The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement in Richmond states that under existing definitions and case law, waterfowl cannot be hunted in fields that have been manipulated after being declared “crop failures due to drought.” Many hunters incorrectly assume this practice is a “bona fide” agriculture practice. With widespread drought and crop failures this year throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, questions from hunters for what was legal prompted the USFWS to make the determination.
Citing regulation: 50 CFR 20.21(h)(i)(1)(i) allows the taking of migratory game bird, including waterfowl, on or over… 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. Using M.J. Farms vs. USFWS (Western District of Louisiana ruling dated 12/15/2008) for guidance, the shredding and discing of a standing crop, failed or not, is not a normal agricultural harvesting. Thus the area would be considered baited for the purpose of waterfowl hunting.
As a reminder, 50 CFR 20.21(h)(i)(2) allows for the taking of migratory game bird, except waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over lands or areas… where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed in the land where grown. So a shredded and disced field would not be considered baited for hunting dove.
For information on this ruling, contact:
Dan Rolince, Resident Agent-in-Charge
(WV-VA-DC-MD-DE) U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Office of Law Enforcement, Richmond, VA