Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Here in North Carolina, the season is over, but in other parts of the country that is most likely not the case. I decided that since I was just starting my hunting career this season and I already had way too many things to learn I would opt not to purchase my federal duck stamp. This did limit what I was able to hunt significantly but it was a smart choice. Each state has its own laws and regulation on hunting, what you can hunt, where you can hunt it when you can hunt it, and how you can hunt it. However, migratory birds are an entirely different situation. Since they travel not only across state lines but often across one or more countries there are a huge number of things that need to be considered when the appropriate agencies make regulations regarding them. International treaties, local hunting traditions, habitat, and migration patterns all factor into the equation. And that is why a federal stamp is required to hunt them as opposed to only a state license.
I won't bore you with all the details of the different migratory lanes that are used for part of this calculation, but we need to discuss how many species are involved in the generic term migratory birds. Crows, ducks, geese, doves, gallinule, moorhen, woodcock, snipe, coots, and rails are some of the more common species. However, there are varieties within many of those groups. Green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, mallard, mergansers, and sea ducks are only a few examples of the different ducks. Now you may ask why this is important. And the answer is that in many cases there are different seasons as well as bag limits for each bird. I don't mean that just ducks have a different season than swans, but that each different variety of duck can have a different season. To complicate matters further there are bag limits to consider. For the beginner that is unfamiliar with the term, a bag limit is the maximum number of a particular game species you may kill or possess in a day and sometimes per year.
Let's take first duck season for a minute. Here in North Carolina for the 2020 season Oct. 7th to Oct. 10th was the first duck season with a limit of 6 ducks per day. However, That was further broken down to no more than 4 scoters, 4 elders, 4 long-tailed ducks, 3 wood ducks, 2 mallards only one of which could be a hen or female, etc... As you can see it can be further broken down by sex as well. So while you are allowed six ducks you must only have the specified number of each type of duck and sex. For example, if you bagged 3 wood ducks and one mallard you could only bag two more ducks, but only one of them could be a mallard and it had to be a drake or male. Ordinarily, you can bag 4 elders but since you have already bagged four other ducks you can now only bag 2 elders. O.K. so other than trying to confuse you why am I belaboring this point?
Because before you take on the challenge of hunting migratory birds you better get very familiar with not only the regulations, but also the skill of identifying different birds by species, type, and sex. You also better practice doing it in varied light conditions. Don't forget to practice from different distances, while stationary on the ground or in the water and while flying. Understand why I mentioned this yet? If you can't tell what kind of bird you are about to shoot in the air and what sex it is DON'T FIRE! The penalties for killing the wrong bird at the wrong time or in the wrong amounts will differ just as much as all other regulations but can be severe. And as in all things, ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is the hunter's responsibility to know and understand the rules and regulations before they start a hunt.
Especially as a beginner, it is our responsibility to study the regulations and ensure we don't go out either ignoring them or inadvertently breaking them and giving all hunters a bad reputation. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem is not only about ensuring there is nature for future generations but is also about respecting other hunters and ensuring there will always be enough to go around. Remember some people hunt not for sport but for survival and those who fail to follow the rules could very well be placing the lives of other people in jeopardy.
As a final note I will also point out that in addition to the federal regulations, such as ensuring you are only in possession of non-toxic shot or NO LEAD, there may be state, and county rules or regulations to be aware of as well. If you are hunting on public land or game lands as they are called in North Carolina each of them has unique regulations as well. Rules that dictate when or where a blind can be built or who can use it, the number of shells your shotgun may hold, or if you can fire near a road are all examples of some of these local regulations. It's important to thoroughly research all of the possible regulations and ask a wildlife enforcement agent for clarification on anything you don't understand before you venture out into the outdoors.