Photo of Duck Hunter at Sunset courtesy of Larry Hindman - Wildlife & Heritage Service

Keys to Aid Hunters in Identification of Live Decoys

What are Live Decoys?

Live decoys may include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Captive-raised and domestic waterfowl that have been released that do not exhibit the natural wariness of man associated with a wild bird.

  2. Waterfowl that do not leave the area when hands are clapped and/or a shotgun is discharged.

    • Failure of the birds to respond appropriately when approached in this matter is a good indicator that they do not exhibit the "natural wariness of man" associated with a wild bird. If the birds fly and light nearby on the same property, they may be considered live decoys.

    • The area influenced by live decoys (commonly referred to as the area of influence) can vary depending on the circumstances and such factors as topography, weather, and waterfowl flight patterns. Therefore, this question can only be answered on a case-by-case basis.
       

  3. Wounded waterfowl that have gone un-retrieved.

    • Hunters are required to make a reasonable effort to recover wounded or crippled waterfowl. Hunters should immediately shoot and reduce to possession any crippled wild or captive-raised waterfowl that are present at your hunting location. Removal of wounded waterfowl must be done within the legal season and bag limits prescribed for that species.
       

  4. Waterfowl whose wings are either pinioned or whose outer primary feathers have been cut or removed to render flight impossible.

  5. Captive-raised, domestic ducks and geese (such as Muscovy ducks, Egyptian geese, etc.) that are poor flyers because of their weight and wing development. If these birds do not exhibit the natural wariness of man associated with a wild bird, they may be considered a live decoy; and

  6. Live ducks, geese, or swans that are either tethered or penned at or near a hunting location.

Additional Information:

The 10-day rule - A person may not hunt waterfowl by the use or aid of live birds as decoys. It shall be a violation of State and Federal regulation to hunt waterfowl on an area where tame or captive live ducks or geese are present unless the birds are, and have been for a period of 10 consecutive days before hunting, removed from the area or confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals the birds from the sight of wild migratory waterfowl.

Distance - How close to tame (do not exhibit the natural wariness of man) waterfowl can you hunt wild waterfowl without breaking the law? There is no set distance. The law prohibits the hunting of wild waterfowl on an area where tame ducks, geese, or swans are present and may serve as a lure or attraction to wild waterfowl, on, or over areas (zone of influence) where hunters are attempting to take them. The area of influence may vary depending on the circumstances and such factors as topography, weather, and waterfowl flight patterns. Therefore, this question can only be answered on a case-by-case basis.

As a waterfowl hunter you are responsible for determining
whether your hunting area is influenced by live decoys.

Before hunting you should:

  • Familiarize yourself with Federal and State waterfowl hunting regulations.

  • Ask the landowner, his agent, lessee, or your host, guide, and hunting partners if captive-raised mallards or other domestic waterfowl have been released on the area and inspect the area for the presence of live decoys.

  • Suspect the presence of live decoys if you see mallard ducks or domestic waterfowl displaying a lack of caution or wariness of man.

  • Suspect the presence of live decoys if you see mallard ducks or domestic waterfowl moving toward or approaching a vehicle, boat, or person.

  • Suspect the presence of live decoys if you see mallard ducks or domestic waterfowl that do not exhibit the natural wariness or man and are reluctant to leave the hunting area when you approach them.

  • Abandon your plans to hunt waterfowl if you find tame birds in the area and are uncertain about why they are there.

These examples do not represent an all-inclusive list of live decoy conditions or circumstances.
If you believe you have a live decoy problem, you should not hunt waterfowl at the location
until 10 days after the removal of the problem birds.

Listed below are the legal guidelines for removing problem birds:

  • Properly licensed hunters may remove the problem birds by shooting, but only in accordance with all applicable hunting regulations governing the taking of migratory waterfowl.

  • Tame captive-raised mallards may be removed by shooting during the established hunting season for mallard ducks and so long as the birds are confined to a licensed Regulated Shooting Area. If the shooting is to take place outside the hunting season for mallard ducks written permission from the Wildlife and Heritage Service is required.

  • Domestic ducks (such as Muscovy and Peking ducks) geese (such as Chinese or barnyard geese) may be shot at any time as they are not regulated by State or Federal hunting regulations.

  • Domestic ducks and geese may be captured and placed in an enclosure where they are out of sight and hearing of migratory waterfowl.

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