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Dove Hunting - Baited Fields Can Lead to Arrest

September 27, 1987

Undated (AP) _ The dove is probably the most popular game bird in the United States, and regulations for hunting it are probably the most controversial.

An estimated 50 million of the speedy birds are harvested by hunters each year.

And thousands of hunters are arrested each year on charges of hunting those doves illegally - usually by shooting over a baited field.

Federal law is clear; it is illegal to shoot, or attempt to shoot, doves over bait.

Ignorance is no excuse. A hunter who has no idea the field he is hunting was baited will be found just as guilty as the one who may have planted the bait.

Just because there is grain on the ground doesn’t necessarily mean a field is baited.

The key is the reason it was put down.

The law says if a field has grain or seed on it as part of a good faith agricultural practice, it’s legal to hunt over it.

″It means you couldn’t hunt doves over your front lawn, because you don’t intend to harvest a crop,″ said one disgruntled dove hunter.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman disagreed.

Growing grass, or hay, is a good faith agricultural practice and it is legal to hunt over a seeded area - provided the seed is out there for the purpose of growing the crop, not for the purpose of attracting doves.

A crop may be grown for the purpose of attracting the doves, and it is legal to hunt over that field - provided no additional seed or grain is placed in the field to attract the doves.

It’s the hunter’s responsibility to know the difference.

During the fall hunting seasons there are very few reasons for grain to be lying in the field. Winter wheat is one of the few grain crops planted in the fall.

It is legal to hunt over a newly sown field - if the seed was put there for the purpose of growing a crop for spring harvest.

If the field has fresh corn in it, leave. Corn is planted in the spring.

An exception to that is a cornfield which has just been harvested and some corn is lost and left lying in the field during the mechanical harvesting process.

If there is salt or cracked corn in the field, it’s not there for the purpose of growing a crop. If the field has been recently disked, it may have been baited.

The best advice is to be sure of the person who owns the field. Ask him how he takes care of the field to make sure of a good hunt. The host who doesn’t care about game laws, or is overanxious to provide his friends with a good hunt is the one who could get the whole party in trouble.

END ADV Weekend Editions Sept. 26-27.

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