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September 5, 2003

Hunting Doves Legally - It's Your Responsibility

JACKSON - If you and your hunting buddies are planning on hunting during the upcoming dove seasons, know your responsibilities under state and federal laws so you can enjoy your time afield, according to the Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Perhaps the most persistent question in the minds of dove hunters is What is baiting? Here's how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service answers that question.

Baiting is the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could lure or attract migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Sounds simple enough.

A baited area is any place on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds.

You cannot hunt doves or any other migratory game bird by the aid of baiting or on or over any baited area where you know or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.

Now, let's suppose you find a field that you want to hunt, but you discover the field is baited. Is there any hope of being able to hunt that site. Yes, if certain things are done.

"The first thing that must happen is the bait must be removed," Lt. Col. John Collins of the DWFP Enforcement Division said. "Then, hunters must remember that once the bait has been removed completely, the area cannot be hunted for a period of 10 days."

Remember: 10 days.

Now comes the even trickier matter - just how close to a baited area can you hunt without breaking the law?

The Service says there is no set distance. Court rulings have varied on this depending on the circumstances.

These can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. One thing that's important for shooters to remember is this: The law prohibits hunting if bait is present that could lure or attract birds "to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them, of if the area was baited within the past 10 days and the lure and attraction still exists in the absence of the bait."

Now that we've had a brief glimpse of the illegal side of things, let's look at what is legal for dove hunters. It is really not difficult to determine where you can hunt doves if you keep certain things in mind.

According to Collins, you can hunt doves on, over, or from lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural operations. These include normal agricultural harvests, normal agricultural post-harvest manipulations, or normal agricultural practices.

"You can hunt doves from standing crops, and you can hunt them from standing or manipulated natural vegetation," Collins said. "You also can hunt doves from wildlife food plots, provided the seed is planted in a manner consistent with U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service recommendations for the planting of wildlife food plots.

Of course these are not the only places you may hunt, but it gives you an idea of where legal dove hunting can take place.

As you can see, there's a lot that hunters should know before going onto a field to hunt doves. Blindly walking onto a dove field and following the crowd to your spot on the field can be a big mistake that could cost you a day in state or federal court.

First, it is your responsibility for determining whether a field is baited. It's not that hard, and you can do it.

Get familiar with state and federal migratory game bird hunting regulations.

When you actually arrive at the field where you will hunt doves, ask the landowner, your host or guide, and your hunting partners if the area has been baited. Look around over the field before shooting begins and inspect the area for bait.

Look for grain or other feed in the area. Is it present solely as the result of allowed normal agricultural operations?

If the field you will be hunting is where crops have been manipulated or harvested, look for the presence of grain that may not be related to the manipulation or harvest. Abandon your hunt if you find grain or feed in an area and are uncertain about why it is there.

As you are walking around the dove field, suspect the presence of bait if you see doves feeding in a particular area in unusual concentrations or displaying a lack of caution. All of these indications and more can signal a hunter that conditions may not be right for hunting a field.

If the landowner or your host don't readily provide answers to your questions about the field and how it was planted or harvested, it may be more prudent to hunt elsewhere.

Of course there are other things dove hunters should know. Some of these are just common sense, such as having a valid hunting license on your person while dove hunting.

And don't forget: Dove hunters are required to be HIP certified and carry proof of this with them. In Mississippi, you can be HIP certified at the time you purchase your license.

Being HIP certified means that you are providing needed information to the Harvest Information Program that helps manage the continental population of mourning doves.

"Certainly most dove hunters know that they 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," Collins said.

"Legal dove hunters would refer to this by saying their guns are plugged."

Collins went on to say that hunters cannot hunt migratory game birds from or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft. However, 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.

Some hunters have been on dove hunts where hunters will shoot or cripple a dove and make no effort to retrieve it. Generally this happens when the dove falls amid a thick brier patch or some area where the walking is difficult.

Enforcement officers like Collins and others refer to this as "wanton waste," and it can be the basis for a citation.

"The law says hunters must make a reasonable effort to retrieve all doves that they kill or cripple," Collins explained.

"They must keep these birds in their actual custody while in the field. Also, hunters must immediately kill any wounded birds that they retrieve and count these birds toward your daily bag limit."

Again, your doves must remain in your possession while in the field. You cannot give your birds to another person in the field.

For more information about dove hunting regulations, contact your local District Office of the DWFP, or call the Jackson Office at 601-432-2400. You may contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Jackson at 601-965-4469.


1505 Eastover Drive
Jackson, MS 39211-6374

Phone: 601-432-2400




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