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Do Unrecovered Roosters Count Against Daily Bag Limits?

I called our partners with the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with the following question about pheasant hunting:


“When you knock down a bird, but are unable to retrieve it, does that unrecovered bird legally count against your daily bag limit?”


Pheasants gravitate to thick cover, so a good bird dog becomes invaluable to finding downed birds.

Over the years, I’ve heard countless hunters argue both sides of what they believe to be the law.  So, I called the sources to settle the debate.


According to both Minnesota and South Dakota’s law enforcement divisions, a downed bird does not count against your legal daily bag limit if you are unable to find the downed bird.  In other words, if you can’t put your hand on a bird then it’s impossible to legally possess that bird.  (My sample size is two – the states I pheasant hunt most – so if you’re unsure about the law in your state, please be sure to check your state’s regulations to ensure you’re abiding by the laws of your state’s pheasant season).


You do, however, have to put in reasonable effort searching for that downed bird.  If you simply knock it down, but never search for it, then it does become a legal issue of wanton waste.


The next question is one of personal ethics.  Even though it’s not the law, do you personally count unrecovered roosters against your daily bag limit?

A 2011 limit of Minnesota roosters to fill my daily bag limit thanks to the retrieving work of my shorthair, Trammell.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.


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3 Responses to “Do Unrecovered Roosters Count Against Daily Bag Limits?”

  1. Alan says:

    This is an easy one one me – of course I do – but having said that I can’t remember when I’ve lost a bird – I spend countless hours every year working two labs to Master Hunter test standards – losing even a single bird would be a big blow to me and the training effort I’ve committed to.

  2. Bryant says:

    I will always spend as long as it takes to get a downed bird. Now that I have a dog, it has become much easier. It is better to take the time and find the bird than continue hunting and shoot a limit, come back and find the bird. Then you are over your limit and wasting a perfectly good bird. A true sportsman shouldn’t rely on the pride that comes with a limit in hand, but rather the pride of looking back at all the intangibles that make a hunt enjoyable.

  3. Blake says:

    I always wondered what the answer was on this. I always considered downed bird not to count since technically they weren’t in my “bag”


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