Dove Hunting and Baiting

Caution:

The following material is only a summary. Each hunter should also consult the actual Federal Regulations, which may be found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20, available at http://www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html.

Baiting Laws

Federal rules prohibit the taking of migratory game birds by the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.

It is legal to take migratory game birds including waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over the following lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas:

Who is responsible?
Hunters, guides and landowners are responsible for understanding and obeying regulations about baiting and knowing the conditions of the area to be hunted.

What is baiting?
Baiting means the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

What is a baited area?
A baited area is any area on which salt, grain or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, if that salt, grain or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

For how long?
An area is considered baited for ten days following the complete removal of all salt, grain or other feed.

What about normal agricultural operations?
Normal agricultural operation means a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or agricultural practice that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Top sowing of seed to control erosion on impoundment dikes, pond dams, roadways, logging decks, skid trails, power line rights-of-way, or construction sites is not considered agricultural erosion control.

What is manipulation?
Manipulation means the alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities that include, but are not limited to, mowing, shredding, disking, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning or herbicide treatments. The term manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of grain, seed or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown.

What is considered natural vegetation?
Natural vegetation means any non-agricultural, native or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules. The term natural vegetation does not include planted millet. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years after the year of planting is considered natural vegetation.

Hunting over agricultural land?
Nothing in the baiting regulation "shall prohibit the taking of all migratory game birds, including waterfowl, on or over standing crops, flooded standing crops (including aquatics), flooded harvested croplands, grain crops properly shocked (or stacked together) on the field where grown or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting."

Hunting over agricultural land manipulated for wildlife management?
The baiting regulation does not prohibit "the taking of all migratory game birds, EXCEPT waterfowl, on or over any lands where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain, salt, or other feed has been distributed or scattered as the result of normal agricultural operations or procedures, or as a result of manipulation of a crop or other feed on the land where grown for wildlife management purposes: Provided, that manipulation for wildlife management purposes does not include the distributing or scattering of grain or other feed once it has been removed from or stored on the field where grown."

In order to understand the law's application, the sportsman should know the legal definition of "take," which refers to the attempt to take as well as the act of taking itself: "Take" means to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or attempt to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect.

Equally 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 corn, millet, wheat, sunflowers or other grains. The Clemson University Extension Service is the authority for this in South Carolina and publishes an agricultural planting guide annually. There is an Extension Service Office in every county.

The greatest majority of dove shoots in South Carolina are held over three kinds of fields:

  1. Harvested fields composed of combined or picked corn, combined soybean fields, or other fall harvested crops.
  2. Fields where crops are grown and manipulated for wildlife management purposes.
  3. Fields where wheat or other grains have recently been planted.

Usually the first two types of fields are easily identified as legal fields. The regulations permit shooting doves on or over standing crops, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown, or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting. The regulations also allow shooting doves on or over fields where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat, other grain, or other feed has been distributed or scattered as the result of normal agricultural operations.

The third type where wheat or other grains have recently been planted, often causes confusion. The Clemson Extension Service does not consider the topsowing of wheat or other grain without covering the seed to be a normal agricultural practice. Therefore, fields where wheat or other grains have been top-sown are illegal for dove-hunting. Also, wheat planted prior to October 1 would be illegal for dove hunting purposes.

The Law

The federal code of regulations addresses dove hunting in two sections, the first describing when dove hunting is not legal, the second describing when it is legal.

Illegal Dove Hunting

Baiting and the Baited Area – The following regulation states that baiting is illegal and then defines what baiting and a baited area is:

"No person shall take migratory game birds (of which the dove is one) by the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area."

"Baiting" shall mean the placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain, salt or feed so as to constitute for such birds a lure, attraction or enticement to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

"Baited area" means any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain, salt or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting or enticing such birds is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered.

Baiting by piling grain unfairly concentrates birds in a small area where they will be an easy target for the unethical hunter. Not only do some hunters tend to overshoot their limit on a baited field, but they enjoy an unfair advantage over hunters seeking their share of the resource in nearby legal fields.

The standard for establishing guilt for a person charged with hunting over bait is whether the person "knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited." A hunter is responsible for determining the legality of a field before hunting on the field. Seeds, grain or other feed broadcast on freshly-plowed ground is an obvious baiting violation, and would almost certainly meet the standard that any hunter hunting on the field “knows or reasonably should have known that the area is or has been baited.”

Baiting regulations are intended to provide equity among those competing for the dove resource, to encourage sound wildlife management practices, and to protect the dove population, a resource that federal and state agencies are required to protect by vigorous law enforcement.

New state and federal penalties apply to those convicted of hunting migratory birds over bait or baiting a field.

FAQ's on Dove Hunting and Baiting

1. Can wheat be top sowed, not covered, and hunted?

No. Top sowing wheat is not considered a normal agricultural practice in South Carolina.

2. Can I shoot doves on areas where rye, ryegrass, wheat or other seeds have been top-sown to control erosion on dikes, pond dams, roadways, logging decks, skid trails, powerline rights-of-way, or construction sites?

No. Stabilization of dikes, pond dams, roadways, logging decks, skid trails, powerline rights-of-way, or construction sites is not considered agricultural erosion control.

3. After a corn field is combined and strips are plowed up and planted in wheat, is this considered a legal field?

Yes, if planted according to Extension Service guidelines.

4. If a big field is plowed, but only part of it is planted, is this legal?

Yes, if the planting is done according to Extension Service guidelines.

5. Can part of a field be bush hogged at different times such as four rows now and four rows later, and so on?

Yes. A crop grown on the field can be manipulated for wildlife management purposes.

6. Can millet or corn be bush hogged and more millet or corn be added to the field?

No. No grain or feed of any kind can be added to a field. It is also illegal to remove grain from the field then return it to the field or to store grain on the field then return it to the field.

7. Can doves be hunted on a field where corn or other grain has been placed to attract deer?

No. Although it is legal to bait deer in some parts of the state, this would be illegal for dove hunting.

8. Can I plant millet or sunflowers during dove season and hunt over it?

No. Planting millet or sunflowers during the time period when dove hunting is in season is not a normal agricultural practice.

9. Can I sow wheat in August and September, cover the seed, and shoot doves over it?

No. The Extension Service considers the earliest normal wheat planting date to be October 1.

10. Can I burn or turn hogs or cattle into a crop grown on the field and hunt doves over it?

Yes. A crop grown on the field can be manipulated for wildlife management purposes.