2015 Early Teal and Early Goose season
If you go back to one of my earlier posts there is a link to the fed baiting laws. The judge you talked to is wrong. It is NOT a "normal" farming practice to plant a crop, have the crop fail, then mow and till it. "Normal" requires 3 things- planting, growth, a "normal" harvest. In the case of a failed crop that is mowed and tilled WITHOUT a "normal harvest", it is then considered baited and not legal for waterfowl hunting. If no "normal" harvest occurs and the field is manipulated by machine or manually, it is not legal to hunt waterfowl. A failed crop that is left standing and NO manipulation occurs, it would be legal.
Here is a paragraph from the link-
"Manipulation of Agricultural Crops You cannot legally 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).
Manipulation includes, but is not limited to, such activities as mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. Grain or seed which is present as a result of a manipulation that took place prior to a normal harvest is bait. For example, no hunting could legally occur on or over a field where a corn crop has been knocked down by a motorized vehicle. Kernels of corn would be exposed and/or scattered.
If, for whatever reason, an agricultural crop or a portion of an agricultural crop has not been harvested (i.e., equipment failure, weather, insect infestation, disease, etc.) and the crop or remaining portion of the crop has been manipulated, then the area is a baited area and cannot be legally hunted for waterfowl. For example, no waterfowl hunting could legally occur on or over a field of sweet corn that has been partially harvested and the remainder mowed."
Honestly, I know this law better than most state wardens and realistically the chance of having a problem and getting caught and prosecuted are somewhat slim. I am just pointing out the law itself as written by the Feds.
Actually the last sentence in the paragraph that I copied is where I became aware of all of this. I had permission to hunt a sweet corn field that got over ripe and wasn't going to be picked and I had permission to do whatever I wanted to do to it, as in mow part of it and leave some to hide in. The farmer had a contract with the seed co that any unharvested corn HAD to be destroyed immediately. So my thinking was although no harvest occurred, the legal binding to have to destroy constituted a "normal" ag practice. The thing I questioned were large piles of previously picked sweet corn that didn't get sold and dumped in the same field. My plan was to pick them up and move them away thinking dumping large piles of unsold corn couldn't possibly be legal. Problem was that there were several large piles and I really didn't want to pick them up. I called the top warden in SE WI and asked him about the piles. He asked for pictures and I emailed them to him. He called me back and he, himself said that it was ALL a "normal" ag practice and I was good to go. I was pretty anxious for geese to find this pile of gold I had!
A day or two later a guy named Steve called me, he is a fed warden that I had been in (innocent) contact with before. He said he was casually talking to the state warden I talked to and the field I had got brought up. Steve asked me to explain the whole scenario and asked for pics. After looking at the pics he called me back and said no, it wasn't legal and pointed me to the particular sentence in the above paragraph.
Anything that leaves a crop in the field outside of a normal harvest and is manipulated, is not legal to hunt waterfowl. Could be a faulty combine, weather or any number of other things that leaves more than a normal amount of waste grain and has been manipulated. If a crop is planted but totally left alone, it is ok to hunt. However if a crop is hunted and you knock plants over by walking in it or grass a blind with them, it is considered baited at that point and not legal to hunt until 10 days after all grain is removed.
That all being said, most state wardens aren't well versed in baiting laws and the likelyhood of getting caught in a field with minor baiting is unlikely. Federal wardens are generally all over obvious baited areas like regional crop failures.
The thinking and wording in the reg book is- "normal farming practices". "Normal" is- planting, a normal growth and a normal harvest with a normal amount of waste grain left behind. Anything outside of that and is manipulated is considered baiting.
And yes, unknowingly hunting waterfowl in an area deemed baited is technically illegal. Getting caught just depends on who catches you and how well they know the law. In general, if it's too good to be true, it likely is.
Waterfowl CAN NOT be hunted or shot over or near an area that is deemed baited. How far away? That's a grey area. If a baited area manipulates their normal behavior, as in flying over a non-baited field to get to a baited field, they can not be hunted or shot. Depending on how much bait and how many birds are using a baited field, it could be a mile or more.
A baited area is considered baited until 10 days after ALL of the bait is gone. No grey area there and it is the fed law.
Don't even waste any state DNR employees time asking, they in general do not accurately know the fed baiting laws. Go ask a fed warden.
I got permission to hunt a field that I thought was too good to be true and after thorough research thru the Feds, I found out it was too good to be true. Fortunately I found that out before I hunted it. What seemed like a "normal" farming practice to me and the farmer, was not "normal" in the eyes of the Feds.
A planted and manipulated field that does NOT have a "normal" harvest occur IS considered baited. It can be hunted for just about anything EXCEPT waterfowl.
I went online and did the chat with the DNR customer service.
If the fields were manipulated more than 10 or 15(can't remember witch) days prior you might be able to hunt waterfowl.
I asked how far away I have to be from a "dove field" to harvest waterfowl and they were unsure.
I asked if I wasn't using decoys and a goose just happened to fly over, can I shoot it. She thought I probably could if I didn't have decoys out.
I think the DNR needs to clear up the rules on the dove fields and maybe make a special section the rule book.