By angelamontana

Posted: May 5, 2021

HELENA – The 2021-22 migratory bird regulations are now available online; hard copies will be available at license providers in a few weeks.

As always, hunters should get familiar with the regulations and any changes from last season.

A change in the Pacific Flyway and Central Flyway Zone 1 that hunters should note this year will be the lack of a split season. This change is in response to a survey of randomly selected Montana waterfowl hunters. The Central Flyway Zone 2 season dates are similar to last season, including the split season.  In the Pacific Flyway, season dates for both ducks and geese will be Oct. 2 – Jan. 14. Pacific Flyway swan season dates will be Oct. 9 – Dec. 1. In the Central Flyway Zone 2 (Big Horn, Carbon, Custer, Prairie, Rosebud, Treasure, and Yellowstone counties), duck season dates will be Oct. 2 – Oct. 10 and Oct. 23 – Jan. 18, with goose season dates Oct. 2 – Oct. 10 and Oct. 23 – Jan. 26.  Zone 1 (the remainder of the Central Flyway) will have duck season dates of Oct. 2 – Jan. 6 and goose season dates of Oct. 2 – Jan. 14.  The Central Flyway swan season will be Oct. 2 – Jan. 6 in both zones. Central Flyway swan licenses are now valid for both tundra swans and trumpeter swans.

Duck and goose bag limits in the Pacific and Central flyways remain the same as last year. In the Central Flyway, two additional blue-winged teal will be allowed in the daily bag for the first nine days of the season, Oct. 2 – Oct. 10.  See the regulations for details.

Special youth waterfowl hunt

Youth 10 to 15 years old may participate in a special statewide two-day early hunt for waterfowl Sept. 25-26.  This is a great time to get the kids out, when the weather is warm and when they are the only ones who can shoot, as well as giving your retriever a tune-up prior to the regular season. Consult the regulations for details.

Sandhill crane, mourning dove, and snipe

Mourning dove and snipe seasons both open Sept. 1. For sandhill cranes, the over-the-counter license season in the Central Flyway will be Oct. 2 – Nov. 28. For crane seasons regulated under special drawing licenses, season dates will be Sept. 1 – Oct. 30. There will be a new special drawing sandhill crane hunting unit in Cascade and Teton counties with 20 licenses.

The deadline to apply for swan and sandhill crane license will be July 23. Applications can be done online or at an FWP office.

Waterfowl outlook

Good numbers of ducks the last two years mean a lot will be returning to breed this spring. Much of Montana is quite dry, as are parts of major duck production areas in Alberta and Saskatchewan, although there are some brighter spots. Duck hunting in Montana depends to a large degree upon local conditions and weather patterns.  Local waterfowl production should be good, and hunters can expect good numbers and from ducks migrating into and through the state. Canada goose numbers remain high in Montana and the surrounding areas.

Typically, duck hunters look forward to the results of the May breeding duck survey, followed by the Waterfowl Status Report in August to get some idea of populations and what to expect for a fall flight. However, no breeding duck and wetland surveys were conducted in 2020 or 2021 due to restrictions from the pandemic. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will rely on long-term data and models to predict duck abundance and inform management decisions until surveys can be restored.

To view the regulations, visit