With dove season right around the corner on Sept. 1, and waterfowl season on the horizon, one of the biggest questions landowners and hunters have is that of baiting in agricultural fields.
According to federal regulations, an area is considered baited and illegal to hunt over if salt, grain or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered in such a way as to attract migratory game birds where hunters are attempting to take them. Discarded grains and agricultural crops must be buried, disked or otherwise worked into the soil or be removed from the site at least 10 days prior to hunting.
Even after removal of the grain or feed, the area is still considered baited for 10 days because birds may continue to return.
Specifically, it is legal to hunt doves:
* where seeds or grains have been scattered (not piled) as a result of a normal agricultural operation or agricultural soil-stabilization practice, including top-sown or aerial seeding.
* where grain grown on the land is scattered solely as the result of the manipulation (e.g., mowing, flattening, disking) of an agricultural crop.
* over standing crops.
* over standing or manipulated natural vegetation.
* over "hogged down" fields where livestock have fed on standing crops.
* over feedlots.
* from a blind camouflaged with natural vegetation.
Waterfowl regulations are more restrictive than those on dove hunting. Unlike doves, waterfowl hunting is not permitted when unharvested crops are manipulated (rolled or mowed). It is legal to hunt over unharvested crops that were left due to poor quality, insect infestation or were otherwise uneconomical to harvest. However, the plants must not have been manipulated prior to flooding.
It is also illegal to hunt waterfowl:
* where grain is fed to livestock.
* where seeds remain on the surface of the ground from planting for erosion control on a construction site.
Normal agricultural practices are not considered baiting as long as they are not outside the realm of an economical harvest.
Planting, harvesting and post-harvest manipulation for the purpose of producing or preparing the next season's crop as well as erosion-control practices all fall under the classification of normal agricultural practices.
The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service has established a list of general guidelines for planting rates and dates that fall within the bounds of normal agricultural practices.
A copy of these guidelines is available at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Web site at www.agfc.com.
Although new regulations allow some relief for hunters who have no possible way of knowing the area is baited, the hunter must follow certain steps to fulfill their responsibility and protect themselves from fines and penalties:
The hunter should inspect the area before bringing a gun to the field.
Any type of grain that was not grown in the field or is unevenly distributed is an indicator of baiting.
The hunter should inspect the field carefully if there is an unusually heavy concentration of doves or waterfowl present. If the field is freshly plowed, look closely at the surface and under the loose soil for grain.
Always ask the landowner if the field is legal to hunt. Ask if any grain or feed has been on the area for the past 10 days. If possible, get his response in writing.
Many landowners who practice sustainable agriculture may plant wildlife food plots to provide additional nutrients and energy to existing deer, turkey and quail populations.
According to federal migratory game bird regulations, land with seeds present on the surface may only be hunted if the seeds are solely to produce and gather a crop.
To avoid problems with baiting regulations, landowners who wish to attract migratory game birds may do so with the use of natural vegetation.
Natural vegetation that is manipulated for improving hunting conditions is not considered baiting.
A list of natural vegetation species preferred by both dove and waterfowl can be found in the baiting summary as well.
For the complete summary of migratory game bird baiting regulations, go to http://www.agfc.com/rules_regs/hunting_r... or call the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at 501-223-6300.