SIKESTON -- The following information is provided to answer questions concerning agricultural practices and how they relate to dove hunting.
Specifically, I would like to address the illegal baiting of doves by leaving exposed grain on top of the soil. Because broadcasting wheat by buggy or aerial seeding are two methods of spreading wheat, there has been confusion as to the legality of hunting over exposed grain that is left by these two practices.
By federal regulations, "baiting" is defined as the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of salt, grain or other feed that serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.
For specific information regarding agricultural practices, we contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who referred us to their experts -- the state extension specialists of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All extension specialists in southeast Missouri that we contacted were in agreement that optimal wheat planting dates for our region are between Oct. 1-15. According to the agronomists some exceptions and conditions would permit sewing wheat on September 15, but never before that date.
If the farmer intends to gather a crop, the Oct. 1-15 dates are optimal. To plant wheat prior to Oct. 1 increases the risk of Hessian fly infestation, maximizes the risk of diseases such as Septoria leaf spot and increases the possibility of damage from virus-carrying insects such as aphids and mites.
Those individuals who plant wheat prior to Oct. 1 and who leave it exposed (not disced or drilled in) are subjecting themselves and hunters who hunt on their lands to state and federal charges of baiting doves.
This, in no way, affects the normal harvest procedures for grains, but rather provides a guideline for those with questions about overseeding with wheat.
Doves may be hunted in fields of standing grain or in harvested fields. Additional grain may not be scattered on any field. In addition, standing grain may be manipulated by mowing or discing and still allow dove hunting. Manipulation of standing crops is not allowed for other migratory birds such as ducks or geese.
The bottom line is: If you hunt over exposed grain, you are subject to citation. Based on all local agriculture agency experts, there is not a valid reason for having exposed grain. All sources indicate that the seed should be disced or drilled in or aerial seeded in soybean fields prior to leaf drop. Farmers expecting to harvest a crop will not simply leave the seed exposed on the ground.
For more specific language of the state and federal dove hunting regulations, contact conservation agent Leother Branch at 573-4571-5737 or the Cape Girardeau office at 573-290-5730, extension 229.