Because of their migratory nature, waterfowl species are managed differently from other game species. Nebraska Game and Parks works in cooperation with neighboring states, the Central Flyway and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set season dates, bag limits and regulations for waterfowl seasons. Hunters, too, are asked to help manage these unique species by registering for the HIP (Harvest Information Program), purchasing waterfowl stamps and reporting any harvested birds with leg bands. Read on for a full list of programs, requirements, information and other resources for waterfowl hunters.
Required annually for all migratory waterfowl hunters age 16 or older, the Federal Duck Stamp is a vital tool for wetland conservation. For every dollar generated by the sale of federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents goes directly to buy or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Proceeds have been used to purchase or lease about 5.6 million acres of wetland habitat on many of the more than 560 national wildlife refuges. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission now offers this stamp for sale online. The electronic stamp is considered temporary and is legal to hunt with for up to 45 days from purchase, during which time you will get a physical stamp in the mail. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers more information about this stamp online.
The Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program designed to measure the harvest of migratory birds for management purposes.
All migratory game bird hunters must register annually with the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program in each state you hunt before hunting ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, coots, cranes, snipe, doves or woodcock. Register online here.
Banding and reporting of banded waterfowl and other migratory birds is a critical program that allows managers to estimate and track vital population parameters. Banding information also provides information on when and where migratory birds are harvested. Reporting of band numbers from birds you harvest or find will help ensure the continued existence of hunting seasons and assist in making better management decisions.
It is unlawful to use or possess shotgun shells loaded with or containing shot other than nontoxic shot while hunting, taking or attempting to take waterfowl. Nontoxic shot is required for all shotgun hunting on federal waterfowl production areas, national wildlife refuges and some state wildlife management areas, as posted.
Legal nontoxic shot are:
- coated steel
For more specific information, see the table for nontoxic shot loads for waterfowl and upland game birds.
All migratory birds except doves must have one fully feathered wing or head plumage attached when in transport.
Hunters must ensure that all game is used and not wasted. Persons found guilty of abandoning or wasting game birds may be subject to fines and restitution.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 has been confirmed in wild, captive, commercial and backyard birds in 21 states since December 2014. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has confirmed 223 detections of HPAI H5 in backyard and commercial poultry in 15 states, with over 48 million birds affected as of early July, 2015. No new outbreaks have been reported in poultry since mid-June. However, agriculture and industry representatives anticipate a possible resurgence in fall, 2015. Waterfowl hunters should be aware of this disease and should take certain precautions, which are outlined on the avian influenza fact sheet.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission pumps some wetlands across the state to improve hunting conditions, provide habitat for migrating waterfowl and the other water birds, provide areas for people to observe wildlife and to spread out the distribution of migrating birds and reduce the possibility of disease outbreaks. View the pumping schedule for the most-up-to-date wetlands conditions.
Download Nov. 17 update
Waterfowl Production Areas are owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For the most up-to-date information on conditions at these areas, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website.
A Special Hunting Area (SHA) at Clear Creek WMA consists of about 300 acres where there are 11 pit blinds for waterfowl hunting. The SHA is open to hunting waterfowl and other game species until the check station opens on the Monday before Thanksgiving to Feb. 1 or as otherwise posted. During the time when the check station is open, hunters must check in at the check station office and can only hunt within the provided blinds. Downed birds may be retrieved from the Clear Creek Seasonal Refuge, although no firearms are allowed there. A printable map of the special hunting area, along with special regulations, is available for download.
Up to five blinds at the SHA are available by reservation. Hunters may apply for reservation dates during August and September, and a drawing is held the first Wednesday in October. Reservation applications are available online, at the Clear Creek WMA field office or at the District IV Office in North Platte. If any advance reservation dates remain after the drawing, hunters may call the District IV Office in North Platte at 308-535-8025 to reserve one. No more than two advance reservations are allowed per individual. Remaining blinds are allocated each day by a drawing conducted 45 minutes before legal shooting hours for that day. The check station opens an hour and a half before drawing time. The drawing determines the order of blind selection. Blinds not allocated in the drawing and those vacated during the day will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters may hunt only with the group they registered with for the drawing.
Goose harvest totals from this are updated weekly during the season.
Download Jan. 16 update