Waterfowl Hunting Regulations

Before hunting doves, ducks or any other migratory birds, hunters must now go online to My Profile and fill out the Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey to be legal to hunt.


Apply here for Mentor/Mobility-Impaired Hatchery Hunts


The information listed here is for ducks, coots, merganser, Canada goose, white-fronted goose, brant, snow goose, Ross' goose, snow goose conservation order, falconry and sandhill crane.

November 2017 - March 2018



Searchable application



Daily Bag Limit:
6; may include no more than 4 mallards (only 2 of which may be a hen), 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail, 2 black ducks, 3 scaup and 2 canvasback

Possession Limit:
Triple the daily bag limit


Daily Bag Limit:

Possession Limit:
Triple the daily bag limit


Daily Bag Limit:
5, only 2 may be hooded

Possession Limit:
Triple the daily bag limit

Canada Goose, White-Fronted Goose and Brant

Daily Bag Limit:
5 combined; 3 Canada geese, 2 white-fronted geese and 1 brant

Possession Limit:
Triple the daily bag limit

Snow Goose (including Ross' Goose)

Daily Bag Limit:

Possession Limit:

Snow Goose Conservation Order

Daily Bag Limit:

Possession Limit:


Daily Bag Limit:
3 birds

Possession Limit:
Triple the daily bag limit

Sandhill Crane

Daily Bag Limit:
2 birds (permit required)

Possession Limit:
2 birds



One-half hour before sunrise to sunset


Northeast Goose Zone
Regular, no longer a 2 p.m. closure for goose hunting on private lands.

Snow Goose Conservation Order
One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Wildlife Management Areas
Regular, unless noted otherwise in the Public Hunting section.

Sandhill Crane
Sunrise to sunset


Hunters age 15 and younger can hunt ducks, coots, mergansers and geese on these days (Eastern Zone: November 4-5, 2017; Western Zone: February 3-4, 2018). Youth hunting during these seasons must comply with hunter education and hunting license requirements and be accompanied by an adult (at least 18 years of age).

Bag limits are the same as for regular duck and goose seasons.


Sandhill crane season opens Dec. 16, 2017 and closes Jan. 15, 2018. The daily and season bag limit is two birds. Hunters must apply for a sandhill crane permit online from Nov. 15 through Nov. 30, 2017 and pay a $3 application fee. The drawing is Dec. 5.

Applicants must have a valid Kentucky hunting license or be license exempt when they apply. Results are posted to individual applicants online following the drawing. Drawn hunters must pass an online identification exam before receiving a sandhill crane hunting permit.

The season closes once hunters reach the quota of 400 sandhill cranes. Hunters must telecheck harvested birds on the day taken. They must also monitor the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website daily for notices involving season closure and for the presence of whooping cranes in Kentucky. Hunters may also call 1-800-858-1549 for this information.

Hunters participating in the sandhill crane hunting season must complete a post-season survey by Jan. 25 or lose eligibility to apply the following year.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service- approved nontoxic shot no larger than size “T” is required for all waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting. Shot larger than size “T”, or shotshells longer than 3.5 inches, MAY NOT BE POSSESSED OR USED while hunting waterfowl or sandhill cranes. Currently, steel, bismuth, tungsten and certain tungsten composite shotshells are approved for use. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may approve other types of nontoxic shot which, if approved, will be permitted for waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting. Possession or use of any lead shot or any shot not approved by USFWS while hunting or attempting to take waterfowl or sandhill cranes is prohibited statewide.


To report bird bands, visit www.reportband.gov. Many existing bands list a toll-free number that can no longer be used for reporting.  Consequently, hunters may now only report bands online.

Banding plays a critical role in the management of migratory bird species. The data you provide by reporting bands gives wildlife biologists information on harvest rates and movements of migratory game birds. Please report the bands you recover.


Sportsman's Licenses

The Youth Hunting License is included in the Youth Sportsman's License

The Kentucky resident annual hunting license and the waterfowl permit are included in the Resident Sportsman's License

Kentucky Residents

Ages 12-15
Youth Hunting License*

Ages 16-64
Annual or 1-Day Hunting License
+ Kentucky Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit**
+ Federal Duck Stamp

Ages 65 and over OR Disabled
Senior/Disabled License
+ Federal Duck Stamp

Nonresidents (must buy nonresident licenses/permits)

Ages 12 - 15
Youth Hunting License

Ages 16-64
Annual, 1-Day or 7-Day Hunting License
+Kentucky Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit
+Federal Duck Stamp

