The greatest majority of dove shoots in South Carolina are held over three kinds of fields:
1. Harvested fields composed of combined or picked corn, combined soybean fields, or other fall harvested crops.
2. Fields where crops are grown and manipulated for wildlife management purposes.
3. Fields where wheat or other grains have recently been planted.
Usually the first two types of fields are easily identified as legal fields. The regulations permit shooting doves on or over standing crops, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown, or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting. The regulations also allow shooting doves on or over fields where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat, other grain, or other feed has been distributed or scattered as the result of normal agricultural operations.
The third type where wheat or other grains have recently been planted, often causes confusion. The Clemson Extension Service does not consider the topsowing of wheat or other grain without covering the seed to be a normal agricultural practice. Therefore, fields where wheat or other grains have been top-sown are illegal for dove-hunting. Also, wheat planted prior to October 1 would be illegal for dove hunting purposes.
The federal code of regulations addresses dove hunting in two sections, the first describing when dove hunting is not legal, the second describing when it is legal.
Baiting and the Baited Area – The following regulation states that baiting is illegal and then defines what baiting and a baited area is:
“No person shall take migratory game birds (of which the dove is one) by the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area.”
“Baiting” shall mean the placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain, salt or feed so as to constitute for such birds a lure, attraction or enticement to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.
“Baited area” means any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain, salt or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting or enticing such birds is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered.
Baiting by piling grain unfairly concentrates birds in a small area where they will be an easy target for the unethical hunter. Not only do some hunters tend to overshoot their limit on a baited field, but they enjoy an unfair advantage over hunters seeking their share of the resource in nearby legal fields.
The standard for establishing guilt for a person charged with hunting over bait is whether the person “knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.” A hunter is responsible for determining the legality of a field before hunting on the field. Seeds, grain or other feed broadcast on freshly-plowed ground is an obvious baiting violation, and would almost certainly meet the standard that any hunter hunting on the field “knows or reasonably should have known that the area is or has been baited.”
Baiting regulations are intended to provide equity among those competing for the dove resource, to encourage sound wildlife management practices, and to protect the dove population, a resource that federal and state agencies are required to protect by vigorous law enforcement.
New state and federal penalties apply to those convicted of hunting migratory birds over bait or baiting a field.
The second section defines two settings where hunting is legal over agricultural land. One is when the hunter shoots over crops just planted or harvested in a normal agricultural manner. The second is when a landowner grows crops using normal agricultural practices with the intent of manipulating them for wildlife management purposes.
Besides a sincere effort to understand and abide by the law, the sportsman can protect him/herself from inadvertent violations by observing a few precautions. For instance, when organizing a shoot or a club hunt, make sure you know what has been done to the dove field(s) and when. If possible, visit the field several days before the hunt either in the early morning or mid afternoon. If you are invited on a hunt, check with your host to find out the field’s condition.
Anyone previewing a field before a hunt should look for the doves themselves. An unusual concentration will direct your attention to their reason for being there. If the doves are feeding on waste grain from a field that has been harvested, such as combined corn or soybeans, the field is legal. If the birds are feeding on fields where crops have actually been grown and manipulated so as to scatter the grain over the field, that is legal too.
If the field has been planted in wheat, make sure it was planted according to Extension Service guidelines, i.e. between October 1 and November 30, by preparing a good seedbed, and by drilling or otherwise covering the seed to a depth of 1½ inches.
Other fields to avoid are those with cracked grains placed in piles or strips. This is baiting in its most obvious form. Also steer clear of a field with any sign of rock salt in piles or strips. Because rock salt is lethal to mourning doves, using salt for bait is not only illegal under any circumstances, but inhumane and unethical. In freshly plowed or disked fields, be suspicious. This may be a field affected by the 10-Day Rule. That is, bait was placed in the field, the bait was removed, and then the field was plowed. The field is still not legal until 10 days after removal of all bait.
Finally, if the landowner or person preparing the field has any questions, they can direct their inquiries to any of the SCDNR offices listed in this brochure. If you are an invited guest, your questions concerning the legality of the field can best be answered by the person who prepared the field. In the event of a field check, the officers determination of the field’s condition will only apply to the field at the time of inspection.