Wildlife - Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting
Waterfowl Hunting Over Agricultural Lands
Nothing in the regulations prohibits the taking of migratory game birds, including waterfowl, on or over unharvested crops, flooded unharvested crops (including aquatics) or flooded harvested croplands. You can hunt waterfowl over fields of unharvested crops. You can hunt over unharvested crops that have been flooded. You can flood fields after crops are harvested and use these areas for waterfowl hunting. The presence of seed or grain in an agricultural area rules out waterfowl hunting unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, normal agricultural harvesting, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulation or a normal agricultural soil stabilization practice.
Important to understanding the law is a familiarity with what is meant by normal agricultural operations: that is, what constitutes the accepted agricultural practices in South Carolina for planting, harvesting, and post harvest manipulation of agricultural crops. The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is the authority for determining what is a normal agricultural practice in South Carolina.
A normal agricultural planting is undertaken for the purpose of producing a crop.The United States Fish and Wildlife Service does not make a distinction between agricultural fields planted with the intent to harvest a crop and those planted without such intent so long as the planting is in accordance with recommendations from the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.
Normal agricultural plantings do not involve the placement of seeds in piles or other heavy concentrations. Relevant factors include recommended planting dates, proper seed distribution, seedbed preparation, and application rate and seed viability.
A normal soil stabilization practice is a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation conducted in accordance with recommendations from the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.
Harvesting & Post Harvest Manipulation
A normal agricultural harvest is undertaken for the purpose of gathering a crop. In general, the presence of long rows, piles, or other heavy concentrations of grain should raise questions about the legality of the area for waterfowl hunting.
A normal post-harvest manipulation first requires a normal agricultural harvest and removal of grain before any manipulation of remaining agricultural vegetation, such as corn stubble or rice stubble. In South Carolina, the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service recognizes the rotary mowing (bushhogging) of corn stubble after combining or picking as a normal agricultural practice.
To be considered normal, an agricultural planting, agricultural harvesting, and agricultural post-harvest manipulation must be conducted in accordance with recommendations of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to make the final determination about whether these recommendations were followed.
Manipulation of Agricultural Crops
You cannot legally hunt waterfowl over manipulated agricultural crops except after the field has been subject to a normal harvest and removal of grain (i.e. post-harvest manipulation). Post-harvest manipulation includes, but is not limited to, such activities as mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. Grain or seed which is present as a result of manipulation that took place prior to a normal harvest is bait. For example, no waterfowl hunting could legally occur on or over a field where an unharvested corn crop has been mowed or knocked down by a motorized vehicle. Kernels of corn would be exposed and/or scattered.
If, for whatever reason, an agricultural crop or a portion of an agricultural crop has not been harvested (i.e. equipment failure, weather, insect infestation, disease, etc.) and the crop or remaining portion of the crop has been manipulated, then the area is a baited area and cannot be legally hunted over for waterfowl. For example, no waterfowl hunting could legally occur on or over a field of corn that has been partially harvested and the remainder mowed. Waterfowl hunting would be legal over a field where a portion of the field has been harvested and the remainder of the field has not been harvested or manipulated.
Wildlife Food Plots
You cannot legally hunt waterfowl over freshly planted wildlife food plots where grain or seed has been distributed, scattered, or exposed because these plots are not normal agricultural plantings or normal soil stabilization practices. You cannot legally hunt waterfowl over wildlife food plots where the unharvested agricultural crop has been manipulated by mowing, shredding, disking, burning or other means.
Other Agricultural Concerns
You cannot hunt waterfowl on or over areas where farmers feed grain to livestock, store grain, or engage in other normal agricultural practices that do not meet the definition of a normal agricultural planting, harvest, or post-harvest manipulation.
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