Ages 65 and over OR Disabled
Annual, 1-Day or 7-Day Hunting License
+Kentucky Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit
+Federal Duck Stamp

*Included in Youth Sportsman's License
**Included in Resident Sportsman's License
HIP survey required for resident and nonresident waterfowl hunters ages 16 and up

LICENSE AND PERMIT FEES - License and Permit Fee Table


Unless license-exempt under KRS 150.170, all hunters must possess a valid Kentucky hunting license when waterfowl hunting. Persons using a license authorization number in lieu of a paper license must have the authorization number and a picture ID with them while hunting. All Kentucky residents 65 years of age and older and Kentucky residents who are certified totally and permanently disabled by the Federal Social Security Administration, by a state Workers Compensation Board, by the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System, by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, by the United States Railroad Retirement Board, or Kentucky resident veterans who have a permanent 50 percent disability as the result of military-related injuries are required to purchase the Senior/Disabled combination hunting and fishing license ($5) and carry it while hunting or fishing. This license includes all the following state permits: deer, turkey, migratory bird, waterfowl and trout.


Any person required to possess a hunting license, except children under the age of 16, taking or attempting to take waterfowl must possess a Kentucky Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit. (This permit is included with the Senior/Disabled and Sportman’s License). The waterfowl permit covers all species of migratory birds. Those who buy a Kentucky waterfowl permit, senior/disabled license, or Sportsman's license MUST COMPLETE a Harvest Information Program Survey (HIP) by going online here before they are legal waterfowl hunters. This takes you to a page that asks for some basic information to confirm your identity. Then, click on the “HIP Migratory Bird Survey” on the right of the page. After completing the HIP survey, you receive a confimation number that must be written on your hunting license or Kentucky Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit.  Hunters may call 1-800-858-1549 for questions.


In addition to the state waterfowl permit requirement listed above, all persons age 16 or over must carry a valid federal migratory bird hunting stamp (commonly called duck stamp) to hunt waterfowl. Hunters under 16 must possess a youth hunting license but the Federal Duck Stamp and Kentucky Migratory Game Bird-Waterfowl Permit are not required. The federal stamp must be validated by the hunter’s signature written across the face of the stamp in ink.

Temporary Exemption

A one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit is available online. This $5 permit allows hunting without a hunter education card for one year from the date of purchase. After it expires, the hunter is no longer exempt and must successfully complete a hunter education course.


All hunters born on or after January 1, 1975, must carry a valid hunter education course completion card while hunting, in addition to the appropriate Kentucky hunting license, federal duck stamp and state waterfowl permit. Hunters not required to have a hunting license are not required to possess the hunter education card. Hunters under the age of 12 may hunt without a course completion card, but must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age who remains in a position to take immediate control of the child’s firearm.



For Canada goose hunting, Kentucky is divided into five zones. Different season dates and/or hunting requirements may apply to each zone. Use the boundary descriptions and maps below to determine the requirements for the zone in which you will hunt.


The Western Goose Zone includes Henderson County and the portion of Kentucky west of U.S. 60 from the Henderson-Union county line to U.S. 641, U.S. 641 to Interstate 24, I-24 to the Purchase Parkway and the Purchase Parkway.


The Pennyroyal/Coalfield Goose Zone includes the area from the Western Goose Zone to and including Simpson, Warren, Butler, Ohio and Daviess counties (excluding the portions of counties in the West-Central Goose Zone).


The West-Central Goose Zone includes Muhlenberg County, Ohio County south of the Rough River, Butler County west of Hwy 79 and north of Hwy 70, and Hopkins County east of Hwys 814 and 109, south of U.S. 41A between Hwy 814 and Madisonville, and south of Hwy 85 east of Madisonville.


The Northeast Goose Zone includes: Bath, Menifee, Morgan (except the portion that lies within the Paintsville Lake WMA) and Rowan counties except that no goose hunting is permitted on public land (USFS) and water within the block of land lying inside the boundaries of Hwy. 801, Hwy. 1274, Hwy. 36, Hwy. 211, Hwy. 60 and Hwy. 826. Note: This area includes most of Cave Run Lake.


The Eastern Goose Zone is the part of Kentucky that lies east of the Pennyroyal/ Coalfield Zone (excluding the Northeast Goose Zone).




Starting at the northwest city limits of Wickliffe in Ballard County to the middle of the Mississippi River, then north along the Mississippi to the low water mark of the Ohio River along the Illinois shore to the Ballard-McCracken County line; then along the county line south to KY 358, then south along KY 358 to its junction with U.S. 60 at LaCenter; then following U.S. 60 southwest to the northeast city limits of Wickliffe.

