Waterfowl and other migratory birds are a national resource protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Federal regulations define key terms for hunters and land managers, and clarify conditions under which you may legally hunt waterfowl. As a waterfowl hunter or land manager, it is your responsibility to know and obey all Federal and State laws that govern the sport. Waterfowl baiting regulations apply to ducks, geese, swans, coots and cranes.
Can I manipulate crops in a field where waterfowl will be hunted?
NO. Federal regulations are more restrictive for waterfowl hunting than for hunting doves and other migratory game birds. While unharvested agricultural crops may be manipulated to attract doves for hunting, manipulation of an unharvested agricultural crop to attract waterfowl for hunting creates a baited area.
What about natural vegetation?
Natural vegetation is any non-agricultural, native, or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules.
Natural vegetation does not include planted millet (like browntop and Japanese millet) because of its use as both an agricultural crop and a species of natural vegetation for moist soil management. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years is considered natural vegetation. If you restore and manage wetlands as habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds, you can manipulate the natural vegetation in these areas and make them available for hunting. Mowing and burning of natural vegetation are common habitat management practices in South Carolina.
Natural vegetation does not include plants grown as agricultural crops. Under no circumstances can you hunt waterfowl over crops manipulated prior to a normal harvest. Nor can you hunt waterfowl over manipulated wildlife food plots or manipulated plantings for soil stabilization.
In South Carolina many hunters and landowners manage native vegetation and planted agricultural crops to attract waterfowl for hunting. The Federal law is different for the management of these two food sources and hunters should pay particular attention to the differences.