Migratory game bird hunting permit
To hunt migratory game birds in Canada, you must have a valid federal migratory game bird hunting permit with a Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp or the electronic image of it affixed.
A single permit is valid anywhere in Canada. It is not transferable and can only be used by the person who completed the application and signed the permit. You must carry it with you at all times when hunting or when in possession of migratory game birds in a place other than the holder’s residence. You must show the permit to game officers upon request.
Purchasing a permit
Permits are sold each year beginning August 1 and are valid until June 30 of the subsequent year. Beginning August 1, 2021, you can purchase your permit, valid from August 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, by choosing one of these three options:
- purchase an electronic permit (e-permit)
- purchase a permit from select Canada Post outlets (physical permit)
- purchase a permit through an independent vendor (physical permit)
When you purchase a permit electronically, there are a few additional benefits to consider. Purchases can be made from the comfort and safety of your home or business, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (except during the maintenance periods) using any major credit card. The electronic system gives you the option to download the e-permit (including the image of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp) directly from the ‘checkout complete’ page. The e-permit is valid and can be used immediately as soon as it is printed and signed by the permit holder. The physical Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp is not required to validate a permit that you purchase electronically.
When you buy an e-permit, you can still receive the physical Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp by checking the appropriate box in the online form. It will then be sent to you by regular mail for no additional charge.
Please note that if you have misplaced your physical permit that was purchased through Canada Post or an independent vendor, you must purchase a new permit at your own expense. However, if you have misplaced your e-permit, you can simply reprint and sign a new copy of it from the confirmation email received at the time of purchase.
Funds raised from the sale of the stamp go to Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC), a national charitable non-profit conservation organization. Since its inception in 1984, WHC has received over $55M through the sales of the stamp supporting more than 1,500 habitat conservation projects across the country.
What you need to know
There are specific seasons for hunting ducks, geese, woodcock and other hunted species in Canada. The dates for hunting migratory game birds often vary across the country and within a province so it is important to check the dates of the open season in the area where you will be hunting. There are also specific regulations for the number of birds that you may harvest.
You must also know and obey the firearm regulations of the province or territory in which you will be hunting migratory game birds. Check for open season dates, bag and possession limits in the area where you will be hunting, and to verify applicable restrictions. The hunting seasons and bag limits for migratory game bird species are determined every two years and published as Schedule 1 of the Migratory Birds Regulations.
In Canada, it is legal to hunt migratory game birds depending on location:
- South of the 60th parallel, you may hunt from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset
- North of the 60th parallel, you may hunt from 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset.
Permitted weapons for hunting waterfowl in Canada are:
- long bow and arrow
- compound or recurve bow
- shotguns not larger than .10 gauge with a capacity of holding no more than 3 shells in the magazine and chamber combined.
In most areas of Canada, it is illegal to hunt migratory game birds with the use of a rifle, shotgun loaded with cartridges containing a single bullet, or a crossbow. Effective September 1, 1999, the possession or use of lead shot while hunting most migratory game birds is banned in all areas of Canada with the exception of:
- Murres in Newfoundland and Labrador
- Woodcock and Bank-tailed Pigeons
- Mourning Doves except for Ontario and Quebec where non-toxic shot must be used
In Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, the possession of lead shot is prohibited for all hunting including the hunting of migratory birds and upland birds. The non-toxic shot regulations apply to everyone including international visitors.
You should check for requirements of the area where you will be hunting, since provinces and territories may have separate restrictions regarding weapons.
In many areas of Canada, daily bag limits and possession limits vary by species. In order to assist game officers to accurately inspect and identify the hunter’s daily bag or possession limits, the fully feathered wing of the bird must remain attached to the bird and only removed when the bird is being prepared for immediate cooking or after the bird is taken to the owner’s resident for preservation.
Bait includes corn, wheat, oats or other grains, pulse or any other feed or imitations that may attract migratory game birds. It is illegal to hunt migratory birds within 400 metres (437 yards) of a place where bait has been deposited unless:
- the location has been free of bait for at least 7 days and
- the depositing of bait has ceased 14 days before the first day of any open seasons for that location
Lure crops and waterfowl feeding stations are managed by the federal and provincial governments to keep waterfowl away from farmer's unharvested crops. It is also illegal to hunt or enter a lure crop or waterfowl feeding station without prior written authorization from a game officer.
It is your responsibility to have adequate means of retrieving hunted birds immediately after it has been shot and if it is still alive or injured, to kill it immediately.
Hunting from a boat
You may not shoot a migratory bird from a boat that is in motion. Hunting can only commence when the motor has been turned off and the boat has stopped its forward propulsion.
When a harvested bird is gifted to another person by the hunter, it is not counted as part of the hunter’s possession limit. However the hunter must still abide by daily bag limits on each day they hunt.
Transporting and shipping
Birds may be transported as long as they were legally harvested under a migratory game bird permit. If it is cleaned prior to transport, a wing must remain attached until the bird is prepared for immediate cooking or arrives at the owner’s residence for preservation. If the bird is not accompanied by the permit holder, a tag must be attached to each carcass identifying:
- name and address of the bird’s owner
- owner’s signature
- migratory game bird hunting permit number
- date the birds were taken
If the bird is taken to the United States, it must be in the possession of the license holder.
Waterfowler Heritage Days
Waterfowler Heritage Days apply in all provinces of Canada to provide young hunters who are minors (under 18 years of age) with the opportunity to learn from licensed adult hunters to:
- practice hunting skills
- learn about wildlife conservation
- reinforce safety training in a structured, supervised environment.
The age range for a young hunter is between 12 and 17 years of age for all provinces except in British Columbia where it is between 10 and 17 years of age.
A mentor may not hunt or carry a firearm. In Ontario a mentor may accompany no more than one young hunter and in all other provinces, may accompany no more than two young hunters.
The following rules apply to young participants who are minors:
- they do not need to have the federal migratory game bird hunting permit
- they must comply with all existing safety and licensing requirements found in the Firearms Act and provincial hunting regulations
- they must be accompanied by a mentor who is not a minor and who has a migratory game bird hunting permit
- when Waterfowler Heritage Days fall outside of the regular open season, only young hunters may hunt
Most migratory birds found in Canada are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA) which fulfills the terms of the Migratory Birds Convention of 1916 between Canada and the USA. The Canadian government has the authority to pass and enforce regulations to protect those species of migratory birds included in the Convention. Similar legislation in the United States protects species found there.
Under the MBCA and its regulations, the Government of Canada is responsible for managing migratory bird populations and for regulating the hunting of migratory game birds such as ducks and geese.
In Canada, the MBCA is administered by the Government of Canada [M in cooperation with:
- provincial and territorial governments
- game officers
- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- provincial and most territorial law enforcement agencies which have the authority to enforce the Act
Depending on the offence, enforcement actions may include:
- suspension of hunting privileges
- forfeiture of equipment
For any questions about the act or its regulations, you can reach us at: 1-800-668-6767.
Disclaimer: This is not a legal document. If there is a discrepancy between the law and the information on this page, the law prevails.
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