In the Ballard Reporting Area, waterfowl hunting is permitted only from blinds (defined as any form of concealing enclosure including a pit or an anchored, stationary or drifting boat from which hunting occurs) unless conducted from flooded, standing timber. All constructed or used blinds (including boats) must be at least 100 yards apart and at least 50 yards from any property line. A waterfowl hunter shall not possess more than one shotgun while in the blind. Blind requirements are suspended during the late snow goose conservation order and the September wood duck and teal season.


In addition to the state regulations, the following federal laws apply to the taking, possession, shipping, transporting and storing of migratory game birds.

Note: 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, Part 20.



More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges open to public hunting. For more information on Federal Regulations, consult Assistant Regional Director - LE, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 4839, Atlanta, Georgia, 30302-4839; or call (404) 331-5872.

No person shall take migratory game birds:

  • With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than a 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance;
  • With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shotshells, 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 the 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 the 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 of or injury to the spinal cord;
  • From or by means of any motor boat or sail boat unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sail furled, and its progress therefrom has ceased;
  • 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;
  • Using records or tapes of migratory bird calls, or sounds, or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls (except electronic calls may be used during the Snow Goose Conservation Order);
  • By driving, rallying or stirring birds with any motor-driven land, water or air conveyance or any sail boat to put them in the range of the hunters; or
  • 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. Hunters should be aware that a baited area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait.
  • Areas manipulated for dove hunting are not legal for waterfowl hunting.
  • Over areas where farmers feed livestock or areas where grain is stored, such as grain bins and elevators.


No person shall take migratory game birds during the closed season.


No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting as prescribed.


No person shall take in any one day more than one daily bag 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.


All migratory game birds shall be retrieved, if possible, and retained in the custody of the hunter in the field.


No person shall 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: a) the hunter’s signature; b) the hunter’s address; c) the total number of birds involved, by species; d) the dates such birds were killed.

Tagging is required if the birds are being transported by another person for the hunter, or if the birds have been left for cleaning, storage (including temporary storage), shipment or taxidermy services.


Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.


No person shall completely field dress any migratory game bird (except doves and band-tailed pigeons) 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.


No person shall ship migratory game birds unless the package is marked on the outside with: a) the name and the address of the person sending the birds; b) the name and the address of the person to whom the birds are being sent; and the number of birds, by species, contained in the package.


For information regarding the importation of migratory birds killed in another country hunters should consult 50 CFR 20.61 through 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 killed in any foreign country, except Canada, unless such birds are dressed (except as required in 20.63), drawn, and the head and feet are removed. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another person.


Violation of state migratory game bird regulations is also a violation of federal regulations.



On the following areas, hunt sites must be registered on a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Kentucky Fish & Wildlife before the blind is constructed: Barkley Lake, Barren River Lake, Buckhorn Lake, Doug Travis, Green River Lake, Nolin River Lake, Rough River Lake, and Sloughs. Applicants must show a valid hunting license, Kentucky Waterfowl Permit, and Federal Migratory (Duck) Bird Stamp when applying. An applicant may designate one other person as a partner and shall not hold more than one permit per area. Hunt sites registered on these areas not occupied by one hour before sunrise of any day are considered open to other hunters, first-come, first- served basis for that day. Permittees shall not lock blinds to prevent use by other hunters in absence of the permittee. Hunt sites on the above listed areas must be constructed by November 20 and removed within 30 days of the close of the season. Permittees who fail to remove their blind as stated will forfeit the opportunity to obtain a blind the following year. Hunters selected for a waterfowl blind at Sloughs Wildlife Management Area must complete a hunter survey report or lose eligibility for a blind the following year. Hunters selected for a waterfowl blind at Sloughs Waterfowl Management Area must complete a hunter survey report online at www.research.net/s/Sloughs_Hunter_Survey or lose eligibility for a blind the following year.

On Barkley, Barren River, Doug Travis, Green River and Sloughs WMAs, hunters who want hunt sites must register and be selected by random drawing. Drawings are held August through October and applicants must be 18 years of age and show a valid Kentucky hunting license, a Kentucky waterfowl permit and a Federal migratory bird stamp at that time. Each person drawn may select a partner of the hunt site for hunting in the absence of the person drawn. Partners must be present at the drawing. Drawn hunters may use their hunt site the entire season and may use a boat or a portable blind or construct a permanent blind. Each hunt site must be pinned with a permanent marker identifying the permit holders for the hunt site. If drawn hunters do not occupy a blind or hunt site by one- hour before sunrise that day, the blind or hunt site is open to other hunters on a first-come, first-served basis.


