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Plan a Wyoming waterfowl hunt this winter

Cheyenne – As big game seasons come to a close, Wyoming hunters are trading their rifles and bows for shotguns to take aim at waterfowl. The colder weather blanketing the region should send more birds south, just in time for the holiday break.

“We’ve had a more mild weather year,” said Noelle Smith, Wyoming Game and Fish Department migratory game bird and wetland habitat biologist. “But that is starting to change and that will push the birds from the north to Wyoming.”

For any waterfowl hunting trip, hunters should confirm they have the required licenses and stamps and that they are not expired. Waterfowl hunting in Wyoming has several requirements, and hunters must carry certain licenses and stamps with them when afield.

“Each license and stamp we require helps waterfowl conservation and improves habitat for the birds,” Smith said.

Here are the Wyoming requirements:

A game bird hunting license. Hunters under 14 do not need a license if accompanied by an adult hunter with a valid game bird license. All hunters need a permit to hunt sandhill crane.

Proof of hunter safety. Hunters born after January 1, 1966 must have been certified and carry their hunter safety card or if their license shows their hunter safety number that is acceptable as well.

A conservation stamp. All licensed hunters must possess a conservation stamp, with the exception of a daily hunting license or holder of a special license. Refer to Game and Fish regulations for specific license holders who are exempt.

The Harvest Information Program or HIP permit. The HIP permit is free but is specific to each state. Licensed hunters will need to obtain a Wyoming HIP permit to hunt migratory birds in Wyoming and can do so on the Game and Fish website.

The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. The stamp, commonly called the “Duck Stamp,” is required for hunting ducks, geese and mergansers — but is not required for other migratory game bird species. This is only required for hunters 16 years of age or older, and is valid July 1-June 30. These stamps are sold online by Game and Fish, through a U.S. Post Office as well as some license selling agents throughout the state. A receipt from an online purchase is NOT valid to hunt with, but an e-stamp is allowed.

Wetlands make exceptional waterfowl habitat. Smith suggested hunters could find success on many of the Game and Fish wildlife habitat management areas where the Department has invested in improving wetland habitat like Ocean Lake and Table Mountain, and is working on restoring Soda Lake. Sand Mesa is slated for improvements this upcoming spring.

“Many ducks and other waterfowl are drawn to shallow wetlands with food-rich habitats,” Smith said. “The work Game and Fish does to conserve and manage wetlands is important because it helps migrating birds maintain a good body condition as they travel to their breeding and wintering grounds.”

As shallow water freezes up, hunters can look to rivers and deeper open water for opportunity.

Duck hunters should examine harvested birds for a leg band and report the number to the North American Bird Banding Program along with the location of the harvest, species and band number.

“This helps Game and Fish collect information on birds and their habitats as well as contributes to developing hunting regulations and other management efforts,” Smith said.

For a waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting requirements and season dates, hunters should see the regulations.