved. This is so the species can be identified by game officers upon request. During the second step of preservation, the bird or its edible parts are frozen, cooked, made into sausage, dried, canned or smoked. Birds are then completely preserved. This final stage of preservation must be completed in a location that is outside of the hunting area, and during this stage, the feathered-head or wing can be removed from the carcass.
Question: In the context of preserving harvested birds, what does “outside of the hunting area” mean?
Answer: Harvested birds may be completely preserved in locations that are outside of the hunting area. Examples can include:
- hunter’s residence
- non-mobile preservation facilities such as butcher, plucker, outfitter, or taxidermist
- places where hunters stay during their hunting trips such as rented home, hotel, cabin, campsite, tent, tent trailer, or RV
Question: Do murres count towards someone’s possession limit when preserved?
Answer: Murres, whether or not they are preserved, count in the possession limit of the hunter who harvested them. When murres are gifted to someone, preserved or unpreserved, they count in the possession limit of the person who receives and accepts them as a gift.
Question: Do birds found dead or wounded count towards my daily bag limit and possession limit?
Answer: If you find a dead or wounded bird on the ground that was shot by someone else and you decide to pick it up and keep it, that bird must be included in your daily bag and possession limits.
Question: Do birds harvested in a previous year count towards the current possession limit?
Answer: Only unpreserved birds count in an individual’s possession limit. For example, if birds harvested in a previous year were frozen unplucked, eviscerated or not , for retriever dog training purposes or personal consumption, then they still count towards the possession limit of the individual who possesses them.
Question: Is it allowed to discard birds I shot during my hunting trip or to leave them at my friend’s doorstep?
Answer: No. It is strictly prohibited to abandon harvested birds or let the meat become inedible. Hunters must make use of the birds they hunted. For examples, hunters can consume their birds or use them for training dogs as retrievers. If you wish to give away the birds you harvested, the person who receives the birds as a gift must agree to take them, and if the birds are unpreserved they must be properly labelled.
Gifting of birds and labelling requirement
Question: May a hunter harvest waterfowl and then give some or all of the harvested birds away to someone who will use/consume them?
Answer: Migratory game birds harvested under a MGBH permit may be gifted to another person for food, retriever dog training, taxidermy, or for charitable purposes. In most cases, the recipient does not require a permit in order to possess such legally harvested birds. However, when preserved birds are gifted to charities such as soup kitchens, food banks, or organizations that hold fundraising dinner events, the person who receives the birds as a gift must be the holder of a Charity permit in order to legally receive and possess those birds.
Question: What do I need to know and do before I gift my birds to someone else?
Answer: Unpreserved and preserved birds taken under a MGBH permit may be gifted to another person. When unpreserved birds are given away, the hunter who harvested them must leave a fully feathered-wing or head attached to the carcasses. Also, these unpreserved birds must be labelled with the following information:
- the name and contact information of the hunter and their signature
- the MGBH permit number under which the birds were taken
- the date on which the birds were taken
In the case of gifting a group of birds, a package containing the birds may be labelled with the information for each bird or the label may be attached to a carcass inside the package.
Birds that have been preserved by the hunter who has harvested them do not need to be labelled prior to being gifted.
Individuals who are offered birds as a gift must agree to take those birds before the birds are gifted, and if the gifted bird is not preserved ensure they do not exceed their possession limit for that species of migratory game birds.
It is prohibited to gift to anyone species that are listed under the Species at Risk Act such as the Eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneye and Band-tailed Pigeon.
Question: If a hunter harvests waterfowl and then gifts some or all of the harvested birds away to someone who will consume them, do those birds that have been gifted still count as part of the hunter's possession limit?
Answer: No, they no longer count as part of the hunter's possession limit. If the birds being gifted have not yet been preserved, then they count as part of the new owner’s possession limit.
If the birds that are being gifted have been preserved, they do not count in the new owner’s possession limit either. In either circumstance, the hunter must still abide by daily bag limits on each day they hunt, even if they gift birds on the day they are harvested.
Question: Why must all hunters leave one fully-feathered wing or head attached to each harvested migratory game bird? When can this feathered-wing or head be removed?
Answer: Hunters have the choice to retain the fully feathered-wing or head on unpreserved carcasses for identification purposes. In many areas of Canada, daily bag limits and possession limits vary by species. Either a fully feathered-wing or head allow game officers to accurately inspect and identify the hunter's daily bag limits. The wing or head may be removed once the bird is being preserved, outside of the hunting area. However, the wing or head must remain attached on unpreserved carcasses when they are in the hands of the hunter who harvested them, are in temporary custody (for example in the possession of a hunting partner), or have been gifted to someone and accepted by that person.
A bird that is eviscerated and plucked would be considered partially preserved and must have a fully-feathered wing or head attached until the migratory game bird is completely preserved.
Donation of harvested birds for charitable purposes (Charity Permit)
Question: Can harvested ducks and geese be donated or gifted for charitable purposes?
Answer: Yes, if the recipient of the donated bird has a Charity permit under the Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022. Migratory game birds that have been legally harvested can be donated for charitable purposes (insert link to Charity permit page when available), such as to be provided as a meal at fundraising dinners related to migratory bird conservation, to be served at soup kitchens or for a food bank to provide to their clients. Birds must be preserved before they are donated. Species listed as at risk under the Species at Risk Act (e.g., Eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneye) may not be donated for charitable purposes.
Temporary custody and transportation of migratory game birds
Question: Can I possess birds harvested by another hunter?
Answer: Migratory game birds that are not preserved may be under the temporary custody of a third party (e.g., friend, plucker, butcher, outfitter). However, those birds continue to count towards the possession limit of the hunter who harvested them, and they must be properly labelled.
The temporary possession of murres is limited to twice the daily bag limit of murres for anyone.
Question: Can I transport my birds frozen in a block?
Answer: Until birds are completely preserved, and when they are being transported unpreserved, they must be stored in a manner such that each individual bird can be separated and identified to the species. This means that unpreserved birds must not be frozen together in a block that must be thawed out for inspection.
Question: May I transport both my hunting partners' possession limits as well as my own limit of harvested birds if my hunting partners are not present with me in the vehicle?
Answer: Yes. You may transport your hunting partners’ birds as long as they have obtained the birds legally. If the birds have not been preserved, they must be labelled. In the case of a group of birds, one label must be completed with the information for each bird, and may be place on or in the package. . The labelling requirements also apply to a guide who is transporting game birds taken by clients to a food processor or to be stored. However, if the hunter who harvested the birds is present in the vehicle, unpreserved birds do not need to be labelled.
For murres, which may only be harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador by residents of that province, an individual can possess their daily bag limit and temporarily possess the bag limits of up to two other hunters, provided the birds are properly labelled.
Reporting leg bands
Question: May I keep leg bands that are attached to migratory game birds that I harvested?
Answer: You may keep the bird band, but you are asked to report all band and band numbers by calling toll-free 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to leave a message.
Band information submitted by hunters assists wildlife biologists in monitoring bird populations and establishing hunting regulations. Environment and Climate Change Canada sets hunting season lengths and daily bag limits for migratory game birds based on the latest scientific information on the population numbers and status of each species.
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