2018-2019 Migratory Bird and Dove 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:
- Standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics);
- Standing, flooded or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice;
- From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation;
- From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with vegetation from agricultural crops, as long as such camouflaging does not result in the exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of grain or other feed; or
- Standing or flooded standing agricultural crops where grain is inadvertently scattered solely as a result of a hunter entering or exiting a hunting area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds..
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, postharvest 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.
What is a normal soil stabilization practice?
A normal soil stabilization practice means a planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for agricultural erosion control. Agricultural erosion control typically involves seeding prior to leaf drop or defoliation, mowing or shredding of crop residue to cover seed, or seeding prior to crop harvest to result in soil-seed contact and/or covering of the seed.
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 prohibits the taking of any migratory game bird, including waterfowl, coots, and cranes, on or over standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics); standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice.
Hunting over agricultural land manipulated for wildlife management?
The baiting regulation does not prohibit the taking of any migratory game bird, EXCEPT waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.
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.
Dove Hunting and Baiting
The greatest majority of dove shoots in South Carolina are held over three kinds of fields:
- Harvested fields composed of combined or picked corn, combined soybean fields, or other fall harvested crops.
- Fields where crops are grown and manipulated for wildlife management purposes.
- 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 of field, where wheat or other grains have recently been planted, often causes confusion. Clemson Extension now considers the top sowing of wheat without covering to be a normal agricultural practice for wildlife planting as long as the seed is planted between October 1 and November 30 when evenly spread on a well-prepared seed bed established by heavy tilling. The Clemson Extension Service does not consider the top sowing of any other grain (ie- those outside of the small grains listed by Clemson Extension Service guidelines) without covering the seed to be a normal agricultural practice.
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.
Legal Dove Hunting
The second section defines two settings where hunting is legal over agricultural land. One is when the hunter shoots over crops just planted or harvested in a normal agricultural manner. The second is when a landowner grows crops using normal agricultural practices with the intent of manipulating them for wildlife management purposes.
What You Can Do
Besides a sincere effort to understand and abide by the law, the sportsman can protect him/herself from inadvertent violations by observing a few precautions. For instance, when organizing a shoot or a club hunt, make sure you know what has been done to the dove field(s) and when. If possible, visit the field several days before the hunt either in the early morning or mid afternoon. If you are invited on a hunt, check with your host to find out the field’s condition.
iAnyone previewing a field before a hunt should look for the doves themselves. An unusual concentration will direct your attention to their reason for being there. If the doves are feeding on waste grain from a field that has been harvested, such as combined corn or soybeans, the field is legal. If the birds are feeding on fields where crops have actually been grown and manipulated so as to scatter the grain over the field, that is legal too.
If a field has been top sown with wheat, make sure it was planted according to Clemson Extension Service guidelines between October 1 and November 30 when evenly spread on a well-prepared seed bed established by heavy tilling.
Other fields to avoid are those with cracked grains or wheat placed in piles or strips. This is baiting in its most obvious form. Also steer clear of a field with any sign of rock salt in piles or strips. Because rock salt is lethal to mourning doves, using salt for bait is not only illegal under any circumstances, but inhumane and unethical. In freshly plowed or disked fields, be suspicious. This may be a field affected by the 10-Day Rule. That is, bait was placed in the field, the bait was removed, and then the field was plowed. The field is still not legal until 10 days after removal of all bait.
Finally, if the landowner or person preparing the field has any questions, they can direct their inquiries to any of the SCDNR offices listed in this brochure. If you are an invited guest, your questions concerning the legality of the field can best be answered by the person who prepared the field. In the event of a field check, the officers determination of the field’s condition will only apply to the field at the time of inspection.