Here it is straight from the horses mouth. Mark was nice enough to explain the gifting rules as well.
I have been having a rather lively discussion with a few friends regarding waterfowl possesion limits. Could you clarify the law regarding waterfowl possesion limits for us ? Do birds proceesed and in the freezer at home still count toward a possesion limit ? What about birds that have been processed into jerky or sausage ? Please advise.
A possession limit is the total number of a particular species that a person can have in their possession at any one time; frozen, jerked, made into a pie, whatever, it doesn't matter. The only ways to decrease your possession limit is by 1) consumption or, 2) gifting.
But, in order to keep your discussions lively, consider the following in regards to gifting: "Possession" is regarded as a condition where you have control and/or legal access. For instance, If you have a possession limit in your freezer, you can't "give" some of them to, say, your non-hunting wife and claim they are no longer in your possession (assuming she lives with you). However, if your wife is a licensed hunter you can give her part or all of your possession (assuming she has not reached her possession limit), thereby reducing the number in your possession, but increasing hers (up to but not over her possession limit). Nonetheless, no individual, licensed or non-licensed, may possess over the legal possession limit for an individual.
Also consider the following: Migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) are technically managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and states adopt their regulations for simplicity. The USFWS manages migratory waterfowl based on Flyways. This means that if you shoot your limit of ducks in western Montana (Pacific flyway), you can't go get a another, separate limit of ducks in Idaho, since they're both in the same Flyway. Even so, according to FWS definitions, you also can't have a limit of ducks taken in the Pacific Flyway and another full limit taken in the Central Flyway. You CAN take a limit in the flyway that has the smaller limit, and then go into the flyway with a larger limit and take whatever will bring you to the total limit for the larger. For instance, if you take the daily limit of 6 ducks in the central flyway, and then hunt the Pacific flyway (seven duck limit) you can only take one duck.
I hope this clarifies the issue for you.
Mark D.W. Earnhardt
Law Enforcement Program Manager
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks