Double-Check Dove Fields for Bait Before Hunting

Dove Hunting
Dove Hunting
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

Little Rock, AR -(AmmoLand.com)- Dove season opens September 3. Much like the first Saturday of college football, opening day of dove season is regarded as the kickoff to hunting season.

Don’t let an opening day blunder set the tone for the hunting year; check fields for any evidence of baiting before firing the first shot.

According to federal regulations migratory game birds may not be hunted or killed with the aid of bait. Bait is defined as salt, grain or other feed that has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered to attract game.

It’s not just the bait currently on the ground hunters should be aware of, either. An area is considered baited for 10 days after the complete removal of all bait, so it’s important to ask landowners, guides and caretakers if the field was baited and physically inspect the field before hunting for any signs of bait.

Baiting regulations regarding doves differ slightly than regulations for waterfowl. Natural vegetation may be manipulated in any way to attract all migratory game birds, but planted crops are a different ballgame.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Waterfowl Program Coordinator Luke Naylor explains that planted crops may not be manipulated outside of normal agricultural practices, such as harvesting, if waterfowl are going to be hunted over it.

“For doves, land managers may legally mow, disc, burn or otherwise manipulate a planted crop to expose the seeds and still legally hunt the area,” Naylor said. “But hunting waterfowl is definitely not legal over that area.”

The situation usually does not cause too much concern, as any seeds exposed for the dove opener are either eaten or sprouted by regular duck season, but the early teal season and early Canada goose season can tempt hunters with targets of opportunity.

“Sometimes after a heavy rain, the fields will have standing water over the seeds provided for the doves, which could attract teal and geese,” Naylor said. “But that area is considered baited when it comes to waterfowl.”

Naylor also offers a bit of advice for land managers who have had their sunflowers or other dove-attracting crops fail during summer. Top-sowing wheat is a legal and effective way to attract doves, as long as it is done according to accepted agricultural standards. The wheat is used for soil stabilization, a normal agricultural practice, and for wildlife food plots. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture lists the maximum amounts and planting times allowed for many top-sown seeds at https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-9082.pdf.

“You shouldn’t ever have to get anywhere near the maximum amount of seed allowed,” Naylor said. “And you really don’t want to top-sow wheat until you’re close to opening day if you want to hunt doves over it.”

Naylor says hunters often top-sow a dove field weeks in advance of dove season so the birds have time to find the seeds and congregate. That’s great if you have multiple fields to choose from, but if options are limited – as is the case on many Wildlife Management Areas – opportunity may be lost.

“If you catch a cool, wet week before the opening weekend like we’re probably going to have this year, the seed will sprout and cease to attract the birds,” Naylor said. “You’re better off in some cases to wait a little closer to opening day.”

About Arkansas Game and Fish Commission:

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission plays an important role in keeping The Natural State true to its name. During the last 100 years, the agency has overseen the protection, conservation and preservation of various species of fish and wildlife in Arkansas. This is done through habitat management, fish stocking, hunting and fishing regulations, and a host of other programs.

For more information, visit www.agfc.com.