If you love hunting waterfowl, you may want to plan a trip to North Carolina. This state offers some amazing duck hunting opportunities. Nestled on the Atlantic Flyway, this diverse state offers an abundance of wetlands, marshes, and rivers – making it the perfect place to hunt waterfowl.
However, North Carolina has several regulations regarding hunting ducks, just like other states. Duck hunting season in North Carolina can be fun, but you must follow these regulations.
Below, we’ll explore all the regulations you need to know about before heading off to hunt in North Carolina.
Waterfowl Species in North Carolina
North Carolina is home to many species of waterfowl that may attract hunters to the area. From graceful Mallards and Wood Ducks to Tundra Swans, you may be surprised by the diversity of waterfowl in this state.
The Mallard is one of the most recognizable ducks. They’re very widespread in North Carolina. They have very vibrant green heads, yellow bills, and chestnut breasts, which make them very recognizable. They’re commonly seen in wetlands, marshes, and agricultural fields.
Another common waterfowl is the Wood Duck. This species has a unique combination of colors. The males have a vibrant array of iridescent plumage and a very distinct crest. The females aren’t quite as impressive, though. These ducks prefer woodlands, hence their name.
You’ll also find the Green-winged Teal, which is a small duck that visits the state during fall and spring migration periods. They frequent shallow freshwater, including flooded fields. They’re extremely agile and small, making them a challenging target.
Black ducks can also be found in North Carolina. However, these ducks are harder to distinguish from female Mallards. They’re found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats. Their wary nature makes them challenging targets, as well.
Hunting Licenses and Permits
Before setting out on your duck hunting expedition, obtaining the appropriate licenses and permits is a must. Resident and non-resident hunters must possess a valid North Carolina hunting license, which can be easily obtained through the NCWRC website or authorized agents.
If you’re over 16, you must also purchase a Federal Duck Stamp, which is available online and at many post offices. The funds from these stamps aid in the conservation and preservation of waterfowl habitats.
You’ll need to carry both of these items with you while hunting.
Bag Limits and Species Restrictions
Like with most animals, you’re only allowed to take so many waterfowl when hunting. These bag limits help ensure that the population is sustainable. The exact bag limits vary a lot. You’ll need to check with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to figure out the exact bag limits for the particular species and date.
However, here is a list of general bag limits.
- Duck, Merganser, & Coots: Only six ducks are allowed, with no more than four sea ducks. You may not have more than three scoters, three eiders, or three long-tailed ducks. Specific species restrictions include: three wood ducks, two canvasbacks, four mallards, two redheads, one pintail, one whistling duck, one molted duck, and two black ducks.
- Canada Geese: The daily bag limit for Canada Geese depends on where you are. The Resident population zone has a bag limit of five, but only two are allowed in the Northeast hunting zone.
- Brant: Only one daily.
- Light Geese: 25 per day, with no bag limit in the conservation season.
- Tundra Swan: One per day by permit only.
Hunting Zones and Public Land
There are two zones for duck hunting season in North Carolina: the Inland Zone and the Coastal Zone. The boundary between these zones is Interstate 95, which makes figuring out your zone pretty easy. You can view a map of these zones, as well, if you’re still uncertain.
The bag limit and exact regulations vary from area to area. Therefore, it’s vital that you learn the hunting regulations for your particular zone. Regulations do update regularly, so be sure to always check for updates, even if you’ve hunted in previous years.
There are many options for hunting waterfowl on public land in North Carolina. You’ll find serval impoundments throughout the state that attract many different species. Sometimes, you do need a special permit to hunt in some areas. For instance, both Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge and Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge require special permits.
You’ll need to double-check the area you plan to hunt in to ensure the bag limits and regulations are the same. Some parks and game lands may have specific regulations you have to follow.
Duck Season in North Carolina Dates
The dates for hunting ducks in North Carolina vary year to year. Therefore, you must check each year to determine the state and end dates. Keep an eye out for updates throughout the season, too. For this year, the dates for the Inland Duck Zone are:
- October 19 – October 21, 2023
- November 4 – November 25, 2023
- December 19, 2023 – January 31, 2024
The dates for the Coastal Duck Zone are:
- October 27 – October 28, 2023
- November 4 – November 25, 2023
- December 18, 2023 – January 31, 2024
There are also specific dates for each species. Black ducks, mottled ducks, pintail, sea ducks, and scaup all have their own dates, so you’ll need to check carefully, depending on your area.
There is also a special September teal season for green-winged, blue-winged, and cinnamon teal in the area east of U.S. Highway 17 from September 13 to September 30, 2023.
Important Rules and Regulations for Duck Season in North Carolina
Duck hunting in North Carolina is subject to both federal and state laws. Therefore, you must carefully check for regulations before heading to the local pond. Here are some of the more important regulations you must follow.
- Non-toxic shot requirements. Hunters are required to utilize only non-toxic shots when hunting. Steel, bismuth, and tungsten are allowed. However, lead shot is prohibited, as it can cause poisoning and death to waterfowl who consume it.
- Baiting laws. You may not shoot waterfowl (including ducks) over any baited areas. This includes grains, salt, and other feeds. Anything that is utilized to attract birds falls into this category. Baiting is illegal because it causes birds to gather in one area, spreading diseases. You should always check the area for signs of bait before shooting anything. (The shooting part is illegal, so you can still get in trouble even if you weren’t the one who placed the bait.)
- Reporting banded birds. If you harvest a duck with a metal leg band or neck collar, you must report it to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Reporting these birds helps scientists determine harvest rates. You shouldn’t avoid taking these birds.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Irving A Gaffney
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