Unless otherwise stated under the CLOSED AREAS AND SPECIAL REGULATIONS FOR WMAs, the following restrictions apply to all open WMAs:

  • permanent blinds are not permitted;
  • decoys and temporary blinds must be removed from the WMA at the end of each hunting day;
  • hunt sites must be at least 200 yards from any other hunt site or waterfowl refuge area;
  • no more than 4 persons shall occupy a single hunt site at any one time; and
  • designated recreation areas and access points are closed to all waterfowl hunting.
  • discharge of firearms is prohibited within 100 yards of a residence or occupied building whether or not the building is on the WMA.


Special season dates, limits and requirements are in efect for the following areas. If specific season dates are given for an area, that is the only time waterfowl hunting is permitted. Otherwise, hunting is open under statewide dates and regulations for the zone where they are located. This section also lists any areas that are closed to hunting or public access. Areas owned or managed by Kentucky Fish & Wildlife not listed below are open based on the zone in which they are located.

Floodwater Note

Public hunting will close when floodwaters prevent safe entry to hunting fields by wheeled vehicles on roads. Notice will be given at least 24 hours in advance of closure via radio, television, newspaper and online outlets, or hunters may call (502) 564-8333 for a recorded announcement. Watch or listen for notices when floodwaters are expected.



Regulations for Barren River Lake, Grayson Lake, Greenbo Lake, Lake Barkley, Lincoln Homestead, Nolin River Lake, Paintsville Lake, Pennyrile, Rough River Lake and Yatesville Lake state parks are as follows:

  • Open waterfowl hunt Dec. 13, 2017 - Jan. 31, 2018.
  • Selected portions of the lake and adjacent shoreline only.
  • Statewide waterfowl hunting regulations apply.
  • Hunters shall check in each day at the designated check-in location no earlier than 4 a.m.
  • During check-in, hunters will be provided a map showing portions of the area that are open.
  • Hunters shall check out each day at the designated check-in location.



Open for waterfowl Mentor quota hunts Jan. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28, 2018.

  1. Hunts by advance registration only. No standby hunting. Only youths and mobility-impaired hunters may apply.
  2. Mentor hunt only, limited to youths under 16.
  3. Youth(s) must be accompanied by an adult (mentor) at least 18 years or older.
  4. Hunters drawn to hunt must carry postcard notification with them during the hunt.
  5. Limited to 4 hunters with no more than two hunting adults. One mentor may have two youth but one youth may not have more than 1 mentor in a blind.
  6. Hunters cannot enter blinds until 5:30 a.m.
  7. Bag limits same as statewide.
  8. Hunting only permitted from established blinds assigned by random pre-season draw.
  9. Hunters may only discharge firearms from the blind.
  10. Hunters may not change blinds.
  11. Hunters may only have 15 shotshells each.
  12. Hunters must immediately retrieve downed birds. Chasing or harassing waterfowl outside the blinds is strictly prohibited.
  13. Firearms must be encased when traveling to and from the blind.
  14. Hunting ends at noon and hunters must be off the area by 1 p.m.
  15. All decoys and equipment must be removed at the end of each day’s hunt.
  16. Hunters must report harvest by dropping hunt permit at designated location.
  17. Those participating in a KDFWR waterfowl quota hunt must follow state and federal regulations or the hunter will be prohibited from participating in any other waterfowl quota hunts that year and the following year.
  18. Mobility-impaired hunters are also eligible to participate in the Minor Clark Mentor Hatchery Hunt. Hunters must supply a copy of their mobility-impaired access permit from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife when applying for the hunt and must abide by hunt rules. Mobility-impaired hunters may only have one assistant.


Individuals wishing to be drawn for one or more of the Mentor Hatchery Waterfowl hunts must apply online between Nov. 1 - 15, 2017.  A youth may apply for more than one date. A mentor and youth selected may invite two additional youth or one youth and one mentor to hunt with them. The names of guests do not have to be listed on the application. By the end of November, individuals selected will be mailed a quota hunt permit for the date(s) they are drawn, a map showing hatchery location, blinds and other instructions concerning the hunt. Unsuccessful applicants will not be notified. An individual drawn for one quota hunt during a season will have lower preference to be drawn for a second quota hunt during the same season.  Duplicate applications for the same hunt day will result in disqualification.