Each year, millions of bird hunters head afield in pursuit of doves, ducks, and other flying fowl. So you can bet that right now, Georgia bird hunting aficionados across the state are shooting clays, rustling up game bags, and getting insect repellent and sunscreen in their field kits in preparation for the various bird seasons that are opening soon.
Matt Kilgo, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. & Texas LawShield® in Georgia, said wingshooters need to be aware of stiff penalties that are attached to migratory-bird hunting regulations. According to Kilgo, the penalties aren’t just monetary—they can involve jail time, and you can get caught and prosecuted even if you are unaware that you’re breaking certain laws.
Kilgo explained that migratory game birds are those species designated in conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for the protection and management of these birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The relevant U.S. Code is found in 16 U.S.C. 703-712.
“In the Georgia bird hunting regulations, migratory game birds in the state include various ducks, mergansers, geese, mourning doves, and other wildfowl,” he said.
Mourning-dove bird hunting tops many hunters’ lists, and every year game wardens cite dove hunters for a variety of infractions related to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA, 16 USC 703 – 712). Many hunters may not know about this law, he said, but ignorance of the game laws is no excuse.
He said, “The Migratory Bird Treaty creates two types of consequences for violations of its bird hunting provisions: criminal penalties and forfeitures. It is a misdemeanor to violate any provision of the Act, with punishment of a maximum fine of $15,000 or imprisonment up to six months or both.” The relevant U.S. Code is § 707(b)-(c), he said.
Bird Hunting: Shotgun Capacity Limited to Three Shells
Kilgo said, “In addition to the United States Code and federal regulations, Georgia hunters are also covered by the regulations of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.”
Kilgo said, “One of the most common Georgia bird hunting mistakes is shooting a semi-auto or pumpgun that can hold too many shells. Shotguns are limited to a capacity of not more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined. If a plug is necessary to limit the capacity, it has to be one piece, and the hunter must not be able to remove it through the loading end of the magazine. Also, shotshells can’t be longer than 3 1/2 inches.”
Hunting Over Bait
Kilgo said, “Another area that snares hunters is inadvertently hunting over bait. Georgia game law is very clear that it is the hunter’s responsibility to know whether or not he or she is hunting over a baited field. It is unlawful for any person to place or scatter any corn, wheat, or other grains, so as to constitute a lure or attraction or enticement for any game bird.”
He said, “It is also unlawful to hunt any game animal or game bird near any bait for a period of ten days following the complete removal of all such feed or bait.”
Regulatory changes adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999 defined key terms relative to baiting to clarify the conditions to legally hunt migratory game birds, including doves. Click here to get a printable version of the information created by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The document defines a baited area as “any area where salt, grains or other feeds have been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered if they could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds.”
Kilgo said that in Georgia, the distance a person can hunt from a baited area is defined in state law. He said, “You can’t take game birds within 200 yards of any place where any corn, wheat, or other grains, or bait has been placed. It’s a misdemeanor. Check Code Section 17-10-4 for details.”
Kilgo said conservation rangers can require land owners to put up signs identifying areas as, “No Hunting, Baited Field,” and such signs must remain for 10 days after bait is removed. Kilgo said the printing on such signs must be clearly visible to a person with normal eyesight from a distance of at least 50 yards, and enough signs should be put up to provide reasonable notice to hunters that the field or area is baited.
Georgia Bird Hunting: Other Infractions
Hunting-citation figures highlight some other areas that account for the bulk of wingshooting violations in recent seasons.
— Bird hunting without a license is a common oversight. “Some hunters may feel the risk of being caught without the proper documentation isn’t that high,” Kilgo said, “but the cost of a license sure beats the cost of a citation.”
— Exceeding the bag/possession limit nabs a bunch of hunters, Kilgo said. He emphasized that shooting a limit of doves in the morning and then again in the afternoon is a violation. Also, hunters shouldn’t share birds to manipulate the possession bag limits.
Click here to see the state’s opening-day dates, limits, and other migratory bird regulations.
Hunter Shield Protects Hunters and Anglers
Did you know that tens of thousands of Georgia bird hunting game-law violations are recorded by various game agencies every year? Mistakes in the woods and on water happen, and while unintentional, you could still be breaking the law.
If you have questions about year-round Georgia bird hunting regulations, U.S. LawShield is here to help. Members of U.S. LawShield’s Hunter Shield program have access to attorneys to get the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members are granted discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. Seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add Hunter Shield to your existing LawShield membership for only $2.95 per month.
Not a member of U.S. LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a Georgia bird hunting sportsman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law.