2023 Michigan Waterfowl Season Legal Bag Limits

 In Hunter Advocacy

by Ed H Edwards, Lansing Chapter Member, avid hunter, and fisherman

A season on Sandhill Cranes would be welcome!

The 2023 Michigan waterfowl season starts September 1st for geese and some additional species. In addition to the preparation and inspection of all the clothing, boat, motor, blind, and other equipment expected to be used I have carefully read and made notes of the seasons and daily limits using the new DNR app. If you have not installed the app it is recommended.

If I was to limit out on the September 1st opener the total number of birds to legally bag is SIXTY-FIVE! How so?

Canada Geese

The daily limit for Canada Geese is five and a limit can be easy if hunting an active feeding field. I normally river hunt and am happy to bring one or two home to enjoy the challenge and natural scenery. 

Light (Snow or Blue) Geese

Light (Snow or Blue) geese have a daily limit of TWENTY so you would think they are plentiful and easy to bag. In my hunting Michigan waterfowl for over 50 years, I have not had any of the light geese species anywhere close to being in range and when spotted they are flying a mile high migrating and have no interest in stopping.

Wilson Snipe

The daily limit on Wilson Snipe is eight and we frequently get a few every season. Always enjoy the previous year’s survey question when purchasing a Michigan waterfowl stamp. “Did you harvest any snipe”? When I answer “yes” I get, “Wow you are the 1st to ever answer yes.”

2023 Michigan Waterfowl season


Six teal are allowed and it used to be common to have several flocks of Bluewings buzz by while hunting geese in the September season. Ever since the September teal season was established, we have not seen any, but we always set out teal decoys just in case!

Sora and Virginia Rails

Sora and Virginia rails have a daily combined limit of TWENTY-FIVE and you would expect they would be as plentiful as migrating blackbirds! Per Wikipedia, they are native to Michigan wetlands but I have yet to spot one let alone shoot one.

Common Gallinule

The Common Gallinule daily limit is ONE. Pretty sure this is what is commonly referred to as a “hell diver” that swims around head bobbing and can dive and re-surface 30 to 40 feet away. Occasionally flush and fly short distances. Every season a few will swim into the decoys and we let them keep swimming.

So that is a summary of the sixty-five bird legal waterfowl bag for the September season and what legal species we see or do not see on a typical hunt. October 14th limits will change with the opening of duck season and we will be able to add six ducks, fifteen coots, and five mergansers for a total legal (but not possible) limit of ninety-one birds!

How about a crane season?

A legal species by federal law but illegal in Michigan that we see more of than everything else combined is Sandhill cranes. Southern Michigan is a major breeding area for the Eastern population of Sandhill cranes and is extremely concentrated in the area we hunt. Except for agriculture damage permits Michigan has not had a crane season in over 100 years. The damage permits are a ridiculous concept, a farmer reporting crop damage can get very few (5 or fewer) permits and the cranes killed cannot be kept as food. By law the cranes must be left in nature, unconscionable in my opinion. Seriously doubt shooting a few discourages the flock from returning any more than walking into the field and yelling, “Shoooo!”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Guidelines

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes guidelines for all migratory game birds. For the Eastern Sandhill crane a population of 30,000 or more is needed before a hunting season is allowed. The estimated three-year average has exceeded 90,000 which allows states in the Eastern Sandhill crane area to propose a season for approval which is a process. They would have to be declared a game species in Michigan, a hunting plan including a special permit quota, and season regulations for the first hunt. 

The hunt plan would then be reviewed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services for final approval.

If a Sandhill crane hunting season is approved by the state and the federal governments it still may not happen like previous attempts for a dove season. Michigan residents voted down a dove season by more than a two-to-one margin in the 2006 election yet our border states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all have dove seasons.

The states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama are in the Sandhill crane Eastern population and all have a crane season, issuing a limited number of permits through a lottery. 

Michigan DNR

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has complained about a lack of funds due to declining license sales yet we provide habitat and food for two plentiful species of game birds that our neighbors to the south enjoy hunting that we do not. Many hunters would gladly buy a dove license and crane permits could be available via lottery which would generate funds.

Why not let game biologist do their job rather than public emotions, red tape, and political correctness determine the seasons and bag limits? 

Have a safe and blessed hunting season spending time with family and friends.

If you bag a Sora or Virginia Rail in Michigan, please send us a picture!

Click here for the 2023 Michigan Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Summary


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