As a hunter, you are responsible for determining whether or not a field is baited. Before hunting, you should:
- Familiarize yourself with Federal and State migratory game bird hunting regulations.
- Ask the landowner, your host or guide, and your hunting partners if the area has been baited.
- Suspect the presence of bait if you see doves feeding in a particular area in unusual concentrations or displaying a lack of caution.
- Look for grain or other feed in the area. Is it present solely as the result of an allowed normal agricultural operation? Where crops have been manipulated or harvested, look for the presence of grain that may not be related to the manipulation or harvest.
- Look closely for seed and grain on prepared agricultural fields. Is it present solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting or a planting for agricultural soil erosion control? Know what planting, harvesting, and other agricultural practices are recommended for the areas that you hunt.
- Abandon the hunt if you find grain or feed in an area and are uncertain about why it is there.
- Remember that the rules for hunting doves and waterfowl are not the same. Additional restrictions apply to waterfowl hunting.
If you prepare lands for hunting, participate in such preparations, or direct such preparations, it is important for you to know and understand what practices constitute baiting. You should know prior to hunting what activities constitute baiting and when lands or areas would be considered baited. If you bait or direct that an area be baited and allow hunting to proceed, you risk Federal charges.
Overview of Other Regulations
Other Federal and State regulations apply to hunting doves and other migratory game birds, including the following:
- Unplugged shotguns - You cannot hunt migratory game birds with a shotgun that can hold more than three shells, unless you plug it with a one-piece filler that cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.
- Motorized vehicles - You cannot hunt migratory game birds from or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft (if you are a paraplegic or are missing one or both legs, you may hunt from a stationary car or other stationary motor-driven land vehicle or conveyance).
- Shooting hours - You cannot hunt migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting.
- Closed season - You cannot hunt migratory game birds during the closed season.
- Daily bag limit - You can take only one daily bag limit in any one day. This limit determines the number of doves you can have in your possession while in the field or while in route back to your car, hunting camp, home, or other destination.
- Wanton waste - You must make a reasonable effort to retrieve all doves that you kill or cripple and keep these birds in your actual custody while in the field. You must immediately kill any wounded birds that you retrieve and count those birds toward your daily bag limit. Your birds must remain in your possession while in the field. You cannot give your birds to another person in the field regardless of whether or not they are properly tagged.
- Tagging - You cannot put or leave migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless you tag the birds with your signature, address, number of birds identified by species, and the date you killed them.
- Dual violation - A violation of a State migratory game bird regulation is also a violation of Federal regulations.
- Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) - Each hunter is required to enroll in the HIP and carry proof of such enrollment.
- Protected birds - Federal law prohibits the killing of non-game migratory birds. Protected birds that you may encounter while dove hunting include songbirds, eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, killdeer, nighthawks, herons, egrets, and woodpeckers.
A normal agricultural planting is a planting undertaken for the purpose of producing or gathering a crop. Normal plantings do not involve the placement of grain in piles or other concentrations. Plantings must follow Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service recommendations. Relevant factors include recommended planting dates, proper seed distribution, seed bed preparation, 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 of State Extension Specialists.
The planting of wildlife food plots is considered a normal agricultural operation in many areas of the country. In many states, State Extension Specialists provide recommendations for the planting of wildlife food plots. Doves may be hunted over wildlife food plots planted in accordance with these recommendations. In those states where the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service does not issue recommendations for the planting of wildlife food plots, doves may be hunted over these plots where seed has been planted in a manner consistent with the guidelines for producing a crop. However, seeds freshly planted or otherwise distributed for the purpose of luring, attracting, or enticing doves within gun range will be considered baiting. To avoid any question, planting of wildlife food plots should occur early enough to allow time for the seeds to germinate.
You may hunt doves over manipulated grain crops, such as corn, wheat, milo, sorghum, millet, sunflower, and buckwheat.
Other Agricultural Practices
Agricultural activities other than planting or harvesting also scatter grain or other feed in agricultural areas. You can hunt doves in such areas provided the agricultural operation involved is a normal agricultural practice (i.e., one that produces livestock or a crop) and follows recommendations of State Extension Specialists. Examples include "hogged down" fields (where livestock have been allowed to enter fields and feed on standing crops) and feedlots (small enclosed areas where farmers feed livestock to increase their weight). You cannot, however, hunt in an area where grain, salt, or other feed has been placed to improve dove hunting.
Doves may be hunted over lands planted for the purpose of developing pasture as well as over lands planted for the purpose of pasture improvements. In both cases, the planting must be carried out in a manner consistent with recommendations of State Extension Specialists.
Manipulation of Crops and Other Vegetation
Agricultural crops, other feed, and natural vegetation may be manipulated to improve dove hunting. Manipulation means the alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities such as mowing, shredding, disking, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. Manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of seeds, grains, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown. You should be aware that although you can hunt doves over manipulated agricultural crops, you cannot 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).
For More Information
The Federal migratory game bird hunting regulations can be found in 50 CFR Part 20. If you have additional questions about dove hunting and the law, contact the nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement office or one of the Service regional law enforcement offices. You should also consult State fish and wildlife agencies to determine what State regulations apply.